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God’s Word for You

Luke 22:45-46 Let your sleepy sorrow end

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, April 10, 2019

45 And when he rose from prayer, he went to the disciples and found them sleeping out of sorrow, 46 and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you may not enter into temptation.”

Luke does not mention each of the several times Jesus went to find Peter, James and John sleeping (Mark 14:37,39,41). But we need to ask, are his words here for the Three, or for the Eleven? The answer will affect how we take his words. It seems as if Jesus’ words here fit best with the third time he returned to Peter, James, and John (Matthew 26:45; Mark 14:41).

They were sleeping “out of sorrow,” which means that the reason for their fatigue was their sorrow. Grief and sin are not connected, but both can cause sleep, especially when sin brings about deep shame and regret. The mind of mankind retreats from the world at such times, and sleep sets in.

We should be careful about the way we talk about Jesus’ words to the disciples. His words are recorded as simple statements. Each time there is a verb of speaking in this account in Matthew and Mark, the verb is legei (λέγει), the present tense of lego (λέγω) “to say” (Matthew 26:40,45; Mark 14:37, 41). Here in Luke, our author uses a past tense (aorist) of the same verb (εἶπεν). This word means “to say,” not “rebuke” or “scold.”

While Jesus was concerned or disappointed that they fell asleep after he asked them to “Watch and pray,” his concern was not that sleep is a bad thing, but that they might be tempted to deny him or fall into other sins once he was arrested. It was time for them to pray, too. So insofar as he had urged, even commanded them, to watch and pray, we can say that he was rebuking them in this way: “Don’t set yourself up for a fall!” The Lord’s urgency in this command is the same urgency we use when we say, “Get to church!”

His agonizing struggle was over. His prayer in the garden was finished. At this moment (as we are about the see) Judas was on his way with soldiers to betray him, but Jesus was ready. He was set in his resolve; he was in no way double-minded about what he had to do. As a sinless, holy and righteous man, he shrank from death, for death is unnatural to sinless man. God did not create man to be mortal, but death came from man’s sin. Had the Father given him another cup to drink, he would have taken it, but the Father’s answer to his prayer was, “No.” Therefore, there was nothing to do but drink the cup of the suffering for the sins of man. Having overcome temptation himself, he told his disciples to pray to keep from temptation as well. It was the deep breath before he drank this cup all the way down to the dregs until way dry; until all of the suffering was his own, and none was left for anyone, ever. This is why Paul is so certain and why he can say: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering” (Romans 8:1-3).

And in Hebrews we read: “But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:26-28).

And John says: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

Let your sleepy sorrow end. Pray that you will not fall into the temptation of doubt, and put your faith in Jesus Christ. Through him, you have forgiveness and everlasting life.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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