36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to the disciples, “Stay here while I go and pray over there.” 37 When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious. 38 Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.” 39 Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.” 40 He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? 41 Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.” 42 A second time he went away and prayed, “My Father, if it’s not possible that this cup be taken away unless I drink it, then let it be what you want.” 43 Again he came and found them sleeping. Their eyes were heavy with sleep. 44 But he left them and again went and prayed the same words for the third time.
[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]
We don’t want our heroes to have feet of clay. Even more, we don’t want the one to whom we have attached the title “Savior” to be all too human. Of course, we are glad that he went aside to pray and took with him three of the disciples. How else were they going to learn real prayer. Well, we find out (no surprise!) that the disciples have feet of clay. While they were asked to stay alert, they fell asleep. It becomes clear that the growing consciousness of Yeshua regarding opposition and the likelihood of impending death is more than their conscious minds can comprehend at this time. So, they anesthetize themselves with sleep — three times over.
Yeshua, on the other hand, cannot sleep. The depth of his personhood is being tested. He senses that death is in his immediate future. In addition to the end of his life, it also means the end of his mission to demonstrate a new way to be connected with a newly understood God. How distressing and frustrating must that be! Not a surprise that he prays that such a fate not befall him. What is surprising is the next word — “Yet” (“Howsobeit” in the KJV). “Yet,” Yeshua’s ultimate commitment is not to his own safety, but to what has been insisted in him since his baptism — a calling to release the inner dynamic of the God-process, to invite humankind to access the messianic possibilities within each of us, to free redemption for the stranglehold of the external and institutional. “Yet” allows Yeshua to change his tone with the disciples — let them sleep.