Matthew 26:40
And he comes to the disciples, and finds them asleep, and said to Peter, What, could you not watch with me one hour?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(40) He cometh unto the disciples.—Perhaps to both the groups—first of the three and then of the eight. All were alike sleeping—as St. Luke characteristically adds, “sleeping for sorrow.”

What, could ye not watch . . .?—Literally, Were ye thus unable to watch? St. Mark (Mark 14:37) individualises the words—“Simon, sleepest thou?” He had boasted of his readiness to do great things. He could not so much as rouse himself to watch for one hour. The last word may be fairly taken as partly measuring the time that had passed since their Master had left them. As the words are reported we must believe that the disciples were just so far roused as to hear them, and that they sank back powerless into slumber.

Matthew 26:40. And he cometh unto the disciples — Unto the three from whom he had withdrawn himself a little way; and findeth them asleep — Notwithstanding the distress they saw him in, and the strict command that he had given them to watch. It seems a supernatural heaviness had fallen upon them. And saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? — According to Mark, (who must be considered as peculiarly accurate in what relates to Peter, his gospel having been revised by that apostle,) Christ addressed himself especially to Peter, saying, Simon, sleepest thou? couldst not thou watch one hour? — Thou, who so lately boastedst of thy courage and constancy in my service, couldst thou not keep thyself awake for one hour, when I was in such an agony? Doubtless, however, Jesus also addressed the others, as Matthew signifies. As if he had said, And you, who were so ready to join with Peter in the same profession, could neither of you be mindful of me? and in this time of my extreme distress, could none of you perform your resolution, so as to watch one single hour with me? Watch and pray — As I must again exhort you with the greatest earnestness; that ye enter not into temptation — That ye do not yield to and fall by that dangerous temptation which is now approaching, and of which I so lately gave you notice. The spirit indeed is willing — You, in spirit, are ready to express the dutiful regard that you have for me, and I know your resolutions of adhering to me are very sincere; but the flesh — Your nature; is weak — As your present experience may convince you. How gentle a rebuke was this, and how kind an apology! especially at this time, when our Lord’s own mind was so weighed down with sorrow.26:36-46 He who made atonement for the sins of mankind, submitted himself in a garden of suffering, to the will of God, from which man had revolted in a garden of pleasure. Christ took with him into that part of the garden where he suffered his agony, only those who had witnessed his glory in his transfiguration. Those are best prepared to suffer with Christ, who have by faith beheld his glory. The words used denote the most entire dejection, amazement, anguish, and horror of mind; the state of one surrounded with sorrows, overwhelmed with miseries, and almost swallowed up with terror and dismay. He now began to be sorrowful, and never ceased to be so till he said, It is finished. He prayed that, if possible, the cup might pass from him. But he also showed his perfect readiness to bear the load of his sufferings; he was willing to submit to all for our redemption and salvation. According to this example of Christ, we must drink of the bitterest cup which God puts into our hands; though nature struggle, it must submit. It should be more our care to get troubles sanctified, and our hearts satisfied under them, than to get them taken away. It is well for us that our salvation is in the hand of One who neither slumbers nor sleeps. All are tempted, but we should be much afraid of entering into temptation. To be secured from this, we should watch and pray, and continually look unto the Lord to hold us up that we may be safe. Doubtless our Lord had a clear and full view of the sufferings he was to endure, yet he spoke with the greatest calmness till this time. Christ was a Surety, who undertook to be answerable for our sins. Accordingly he was made sin for us, and suffered for our sins, the Just for the unjust; and Scripture ascribes his heaviest sufferings to the hand of God. He had full knowledge of the infinite evil of sin, and of the immense extent of that guilt for which he was to atone; with awful views of the Divine justice and holiness, and the punishment deserved by the sins of men, such as no tongue can express, or mind conceive. At the same time, Christ suffered being tempted; probably horrible thoughts were suggested by Satan that tended to gloom and every dreadful conclusion: these would be the more hard to bear from his perfect holiness. And did the load of imputed guilt so weigh down the soul of Him of whom it is said, He upholdeth all things by the word of his power? into what misery then must those sink whose sins are left upon their own heads! How will those escape who neglect so great salvation?And findeth them asleep - It may seem remarkable that in such circumstances, with a suffering, pleading Redeemer near, surrounded by danger, and having received a special charge to watch - that is, not to sleep - they should so soon have fallen asleep.

