Matthew 26:36-46 Part 1


We enter now into that portion of the Gospel having to do with Christ’s suffering, trial and crucifixion.  And I do this with some anxiety and fear.  I’ve expressed some anxieties with regard to other portions of the Gospel; but I don’t know if any man is ever ready to do this.  And I suppose that gives me some comfort, although we shouldn’t gain comfort from being in the same condition along with many others… that only provides us with a reason for doing less or being less.

Nevertheless many others have been right here at this spot in the text – before me… and before you.  And somehow I know that many of them were afraid.  I suspect that the better they were as preachers the more frightened they were.

And then I know that, upon further self-examination, they probably all said, “Why am I dwelling on my fear and anxiety?  This text has to do with Christ’s suffering and proving by His Father!  So what am I doing dealing with mine?  Where is there any comparison?  And where is my anxiety written in this text?!”

So, “get your mind and heart off your own self-reflection,” I said, “and make it do what it ought!”

And the same thing is true of all of you.  Mortify your “self”, put aside your daily cares and irritations and anxieties, and put your mind to use in understanding the Gospel; and force your heart to be in submission under the operation of the Spirit.  Then God may be pleased to honor our examination of His Word as it concerns the suffering of the Christ.

Primarily we’re going to deal with only one word in the text today, although it occurs here in three or four places.  That needs to be done before we can grasp the whole.

But I can see now that the preaching will become more focused and deal with less content.  And that’s going to be true because of several reasons.  First, the content is just “packed”.  Second, the context in which the suffering and death of Christ occurs is the whole of Scripture; and the further we go, the more complex it becomes.  Third, I need time to absorb it so I can preach it.  Fourth, we all need to go slowly, because this is the Gospel; and since we all claim to be Christians, we at least need to know what the Gospel is!  (Many of us have never heard it preached!)  And, fifth (and this is a somewhat selfish reason), I want to know everything it says.

For those of us who have been here the whole time, or most of the time, I can’t imagine anything of greater importance than to hear the whole Gospel preached – from front to back.  Even though it’s taken a long time and sometimes there’s been an ebb and flow of interest, the hope and anticipation of eternal life in Christ is a long-term proposition.  It is a life-long endeavor to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling”.  We don’t have a short-term view of anything.

Those who say, “Grab it now because I want to feel good for the next twelve hours,” or “Give me something I can chew on for this next week,” really have no concept of the Kingdom of Christ which, from our standpoint, is now almost two thousand years old.  (And it could be that it’s still young.)  And the nurturing and maturing of God’s elect and Christ’s Church takes years and decades… and even an age.  Line upon line, here a little there a little….

So, as we go on, remember that our view is to years; and to the century; and to the millennium; and the age – it’s a Kingdom view.  “Redeem the time….”  Preach the whole Word.  Hear the Word of God.


In verse thirty-eight Jesus says to Peter and James and John, “Stay here and watch with Me….”

In verse forty He says to them, “So, were you not able to watch with Me one hour?”

Verse forty-one, “Watch, and pray that you might not enter into ‘proving’….”

And then, the root word from which comes the word “to watch” (here at the beginning of verse forty-six)… “Arouse yourselves, let’s be going….”


This is one of Matthew’s favorite words; and it is so because Jesus used it a lot!  Every time Jesus spoke of His being delivered into the hands of the priests and scribes and elders of Israel, to suffer and to be crucified, He also spoke of His resurrection – His rising again – His being raised up (same word.).

“Arouse yourselves” is that word; and “watch” is a cognate of it.  For that reason the word has Messianic and eschatological connections, great significance for the “Kerygma” (i.e. the preaching), and takes a prominent place in the letters and preaching of the apostles.

Our Lord, in that great twenty-fourth chapter on the “coming of the day of the Lord,” warns His disciples to “watch”.  In the parabolic allegory of the coming of the Bridegroom (chapter twenty-five), He does the same thing.

And now in chapter twenty-six there are three occasions (as His suffering begins) that He requires them to watch!  And this is in the immediate context of the entrapment of Peter and the others in the suffering and death and resurrection of Christ.

