I sleep like a rock. I always have and probably always will.
Not exactly a good character trait when you have toddler twins who frequently wake up in the middle of the night (or so I have been told by my wife). Instead, sleeping like a rock means that you occasionally feel like you got walloped by a rock when your partner-in-child-rearing is trying to call in backup.
"Greg! Wake up!"
I fumble for my glasses, knocking over the lamp, alarm clock, and anything else in the way of my clumsy reach, as I make my way towards the kids room. I imagine I look like a cross between a zombie from Walking Dead and the mummies in those Brendan Frazier movies.
"Greg! Wake up!"
I try. Seriously, I try! I am willing to wake up, just not always able.
As I was meditating on Mark 13:32-36 and 14:32-42, passages frequently lumped into Maundy Thursday and Good Friday narrations of the Jesus story's final chapters, I could not help but hear echoes of this familiar midnight plea:
"He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake. He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him." (Mk. 14:33-40)
The Greek of Jesus' request, "Keep awake," are variations of the verb, γρηγορέω or grēgoreō, i.e. where we get the English name, Gregory, meaning "watchful one."
Yep, my name is in the Bible.
It's as if Jesus were saying, "Gregory, keep alert! Gregory, stay awake! Gregory, pay attention!"
Three times in both passages.
But the purpose of γρηγορέω is for reasons beyond making me feel as though my name had broader significance than resemblances of the 70's t.v. character and retro heart throb (a story for another day).
γρηγορέω is Jesus' call for disciples to be always alert to the in-breaking of God's kingdom. In the midst of so many temptations to stray from, soften, or be lulled to sleep by weakened messages of the kingdom, we are provoked to radical and subversive obedience.
"To journey deeply into history, to experiment with a political practice that will break, not perpetuate, the reign of domination in the world -- that is the meaning of Mark's final call to "Watch!" (13:37). It is a call to nonviolent resistance to the powers. (Ched Myers, Binding the Strongman 343).
Still I wonder, if we were to slip back in time and find ourselves on the fringe of Gethsemane, would we be any better than those sleepy, cat-napping disciples. Even worse, if Jesus were to walk into our sanctuaries, youth groups, Bible studies, and church leadership gatherings, would he need to usher a similar statement,
grēgoreō. Wake up!
This is the great challenge of our day, especially for individual Christians and discipleship communities situated within contexts of luxury and privilege. This is the hard word of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday that perplexes and maybe offends us in our elaborate and polished services that warm our sentiment yet leave us still numb to the hard and offensive nature of Table and Cross.
grēgoreō. Wake up!
But why have we fallen asleep in the first place? I suggest three possibilities: