Text: Mark 14:32-42
Summary: Pray to discern false teachers. Pray to endure the present and future persecution. Pray to express your heartfelt desire for Jesus’ return. Pray for a willing spirit to pray. Pray for your flesh and your emotions not to get in the way of you praying.
Mark chapter 13 is the famous end times chapter of the Gospel of Mark and then he ends the chapter with verse 37.
37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.
What does it mean to stay awake?
Let me read one more passage. And I think we’ll all have an answer after we read the next chapter, Mark 14.
32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Okay, let’s pray.
Abba, Father, we’re here as children of God, brothers and sisters, and we’ve gathered in this house and the number one activity in this house is prayer. This is a house of prayer. And so Lord, we ask that you would teach us today how to be watchful, how to be alert, how to be spiritually awake, specifically, how to pray. Teach us how to pray. And Lord, give us all the motivation we need in this day and hour and this season to pray. No matter what we’re facing individually or corporately, we are in grave need of prayer. Teach us how to pray. Give us all the motivation we need today to pray. In Jesus Name, Amen
So what does it mean to be watchful or alert? Or another way to put it is, how do we do it?
Do we stare at the sky? And that’s a start. You’re looking for the Son of Man to descend on the clouds. What does it mean to be watchful, alert, awake? It is be prayerful.
And so today, I want to motivate you to watch and pray. That is what the Lord has put on my heart.
If you look at Mark 13, a number of times, Jesus says, be on guard. I think a better translation is “take heed.” He says it a number of times, take heed. And it’s like a coach right before game time, he gathers his team and says, listen up, pay attention, take need. What I’m about to say to you is very important. You’re going to need this in order to succeed during the game. And Jesus is saying, take heed, here are reasons you and I need to be praying.
5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray.”
What’s one reason we need to pray in this day and hour? It’s because there are many false teachers, many false teachers. And as we approach the end, there will be an explosion of false teachers, false prophets, many antichrists leading up to the final Antichrist.
This means, don’t take what I say and just receive it. You have to take what I say and pray to the Lord and ask Him, is this from you? You have to test the spirits because there is a spirit behind the words that I’m saying to you. And it can be from the Holy Spirit. Or, it can be from an unclean spirit. Just because I look like a Christian and I have a title of “pastor,” don’t blindly take that to me that you should just receive whatever I say.
One reason why we pray is so that we’re not deceived. If you haven’t prayed this way for discernment, then every podcast out there, you think is a word of the Lord to you. You think that every Christian book is a book that I should read. And regarding reading books, you have to wonder, like if you’re not reading the Bible all that much, and you’re reading Christian books all the time, you have to wonder, is God happy with this?
Like when I was a seminary student, I just read so many Christian books. And for years, I was handing out books. Read this book, read that book. And I look back and wonder, how much did I tell people to read the Bible? Not much. Because reading a Christian book is like reading somebody else’s devotion about Jesus. Why don’t we read the source?
And so, even when you see a popular Christian book, don’t assume that God is giving you a green light to read it. Shouldn’t we watch and pray, pray and discern. Like, what is the priority? Shouldn’t it start with the Word?
And every time you listen to a preacher, just because he has millions of followers, does that mean that what he’s preaching is a safe teaching just because he’s popular or she’s popular.
We should test the spirits.
For a long while, we were singing certain songs in our church from a certain band and they are world famous. And then I saw a music video and it shocked me. It’s like, what is this? This is not of God. And so maybe, they began with God. But along the way, they got spiritually lost and they are putting on a music video which is purely satanic.
And so from that point on, I just removed all the songs from my library and decided, we should not sing these songs. Just because there is a popular Christian song, just because there’s a popular preacher — it does not mean we should just receive them. This is one reason we need to pray, especially in the end. It’s for for discernment. We test the spirits. That is one reason why we pray.
Another reason why we pray is described in Mark 13:9.
9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.
So another reason why we pray is because we will be persecuted. We will be persecuted on account of the name of Jesus Christ. If you never talk about Jesus and you just attend church, maybe you’ll get by. But if you talk about Jesus, if His name is on your lips and you talk about Him, you will be persecuted. Guaranteed.
And who will deliver you over? The people in the verses just prior who are saying, here’s Jesus. These are people within the church. They will turn you over. And where will we be beaten? It says, in synagogues.