So not only does this word “to watch” have to do with the rising up of the Christ after His crucifixion (and our resurrection in Him… by implication); and not only are there implications with regard to eschatological judgment – as in chapters twenty-four and twenty-five; but that immediate context is the entrapment to sin and heresy and unbelief and disowning the Name of Christ.  (“Watch that you may not enter into proving…”)

Remember that many are entrapped on the Rock which is Christ, and crushed to pieces and blown away in the wind (the images coming in one after another).  On the other hand the disciples were entrapped in Christ and scattered; and then “gathered” by the hand of God (as were the remnant).  And no one better “entrap” one of these little ones without serious consequences.

Now, as Luke records in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter twenty, Paul was speaking to the elders of the Churches in Ephesus – exhorting them to purity and to feeding the whole Word of God to the Church for which Christ shed His blood.  And he warned them of the grievous wolves who would enter into the flock – even some from among them!  And so his command to them was “to watch”!

It was their duty to see to it that false teachers and heretics were kept out of the Church so that none of the “little ones” would be entrapped into sin and heresy.  It’s Christ’s Church, and they belong to Him.  And they were to be warned and informed when there was false teaching and errant practice!

In almost every letter to the Churches, Paul exhorts them “to watch”, for God’s people in the Churches are not “sons of the night”, but “sons of the day”.  “Watching” was a command of Paul along with faithfulness and prayer and being strong in the Lord!

And Peter, writing to the remnant refugees from Israel and Jerusalem scattered in the nations, said “be sober; be watching;” for in their extreme suffering they must be steadfast in the faith.  Great suffering can be an entrapment by which we might be led astray into sin and heresy.  But they were to remember that all the brethren were suffering in the suffering of Christ!  And therein was their comfort.

And the apostle John writes to the Church at Sardis, as he was commanded by Christ to do; and in that letter (Revelation chapter three) Jesus chastens that Church to repent of its sin.  And he exhorts it to remember what it originally heard and received (i.e. the Gospel!); and “if it should not watch, He would come upon it” (i.e. in judgment).

So all of the disciples (later as apostles of Christ’s Church) would take up the same word in the exhortation of the Churches as Jesus commanded them:  “Be watching, and praying.”  “Watch with Me,” He said.  “Were you not able to watch with Me one hour?”, He said.  (Watching was “being alive” and awake, and wary of entrapments.)

The disciples did not watch, nor did they pray; for most of them, their eyes had been made heavy.  And they slept rather than “watching”.  And in the “proving” of Jesus they were entrapped in His suffering and death.  And they “disowned” Him; and they were scattered as sheep (as was prophesied in Zechariah).

But by the power of the Spirit, in the Risen Lord, they later figured it out.  They were to “watch” themselves (as son of the “day”), and they were to “watch” the flocks; and the flocks were to “watch” themselves and one another.  For the “little ones”, risen in the resurrection of Christ, were subject to inevitable entrapments… those of pain and anguish and suffering, those of false teachers and heretics and wolves, entrapments of the (seemingly) delicious sins of the world order, entrapments of persecution and disparagement, and those of discouragement and misplaced anticipations, and on and on.

The elders of the Church (and the deacons) are to watch their flocks; and the flocks are to watch their elders and deacons; fathers are to watch their wives and children… we are all to “watch” ourselves – the ones in authority having the greater duty and responsibility.  For those risen in Christ are the precious “little children” for whom the blood of Christ was spilled!

Be aroused; be alive; be sons of the day; be aware; be on guard; be a watchman on the wall; see everything in the Light of the Day… in the resurrection of Christ.  Minister, and strengthen the weak; bind up the brokenhearted; help the poor; visit and stand up for the widows and orphans; teach the children; dissociate with the wolves and heretics and false teachers; watch for error; counsel the beguiled; stand strong-hearted against strange thinking and actions – all with love, says the apostle.

“Watch with Me” says Jesus to Peter and the two sons of Zebedee.  But they didn’t.  Jesus “watched”.  And as He was being “proved” in the Refiner’s fire, He remained faithful to His Father.

But the disciples didn’t “watch”.  And they unfaithfully became entrapped in the suffering and death of their Lord – as was prophesied.

Jesus “watched”.  And He prayed.  And He wasn’t entrapped in the desire of the flesh to somehow avoid that which was about to come upon Him.  He remained faithful and obedient through it all – all the way to the cross and then to His “rising” (same root word) – forming the connection between “watching” and the resurrection!  He “watched” unto faithfulness – life!

