Simon, are you asleep?
Do you remember your latest holiday meal where the day involved the stress of welcoming guests, fixing a meal, eating the meal—the large meal—and then sitting down to watch the football game or relax while chatting? What happens? You either fall asleep or at the least your eyes are drooping. You are tired and full. Sleep seems inevitable.
Similarly, Simon can’t resist falling asleep after a full and stressful day. The disciples have prepared the Passover meal. They eat the meal, which is rich and is a lengthy process with many traditions. Then the disciples are shocked to hear Jesus tell them one of them will betray him. Peter is particularly devastated to hear he, himself, will deny Jesus three times. That evening, they walk to Gethsemane where Jesus tells Peter, James, and John, “Sit here while I pray. … My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch” (Mark 14:32, 34).
The most common Jewish way to pray is to stand with hands raised. But Jesus has mercy on them and says to sit. He wants to help them stay awake, but their bodies rebel. We don’t know at which point Peter and the others fall asleep, but we can surely understand why.
What did Peter feel like as he suddenly awakens hearing Jesus ask, “Simon, are you asleep?” He must be groggy and disoriented. He fully wants to support Jesus with prayer, so he must have felt guilty when Jesus awakens him and asks, “Could you not watch one hour?” In verse 40, Mark writes, “and they did not know what to answer him.” There is no way they could excuse their lack of support.
All of us experience initial reactions that contradict the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We worry instead of having peace. We are angry instead of having patience. We harden our heart instead of loving vulnerably. We then have a choice whether to continue or to choose God’s power for a godly reaction.
When we choose to continue in the ungodly way, the natural way, we might feel hopeless to be restored to fellowship. But let’s remember Jesus also said to Peter, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (v. 38). Jesus knows the human sinful bent because he experienced temptation yet resisted. He always has a plan to provide restoration and forgiveness. When Jesus wakes up Peter, Jesus uses his “natural” name Simon, reflecting back to his old life. The name Peter represents his new calling as a follower. Every Christian at times returns to their “old name,” their sin nature, but God forgives and restores them to fellowship and reminds them of their “new name” in Christ as his children, his Bride.
The three disciples want to pray yet fall asleep three times. Jesus wakes them three times. Does Peter later remember this significant number? He denies Jesus three times, and later Jesus asks him three times, “Will you feed my lambs?” How did Jesus’s questions speak to him? He must realize Jesus’s motive is to restore, not reject.
Our world is a broken, hopeless world. But knowing God is restoration power, there is always forgiveness and hope, and a future new heaven and new earth.
- What other words would you use for describing God’s quality of restorative power?
- What area of your life currently needs the hope God can restore anything he desires?
Strong Father, I praise you for your ability to restore health to any brokenness in me. Thank you for opening my eyes to the times you have brought restoration in my life.
(This post is from my book God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature. I will not be blogging as much as usual because of moving out of state.)