Weekly reading: Mark 11-16; Psalm 73
Passages referenced: MARK 11:32-42
“I just can’t do it anymore.”
I have spoken these words more in my life than I would like to admit. And I have thought them countless times more. These words have been shouted while in the midst of physical pain during childbirth. They have been whispered in the dark of the night when anxiety’s grip was so firm that I didn’t know how I would ever have peace again. These thoughts swirled as I watched helplessly as a child struggled through a debilitating season of physical and mental anguish. This phrase has come many times, but what I can attest to more than the times it has come and gone is the change that has happened when these words are confronted with truth.
As often as I have struggled with physical, emotional, and spiritual battles that felt like they would win, I recognize I have no idea what the battles were like for Jesus and His disciples in the days and hours leading up to Jesus’ arrest. When reading the Gospels, I see what a chaotic, draining, and tiring few days the disciples had leading up to their time at Gethsemane. They had heard new, confusing things during a time of tradition, they watched Jesus break many cultural rules, and they even heard of betrayal and denial within their own tight band of brotherhood. I can only imagine the exhaustion they felt going into the garden the night Jesus was wrongly arrested.
Take a moment to read Mark 14:32-42. Feel free to go back further and read Mark 11-14 to get a full picture of all that had been happening leading up to their time in Gethsemane. Many scholars believe all that happened in these chapters occurred in just five days.
I remember reading Mark 14:32-42 during a new and difficult season of my life. I was a new mom learning to adjust to little sleep while keeping a child alive, working, and battling rapidly changing hormones that seemed to impact every aspect of my life. This passage stood out to me in many ways, but the part that struck me the most was how Jesus asked Peter, James, and John to do the difficult: “Stay here and keep watch.” He found them asleep and again asked them to “Watch and pray.” After returning a third time, He noted their inability to stay awake. What stood out to me during that season was that although Jesus knew this was a physically difficult task to ask of them, He still asked them to rise to the occasion.
While calling the three disciples up to a difficult task in an environment that was not conducive to allowing them to succeed, Jesus acknowledged the complexity of this task. “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” was Jesus’ response to Peter when He found him asleep. Although they tried to stay awake and watch and pray, they failed twice more. Jesus continued to ask them to do the difficult, but He seemed to recognize their humanity and the physical difficultly of this ask. He asked them to do this, not for His sake, but theirs. Jesus knew that if they were able to push through the physical and mental task of staying present when it felt like they “just can’t do it anymore,” they would learn from Him, and it would bless them more than a few moments of sleep would.
Although Jesus was entering into the most crucial, eternity-changing hours of our world, He had compassion on His disciples when they “just couldn’t.” Our Savior showed His character in His darkest times and met His disciples exactly where they were.
Jesus has done the same for me. He does the same for you. He knows when we are at our points of giving in, giving up, or breaking down. And He meets us with His compassion and generosity and carries us through in HIS power. Every time I have said and thought, “I just can’t do it anymore,” Jesus shows me how I can’t, but if I submit to Him and allow His Spirit to move in me, He can. I take comfort in this reminder of how Jesus will call us up to difficult challenges, and His understanding and compassion cover us when we “just can’t.” – Laura Robertson