What the disciples’ worst day at work means for you

easter vocations Mar 20, 2023

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane…and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:36-38)

Peter and “the two sons of Zebedee” (James and John) had a broad vocation to follow Jesus. But on the night before their rabbi’s crucifixion, they were given a more specific job: Simply to stay awake while Jesus went away to pray.

As they were all walking into the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus “began to be sorrowful and troubled.” He was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”

What’s going on here? In his phenomenal sermon The Dark Garden, Tim Keller explained Jesus’s sorrow this way: “Jesus…got all of his power…and his love from his relationship with the Father, and therefore...as he was walking to [Gethsemane], he would have started praying….In his heart, he would have turned to the Father, the way he constantly does…and that’s when it hit him. Because when he turned in his soul toward the Father, there was nothing there.”

Jesus was experiencing a first sip from the “cup” of God’s wrath due to humankind’s sin (see Matthew 26:39). He was catching a preview of what he would drink in full the next day: Total separation from his Heavenly Father.

Meanwhile, back at the camp, Jesus’s disciples were (literally) falling down on the job. Three times Jesus asked them to do the easiest job in the world while he went off to consider whether or not he would do the hardestdying for these men who couldn’t even stay awake.

As Keller explains, “Peter, James, and John are the representatives of the human race…Every time [Jesus found them sleeping] it’s like the Father is saying, ‘That’s the human race for you. Swallow hell for them. Take into yourself this spiritual atomic bomb and let it explode for them.’”

And Jesus did! 

What does that mean for you, believer? At least two things.

First, it means that God loves you on your absolute worst day at work. The day that represents your biggest regret. The season of unproductiveness. The time you had a golden opportunity to share the gospel with a co-worker but didn’t. God knows all about it. And because Jesus chose to die for his disciples on their worst day at the office, you can be confident that he loves you on yours.

Second, I hope this scene at Gethsemane reminds you that you are free to risk greatly. Start that business, speak up for the injustice you’ve seen in your office, share your faith boldly. Why? Because even in failure, nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Because Jesus spent three days separated from the love of God, you never will, believer. Don’t take that for granted. May the assuredness of God’s love lead you to be bold for Christ’s sake today!


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