Did you know that in the Book of Revelation it and mentions, a “synagogue of Satan?” Those pretending to be Jews but who are not. And so this persecution, this global persecution is led by Jews. This worldwide persecution is led by the nation of Israel. This small country that exerts so much power over this world. This persecution will come from the nation of Israel. And I’m not talking about my spiritual brothers and sisters. Not those who confess Jesus Christ, who bowed the knee to Jesus. There is a remnant from every from every tribe and tongue who are included in the plan of salvation and called the people of God.
But the political state of Israel, they will lead this persecution and the religious system of Judaism will be at the forefront of rounding us up. That’s why it says, we will be delivered over and beaten in synagogues.
And it says in v10 that the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And because of my background was a Baptist, we read this verse about the gospel being proclaimed to all the nations and a Baptist will read that and say, we need to send out missionaries. We need to go to the ends of the earth because until we do that, the end will not come.
It says in the gospel of Matthew that the end will not come until the gospel is preached to the nations. And so we assume, shouldn’t we be sending out missionaries? But how is the gospel preached in the end? It’s when you and I are delivered over to the synagogues. When you and I are delivered over to governors and presidents and dictators, and filled with the Holy Spirit, we testify about Jesus to the nations as were being persecuted. That’s how the gospel is advanced. That’s how the gospel advanced in biblical times. It’s not because they had great missionary programs in the first century that the gospel spread throughout the Roman Empire. It’s because they were under persecution.
How will the gospel reach the far corners of this earth? Is it when the Church gets her act together and we send out missionaries and they’re well trained? Or, is it because we’re being rounded up wherever we’re hiding because the nations, out of their hatred of the Jesus in you, we will testify to them as they are persecuting and even killing us. And based on our Spirit-filled testimonies, some of them will be saved.
Like Saul of Tarsus, he witnessed Stephen being martyred. He was softened by what he observed. He eventually became the Apostle Paul. There will be Christians in the end who will be brought before world leaders, leaders before whom we would never have had an audience except the fact that we’re a Christian. And we’re testifying about Jesus and that king, that dictator, that governor will have an opportunity to be saved.
See, nothing has changed since the first century. It was the Jewish religious system in cooperation with Roman secular power that killed Jesus. In the end, it’s the same thing. The political state of Israel partnering with, maybe the United States, some world power that is exercising dominion in this world, and they will come after you and me.
We need to pray for discernment against false teachers. We need to pray for endurance during intense persecution. And lastly, we need to pray because Jesus is coming back. That’s in Mark 13:23.
23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. 24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
We need to be powerful because Jesus is coming back and we do not know the day or the hour.
So being awake means literally praying– Jesus, is today the day? For the believer, that is our heart’s cry. Maranatha! Come Lord, Jesus. Are you coming back today? Can I see you today? Can I catch a glimpse of you today? That has to be the heart of every believer.
And now to our main text — the Garden of Gethsemane, Mark 14.
32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.”
When Jesus says — watch — He is expecting that the disciples would be watching and praying with Him. And we might think Jesus, He’s the Son of God. He has no emotions. He’s like Spock. He’s a vulcan. He’s just going to the cross and does not feel anything and He’s so obedient.
He’s fully God, but He is also fully man. And we see his humanity here and He is struggling.
It says, He’s “very sorrowful” and the translation is, He’s engulfed in sorrow.
Jesus had intense emotions. So when you and I are fighting our emotions, know that Jesus fought His emotions and He won. He overcame His intense emotions.
35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Jesus teaches His disciples of every generation how to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. He says, Our Father. And I don’t know about you, but when I hear Our Father, it sounds so distant. It sounds so formal. It sounds so cold. I mean our Father is holy, hallowed be His name. He is holy. He is way up there.
But if we pray like Jesus prayed, did you know that this Holy Father is also our Abba, which means daddy. Abba. I don’t know what Daddy is in your native tongue, but in Korean its abbah. What is it in Cantonese, Elaine? Baba. There’s papa. It just all sounds similar. Abba, or Daddy. That’s the idea. So close. That’s how Jesus prays.
Jesus prays to live and He lives to pray. Jesus is a prayer warrior. What we’re seeing here in Gethsemane is Jesus praying — His prayers are on full display here. But did you know that Jesus is praying throughout? His life can be defined by His prayers.
In Luke 5, Jesus heals a leper and the report of this healing is spreading and great crowds are gathering and they’re pressing in to Jesus. And did you know what Jesus does? He retreats. He goes to a desolate place. He goes to be alone with his Abba, Father.
