Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?”
Those who have pulled guard duty know the body can get weary, and the night can get long. Mothers who have sat in the darkness by the bedside of their sick child know this, too. So did the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane on that dark night.
When watchers get weary, their eyesight blurs, their hearing fades, and vigilance slips away. Of what help is a sleeping watcher? In times of war, some who fell asleep at their post were shot.
We are God’s replacements for the watchmen of old. The Old Testament prophets have been released from duty and transferred to heaven. The same for those who served in the ranks of the early New Testament church. Generations of those who were called to duty in service to the King of kings have come and gone.
We are the ones left. We stand on the front line of the battle for souls. We don’t know if replacements will ever fill our slots. We might have to hold the field until the final trumpet sounds.
The disciples in Gethsemane were told, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” They were going to experience things on that night that could shake their faith. We note that not only did Peter deny knowing Jesus, but all the rest except for John deserted him.
They should have stayed alert. They should have kept their eyes on their Savior. They stood at a dangerous time.
So, do we.
The Christmas story tells us of the Son of God’s arrival as a fellow human. It marked the beginning of a mission that rescued us. There is little chance that we will not notice the approach of the anniversary of that event. Too many people want us to buy things in celebration of it.
Nor do we need wait for the arrival of Jesus into our lives of faith. It’s happening now through the inspired Word and sacraments.
Advent reminds us that Jesus said he would physically return. That’s what we are to watch for. He commands, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).
We might learn from the sight that shocked Pearl Harbor on a sunny Sunday morning years ago. They had been warned that an attack might come. They just didn’t think it would happen then. December 6, 1941 was a normal day. December 7 was not.
The Day of Infamy dawned. Death rained from the sky.
They should have kept watch.
So should we as we wait for the dawn of the day of judgment.
But not in fear do we watch. We know Jesus will bring us life eternal, not death and misery. Until then, he supports us with power from on high.
The prophet reminds us: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29).
We will keep watching until the Jesus tells us, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:3).
We will not grow weary with waiting and watching.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you have told us that you will one day return to end life in this world. You have explained that you will bring with you all those who died in faith. We will watch for that day. But we will not fear it. You will come as our friend, not our foe. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.