Posted by: mikenicholsblog | October 10, 2014

sleeping from sorrow

The words which follow come from one of our Journey onWord readers who has chosen to read the words of Jesus with us this year. He is a trained Bible teacher, and draws from his personal study an insightful picture of Luke 22:45.

Have you ever read a passage in the Bible over and over for years and all of a sudden a phrase jumps out at you that you never really noticed before? This happened to me a couple of weeks ago as I read the final verse (Luke 22:45) in the story of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane.  It’s the verse where Jesus returns from His time of solitary and earnest prayer and finds his disciples sleeping. I have read that verse many times over the years. I have taught that verse. I have heard a host of sermons preached on that verse. But that particular morning, I read the verse as with new eyes and have a new appreciation for what it really says.

You can read the account of Jesus going to the Garden following the Last Supper in the Upper Room in the other gospels, but Luke’s is the only one that uses the phrase, “… He found them sleeping from sorrow” (NKJV). In the NIV it says, “… He found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.”

The typical interpretation of this verse is the disciples weren’t aware of what Jesus was going through at the time and therefore did not have a concern, so they fell asleep as they waited. Most sermons then focus attention on Peter, who had just committed to Jesus that he was willing to go to prison or even death with Jesus and yet he couldn’t stay awake when Jesus needed him. The act of sleeping shows the disciples indifference to Jesus’ sufferings and the application is then made that we need to stay awake and accomplish what Jesus wants us to accomplish in our lives.

My new understanding of this verse broadens the picture I have of the disciples. Remember that Luke is a doctor, so he has a better understanding of the human body than the other writers. He says the disciples fell asleep because of their sorrow, or their deep sympathy in His sorrows. Their grief was so great over what Jesus was experiencing, they naturally fell asleep. Doctor’s would verify one of the symptoms of grief is profound sleep.

I have seen with new eyes and learned a new lesson – the disciples weren’t oblivious to Jesus’ suffering and agony, they were actually grieving with Him over it. We know the disciples didn’t understand everything that was going on, but Luke teaches us that what they did understand caused them to sorrow. I believe they just didn’t know how to express it and sleep overtook them.

May we always be open and alert when reading Scripture, not reading as if we already know what it says. We need to read carefully and purposefully in anticipation of what God has to teach us at that particular time.


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