Churches are filled with activities and programs. And you know what the first meeting that is often canceled or overlooked? It’s the prayer meeting. Many churches do not have a prayer meeting. And I’m like, isn’t that the first meeting you should have? A prayer meeting. If we’re going to have any meeting, shouldn’t it be a prayer meeting? It has to be. Because Jesus, He lived to pray, He prayed to live. The more busy He was, the more people who came to Him, the more He retreated to be alone with his Abba to get instructions, or to get refueled so that He could pour Himself out.
37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
At the very least, every brother and sister, if you are born again, if you have a spirit that has been revived, our spirit has to be willing to pray. Nobody can force you to be willing to pray. You have to want it. And there are times, like when Jacob, as a grandfather of the faith, before he came to realize that Joseph was still alive, his spirit was downcast. His spirit was depressed.
And there are seasons of life when even our spirit is not completely willing to pray. But if our spirit is functioning the way it should, at the very least, your spirit should be willing to pray. And if it’s not willing, ask the Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to send the Spirit to revive your spirit so that you are willing to pray. At the very least, you’re willing to pray. You want to pray. You desire prayer.
You might not do it because there are other challenges, but at the very least, deep down, you want to pray. In the case of Peter, James and John, their spirits were willing. But what was the problem? Their flesh was weak.
To me, this is the best justification that I have in Scripture to get physically fit. If you have a weak body, it is so hard to pray. It is so hard to persist in prayer. We should get in shape so that we can pray without ceasing. So that we can pray intensely for an hour, or two, or three. So that our body doesn’t feel so tired after a minute, or two of praying.
It is a bodily discipline to get on your knees. Especially late in the night, most people are fading. But if you have physical energy, we can fight through sleepiness and keep praying.
The disciples falling asleep is not merely due to physical tiredness. Did you know that one of the reasons why Peter, James and John did not persist in prayer, it says in Luke 22:45, that the reason why they fell asleep, it was due to their sorrow? They fell asleep, not just because physically they were too tired and their eyes were heavy, yes, that’s part of it. But internally, emotionally, they were so sorrowful.
Jesus has been hammering home the fact that they’re going to suffer and that He’s going to suffer, He’s going to die. They’re hearing these sermons, and in this final Passion Week, they are overwhelmed. And what are they doing? Their body is shutting down.
So we have to battle through our flesh just to stay on our knees, just to focus. We need to put away our cell phones because they distract and fracture us to the point that we can’t even concentrate for a minute or two. We need to put those things away. These are bodily disciplines, mental disciplines, but He is telling us that we also have to overcome our emotions. Satan will often attack us in our emotions.
And Jesus’ sorrow was even greater. He was engulfed. They were feeling some sorrow. They were shutting down physically. They could not pray due to physical and emotional factors. And I know there are moments when you just want to stay in bed. You don’t want to face the world. You don’t want to battle with the issues that you’re facing. You don’t want to bring your issues to the Lord.
And all I can tell you is that prayer is when you bring everything to Jesus. Everything to Abba, Father through Jesus. You bring everything to the Lord — that includes your emotions, that includes your confusions, that includes your frustrations. You bring them to the Lord.
I think often what we do is we think we’re praying, but we’re just thinking. We’re just spinning our wheels. And as we’re thinking, our emotions are rising in an unhealthy way. And you can do that for hours. You can do that for weeks. You can do that for years. And all the while be sidelined from prayer.
Jesus is showing us, you must overcome your flesh. Just start praying, just overcome your flesh. Just start. And then the emotions that come up, battle through them. Bring your emotions to the Lord.
38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”
That’s why it says in Matthew 26:38 — my soul is very sorrowful. Jesus is saying, I know your sorrow. Mine is even greater. I am engulfed in sorrow, even to death. Even before He dies on the cross, in an emotional sense, Jesus was already dying at Gethsemane. That’s how bad it was emotionally.
But what does Jesus do? He pushes through. He pushes through and He’s inviting us — we, too, must push through our sorrows. And that’s why it ends. Matthew 26:38. Remain here, and watch with me. We’re not just watching alone. We’re watching with Jesus. He is there in the sorrows. He’s there in the frustrations, in the confusions. He’s there. Jesus was watchful on this night when the disciples were falling asleep. Jesus is inviting us now — can you stay awake with me? Can you watch with me? I showed you how to do it. Now, you can do it, too. Watch with me. Pray with me.
You could make the case that we are not at the end of the age yet because I don’t see the fulfillment of Mark 13. Quite true. But we are well on our way. But in a technical sense, the end times began when Jesus ascended. So we’re two thousand years into the end.
And if you have not learned to become a prayer warrior, when you’re facing the hatred of the nations and you’re being delivered over to be beaten in synagogues, do you think you will suddenly start praying?
Jesus is known to retreat from even His disciples. He is alone with Abba so that He could pray. And my encouragement to you is just start. Start somewhere. You have to overcome your flesh. You have to get out of the bed. You have to bend the knees. You have to go for a walk and pray. Just start somewhere.
My practical suggestion is that if you have 20 minutes, spend 10 in the word and 10 in prayer. Because I think if you have 20 minutes, the temptation is you’re going to spend 19 minutes in studying and you’re going to spend a minute wrapping it up in prayer. Divide it up. We need time to digest what we read, to hear from the Lord. Just do 50-50. Spend 10 minutes in God’s Word, 10 minutes in prayer. And then stretch it to 20 and 20, or 30 and 30.
And as you pray, recall the words that you read. Ask for revelation the way that the disciples asked Jesus a bunch of questions after He preached parables. Nobody understood what the parables meant. The disciples came to Jesus. They asked, what does this mean? That’s what we do in prayer. What did you mean? Why is this relevant?
Be watchful, be alert, take heed. You’re highlighting these verses. You’re saying, what I am about to say is really important. Why are you saying this? What does it mean practically to be awake?
And Jesus is modeling for us what prayer looks like. He had His moments when He was retreating from the crowds. He was in the wilderness. Alone with Abba, Father. And you see the years of praying like that and living like that. Now when He’s faced with not only the cup or the assignment, but the baptism of persecution, Jesus took both. He took the cup. He went through his baptism of persecution.
And then Jesus asks James and John, can you also take your cup and undergo your baptism? And they answer, yes. And Jesus says, you’re right. You, too, will have an assignment. You, too, will have a cup. I had my cup to save the world and to go through this type of intense persecution, this baptism, this fiery baptism. And then as disciples of Jesus, we also have a cup. My cup is different from your cup. But whatever it is, you have a choice. Will you drink it? Or, will you reject it? And likewise, the fiery baptism, you have a choice. Will you go through it? Or, will you avoid it.
Okay, let’s pray.
We fall into temptation for. multiple reasons. One of them is our spirit. Our spirit is unwilling to pray. Two, our flesh is too weak. Number three, our emotions are too strong. And we fall into temptation.
By being weak in our flesh, by being strong in our emotions, we do not pray. Jesus is showing us how to pray. He overcame His flesh, His emotions that were engulfing Him to the point of Him feeling like He’s dying. Drops of blood. That’s what we read in Luke 22. Such intense, agonizing prayer.
Jesus was a prayer warrior. If Jesus is known for anything, it should be prayer. He lived to pray, He prayed to live. He is known for His prayers. We see it on display.
Abba, Father, we come again as your children. Thank you for giving us motivation today to pray to you. We acknowledge that we pray so little. Our flesh is too weak. Our emotions are too strong. We’re too distracted. We think other things are more important. We think busyness is the norm.
But you are reminding us today, the most important thing we can do each day is to pray. Every time we gather on a Sunday, it is to gather in a house of prayer. That’s why you wanted to gather your people so we could pray and two or three could be in agreement, and Jesus, you promised you would be in our midst.
And so we agree with you because of the coming deception and the deception that is already around us, because of the persecution and the persecution that is already around us, and because Jesus, you’re coming back. You’ve given us ample reasons for us to pray.
I pray that every single one of us here would become a prayer warrior in the end times. That while everybody around around us may be shaking and falling away, we pray that all of us here will stand firm, unshaken, fearless, courageous, bold. That even as we’re being delivered over to synagogues to be mocked and ridiculed and slaughtered, we pray that we will proclaim the name of Jesus Christ.
Please Lord Jesus, we pray that you meet us as we partake in your Lord’s Supper. Your cup symbolizing your blood that was shed and the bread symbolizing your body broken. Lord Jesus, you are our model for prayer. We follow you, Lord Jesus. Thank you. In Jesus Name, Amen