The last words of our text have Jesus saying to His disciples (verse forty-six):  “Arouse yourselves (same root word), let’s go.”  After not watching with Jesus, they were then aroused to be entrapped in Him and to disown Him and to be scattered.

But as we said last Lord’s Day, our Lord was to suffer and die alone; for there was none other lamb but Him.  There was no other sacrifice to atone for sin; therefore none other could suffer and die with Him.

Later the apostles would remember all these things with great shame.  But at the same time they would realize that it was the Father’s plan that His Anointed One would die with everyone against Him that it might be by grace, and not by works, lest any man should boast.  There would be none who could say they faithfully stood with Him… in order that all might confess their guilt and culpability in His death.  There would be no claim to fame – not even among the apostles.  All of the elect of God would be saved by grace and grace alone – through the gift of faith.

And armed with such marvelous love and so great salvation, the apostles armored the Churches with exhortations to “watch”.  For those who watch and pray with Christ are those who are “risen” in Him.  There is the connection between “watching” and the resurrection of Jesus Christ – the same root word being used for both!  Those who pray, and watch (as we’re commanded by the apostles and by Christ) are those risen in Christ; and those risen in Christ are constantly praying and watching!

We are alive in the body of Christ – not sons of the night.  We are aroused in Him to Light and Life!  We are “risen” in Him to faithfulness and obedience; and we watch, and pray!

Can you imagine any newborn babe in Christ (i.e. a believer) in any situation in which the command of Christ to “watch” would be abrogated?... or any conditions in which a believer could say to the Lord, “Surely Your command to watch doesn’t apply to me here!”

The constant exhortations of our Lord to His disciples to “watch”; and the commands of all of the apostles to the Church to “watch”, to pray, and to stand firm in the faith obviate any conditions under which the command could be abrogated!

And since that’s the case, how could there ever be such a thing, for example, as real “lethargy” in the Christian community?  Could there be reborn babes out there who “take time off” from being a Christian?  Is there a way to “turn the mind off” from being newborn so we wouldn’t have to “watch”?  Are there fathers out there who are “apathetic” to their children’s development in Christ… who thereby allow them to suffer “entrapments” on their own?  Who’s to “watch” if the kids’ first defense against the world order doesn’t?  (That’s Dad.)

Drunkenness and drug stupor and drug-induced euphoria leave the mind in a completely senseless condition… open to any and all entrapments to sin and apostasy.  Who can watch themselves or anybody else while in mental paralysis?  I think it more likely for them to wake up dead than to be aroused in the risen Christ and watch themselves.

And the same thing holds true for experiments in necromancy, hypnosis, transcendental meditation and the mystical Eastern arts of self-defense.  One cannot “watch” from a trance, or from total absorption into the transcendent.  We could go on with that, but….

One final thing here and we’ll quit.  The worship of the One True God is a religion of hearing.  The Word of God is spoken by Him to men.  And men called and set apart by Him preach it to the hearing of His people.  Christianity, the only non-idolatrous religion, is a religion of words and hearing.  That is so much the Truth, that the apostle Paul says that the Gospel preached is the very voice of Christ!  God justifies and sanctifies His people through hearing!

And yet the Lord’s people have become so completely wrapped up in a world order of visual images!  The movers and shakers of the society have so far recreated the culture, that its messages are designed especially for the eye!  And the visual stimulation is incredible.  And Christians, I’m afraid to say, are entrapped in it!  And who’s to “watch” if the whole community is living by sight, and not by faith?

This is even showing up inside Churches that have historically called themselves “Reformed”, for “dramatic presentations” are taking the place of preaching.  They sincerely want to involve the whole person in worship.  But God said, you will live by My Words:  Hear” O Israel, the Lord our God is One God; and you will not craft images by which to worship Me, but you will worship Me by My Words!”

Why is our culture a culture of visual images?  Because there’s a cultural war against the King of Kings and His worship is one of hearing.  And we need to “watch” ourselves, and each other, so we don’t live by visual stimulation, or by interpretation of what we see, but by Faith.  And Faith comes by hearing.  And hearing by the Word of God.

Next Lord’s Day the rest of the text itself (there are some wonderful things there), and the suffering of our Lord.