It is frequently supposed that this was proof of wonderful stupidity, and indifference to their Lord's sufferings. The truth is, however, that it was just the reverse; "it was proof of their great attachment, and their deep sympathy in his sorrows." Luke has added that he found "them sleeping" for sorrow - that is, "on account" of their sorrow; or their grief was so great that they naturally fell asleep. Multitudes of facts might be brought to show that this is in accordance with the regular effects of grief. Dr. Rush says: "There is another symptom of grief, which is not often noticed, and that is "profound sleep." I have often witnessed it even in mothers, immediately after the death of a child. Criminals, we are told by Mr. Akerman, the keeper of Newgate, in London, often sleep soundly the night before their execution. The son of General Custine slept nine hours the night before he was led to the guillotine in Paris." - Diseases of the Mind, p. 319.

Saith unto Peter ... - This earnest appeal was addressed to Peter particularly on account of his warm professions, his rash zeal, and his self-confidence. If he could not keep awake and watch with the Saviour for one hour, how little probability was there that he would adhere to him in the trials through which he was soon to pass!

Mt 26:36-46. The Agony in the Garden. ( = Mr 14:32-42; Lu 22:39-46).

For the exposition, see on [1364]Lu 22:39-46.

See Poole on "Matthew 26:41". And he cometh unto the disciples,.... The three he took with him, Peter, James, and John, after he had finished his prayer,

and findeth them asleep: many things might contribute to, and bring this drowsiness upon them; as the great fatigue they had had in preparing the passover in the day, the plentiful meal they had eaten at night, though without excess, and the lateness of the night, it being now probably midnight; but the chief reason of their sleepiness was their sorrow, as is expressed in Luke 22:45, what Christ had said to them of his soul troubles, and what they saw in him, had filled their hearts with sorrow, which brought on them an amazement and stupidity of mind; and this issued in sleep. We have other instances of persons in excessive grief and trouble falling asleep, as Elijah in 1 Kings 19:4, and Jonah in Jonah 1:5, so that this did not arise from a secure, lazy, indolent frame of spirit; or from any disregard to Christ, and neglect of him, and unconcernedness for him; but from their great sorrow of heart; for, the trouble and distress that he was in, added to the causes above mentioned. Though some have thought, that Satan might be, concerned in it, who induced this sleepiness, or increased it, that he might the more easily surprise them with his temptations, he was preparing for them, which I will not deny. Now, though this sleep was natural bodily sleep, which the disciples fell into, yet was an emblem of, and carried in it a resemblance to, the spiritual sleep and drowsiness of the people of God; for as this was after a delightful entertainment and conversation with Christ at the passover and Lord's supper, so it sometimes is, that the children of God fall into a sleepy frame of soul, after much communion with Christ, as the church did in Sol 5:1, and as this sleep befell them, when Christ was withdrawn a little space from them; so it was with the church, when her beloved was absent from her, Sol 3:1, and with the wise virgins when the bridegroom tarried, Matthew 25:6, and as this was not an entire thorough sleep; they knew all the while what Christ was doing, and could relate, as they have done, the circumstances of it; so the children of God, when asleep, they are not like unregenerate persons, in a dead sleep of sin, that hear, and see, and feel, and know nothing; but though they are asleep, their hearts are awake, as was the church's, Sol 5:2, yet as the disciples were so much asleep, that the bare words of Christ did not arouse them from it for a while; so such is the sleep of the saints sometimes, that they are not to be aroused by the bare ministry of the word, though the most powerful arguments, and the most moving and melting language are made use of, as were with the church, Sol 5:2,

and saith unto Peter, what! could ye not watch with me one hour? This was said particularly to Peter, because he had so lately, in such a confident manner, declared, that he would not be offended with Christ, but abide with him, stand by him, and even die with him, was there an occasion for it; and yet, in so short a space of time, was fallen asleep, as were the rest who said the same things also: and it is as if Christ should say, how will you be able to stand by me throughout this night, when ye cannot watch with me so much as one hour, though I so earnestly desired you to tarry here, and watch with me, and you saw in what distress I was in? how will you be able to withstand the temptations that will beset you quickly, and perform your promises of love, fidelity, constancy, and close attachment to me, in the greatest dangers, when you cannot keep yourselves awake one hour for my sake?

