39 And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,
46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
Early hours one morning I heard a voice say to me “Change is within a stones throw” and on looking this up in the bible, I found just one passage that could possibly relate to this message; Luke 22:41. In the KJV this is rendered as “A stones cast.” Jesus is only a stones throw away from His disciples whilst praying. And how far you can throw a stone really depends on the person, and factors such as are you using your left arm or right arm? Are you throwing a brick or a pebble? Are you using a sling shot like David when He killed Goliath? In the end, a stones throw is not that far away, and when David killed Goliath, everything changed for Israel, they defeated the enemy!
So it was after the last supper that Jesus went up to the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and He took with Him three disciples, Peter John and James (whom formed the inner circle). And after Jesus retreated to pray, He returned to the three disciples but found them sleeping. In Luke Jesus said to them “Rise and Pray” but in Matthew Jesus says ”Watch and Pray” lest you enter into temptation. Both words are important. Watch and Pray. In biblical times a watch means keeping guard for anyone or anything coming, there were four watches at night. On modern day clocks this is 6PM – 9PM, 9PM-12AM, 12AM – 03AM, 03AM – 06AM which would be the start of the new day. Probably there was still three watches to go, It was expected that the disciples would rotate keeping watch and praying, however they did not listen. They were all found to be sleeping.
Change can come from praying, change in us, and change in others and the world too. In this section notice they were sleeping they were not watchful, they didn’t listen to the advice of Jesus our God but if they were praying instead of sleeping they would not be led into temptation, they would be ready and not caught off guard. When Jesus prayed a large number of angels came down to minister and strengthen Him, and He was aware of what was happening around Him. The Father heard and answered His Son Jesus. If we pray in the name of Jesus God will do the same for us, it is the will of God to minister to and strengthen us in the name of Jesus. Paul said in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” To pray to God is as easy to do as walking a stones throw. It is only a stones throw, is it so hard to walk a stones throw? to take those steps? to give Him our cares, and worship our God and work on our relationship with Him, to keep our focus on Him. To seek wisdom to know what we should do and when to do it. To seek His Strength, Grace and Mercy.
And from this point onwards, how things so rapidly change. Judas turns up like a thief in the night betraying Jesus and the lives of the disciples would forever change. Especially for Simon Peter… Change is within a stones throw, and I believe a big change is coming and it is just a stones throw away… The world is changing and we must be praying, we must be watchful and taking these steps to avoid temptation and we must be seeking the will of God and doing the will of God. Again, I wonder is it so hard to walk a stones throw? To take those few steps?
The same Disciples that were with Jesus on the Mount of Olives were the same disciples that were previously with Jesus at the transfiguration. They all saw Jesus changed, transformed in all His Glory and next to them appeared Moses and Elijah. Peter got overexcited and proclaimed something like “Master it is good for us to be here, let us make three tabernacles, one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” and suddenly the voice of the Father spoke from within the clouds and said “this is my Son Hear Him” and immediately Moses and Elijah were gone. Jesus was left standing there and so all the attention was on Jesus so it cannot be clearer that God the Father was directing this statement towards Jesus. He confirmed the Deity of Jesus but notice He said “Hear Him” and hearing requires listening. Yet at the Mount Olives they did not listen to Jesus, but they all fell asleep.
God said of Jesus “And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.” Peter heard God make this statement, yet three times Peter was found to be sleeping, three times Peter denied knowing Jesus. His Spirit was willing but the flesh is weak, yet after the resurrection we see a change. Peter takes those few steps by getting out of the boat and drawing closer to Jesus by running to Him; He was likely about a stones throw away – for someone with strong arms! I think Peter had to swim a little. The result is the three “Do you love me” statements where Peter listens to Jesus, shows obedience and is reestablished as an Apostle, Peter changed and God did great things through Peter.
Samuel also comes to mind. He had to learn to commune with God, and God called to Samuel by name and it woke him from his sleep – three times, just like Jesus woke up the disciples three times. What Samuel teaches us is we must invite God, we must be seeking Him. God calls us and waits for us to answer inviting Him in to commune and to form a relationship. But Samuel never answered God, but instead went to Eli saying “here i am” – three times! On the fourth occasion Samuel understood it is God and humbly declared himself God’s servant, saying “speak, your servant hears.” Hearing requires listening and we can all ask God to speak to us just as Samuel did. An era of great change happened in Israel, just because Samuel – one man was listening!
The father commanded that we listen to Jesus and Jesus tells us to use His name to pray to the father. So let us listen to Jesus, just like Peter finally learned, and pray to avoid temptation. Read the word that God gave us and also speak it, and seek God for what He has to say. We can be good at seeking God for what we want, but do we seek God for what He wants? And what He wants is always what is best – for all of us.
It was when Jesus rose from the dead, resurrected with a new body, that the whole world changed. If it didn’t then we would not be here right now worshipping! The stone in front of the tomb was rolled away, and this was not a stone you can just pick up and throw. Jesus didn’t do a karate kick on this stone to remove it (would probably break my legs trying) but in Jesus new body He could walk straight through the walls of the tomb. It was an angel that came down from Heaven and rolled away the stone, not so Jesus could walk out, but so we could all see inside the tomb and know that Jesus was risen. That death could not contain Him, hell could not keep Him, the Tomb could not hold Him. And when Jesus returns, and He will, everything in the world will once again change.
In Revelation 16:15 when God is pouring out His sixth Bowl of Wrath upon the world, drying up the River Euphrates to prepare the way for the coming battle of “Armageddon”, Jesus says “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.
It caught my attention just yesterday, something I had never detected in this verse before, that this sounds a lot like what took place on the Mount of Olives. To compare, on the Mount of Olives Jesus told His Disciples “Watch and Pray” and that included the disciples who did not go with Jesus to the Garden area, such as Mark. But as we all know they did not watch and pray, if Peter, John and James all slept probably Mark did too. Judas comes as a thief in the night and Jesus is arrested. During that commotion John Mark must have gone to the Garden area and in the Gospel of Mark he tells us he loses his garments and flees naked in the night, his shame for all to see.
But in Revelation, even though Jesus has forewarned the world that soon He will return, Jesus tells us that He is coming as a thief, I think He uses the term “as a thief” because the world remains ignorant, stubborn and rebellious rejecting God and so therefore Jesus arriving onto the scene will take them by surprise – much like a thief does. The world wont be watching and their shame will be exposed. But those who do watch are promised blessings and their shame will remain covered.
So change is just a stones throw away, but what never changes is God’s word. God never changes, but our understanding of God’s word can change; if we truly seek Him and watch and pray then God can change us, His Holy Spirit can change us, He can give us a better understanding. If you approach God with a servants heart then He can do great things through you, and the same for all of us. Amen.
24th April 2022 – Leon Davey
(All scripture is taken from the KJV)