{11} And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?

(11) An example of the carelessness of man.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 26:40. The fact that the disciples slept, and that these disciples did so in circumstances such as the present, and that all three gave way, and that their sleep proved to be of so overpowering a character, is, notwithstanding Luke’s explanation that it was ἀπὸ τῆς λύπης; (Matthew 22:45), a psychological mystery, although, after utterances of Jesus so manifestly authentic as those of Matthew 26:40; Matthew 26:45, the statement that they did sleep is not to be regarded as unhistorical, but is to be taken as implying that Jesus had spent a considerable time in prayer, and that the disciples, in consequence of their deep mental exhaustion, found it impossible to keep awake.

καί] three times; the narrative is characterized by a simple pathos.

τῷ Πέτρῳ] to him He addressed words that were equally applicable to them all; but then it was he who a little ago had surpassed all the others in so boldly declaring how much he was prepared to do for his Master, Matthew 26:33; Matthew 26:35.

οὕτως] siccine, thus, uttered with painful surprise, is to be taken in connection with what follows, without inserting a separate mark of interrogation (in opposition to Euthymius Zigabenus and Beza). Comp. 1 Corinthians 6:5.Matthew 26:40. ἔρχεται: not necessarily immediately after uttering the foregoing prayer. Jesus may have lain on the ground for a considerable time silent.—τῷ Πέτρῳ: all three were asleep, but the reproach was most fitly addressed to Peter, the would-be valiant and loyal disciple.—οὕτως: Euthy. puts a mark of interrogation after this word, whereby we get this sense: So? Is this what it has come to? You were not able to watch with me one hour! A spirited rendering in consonance with Mark’s version.40. saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch] Note that the verb is in the plural. As Peter took the lead in the promise of devotion, Jesus singles him out for rebuke. St Mark has “Simon (the name of the old life), sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour?”Matthew 26:40. Εὑρίσκει καθεύδοντας, findeth them asleep) The disciples should have been differently prepared. In this sleep they forgot the promise which they had made in the thirty-fifth verse.—τῷ Πέτρῳ, to Peter) referring to Matthew 26:35. Although Peter had heard that he was about to fall, he is nevertheless commanded to watch and pray.—οὕτως οὐκ ἰσχύσατε, have you proved so utterly incapable?[1150]) You who promised such great things! This is too great weakness; see Matthew 26:41.—μίαν, one) Jesus therefore frequently watched alone for a long time together.—γρηγορῆσαι, to watch) Prayers would gush forth spontaneously, if they watched; see the following verse.

[1150] E. V. What? could ye not?—(I. B.)Verse 40. - He cometh unto the disciples. He rose from prayer and returned to his three apostles, seeking their sympathy and the comfort of their presence in his lonely desolation. Findeth them asleep; sleeping. The comfort which his man's nature craved was denied him. St. Luke, the physician, says that the disciples were "sleeping for sorrow." Some great mental shock, some poignant distress, often produces a bodily stupor and sleep; but this is scarcely a valid excuse for such insensibility at this terrible crisis, especially as the Lord had urged them to watch (ver. 38). They had had a very trying day; Peter and John had undergone much bodily fatigue in preparing the last Supper; they were all weary, full of grief, and weighed down by foreboding; it was no wonder that they succumbed to these influences, though we might have expected that such as they would have risen superior to them. "The simple law, that extraordinary tension raises the highly developed spiritual life, while it stupefies the less developed, finds here its strongest illustration in the almost absolute contrast of spiritual watchfulness and sleep" (Lange). Saith unto Peter. Peter had been most forward in profession (vers. 33, 35); so Christ addresses him first. The other two, James and John, bad boldly asserted that they were able to drink of Christ's cup of suffering (Matthew 20:22); so they are included in the tender reproach. What (οὕτως), could ye not watch with me? So, could ye not, etc.? Is it so that? Are ye unable to do even this little thing for me? Truly a pathetic reproof! One hour. It may be that this first stage of the agony had lasted for an hour, but the term is more probably indefinite; or it may refer to the whole time of trial. What!

It is hardly possible to convey the exact force of the Greek οὕτως, thus or so. The idea is, "are ye thus unable, or so utterly unable to watch?"

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