[Jesus] threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26:39-41

Here is a powerful poem by Mary Oliver about this moment in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus found his disciples sleeping:

Gethsemane by Mary Oliver

The grass never sleeps.
Or the roses.
Nor does the lily have a secret eye that shuts until morning.

Jesus said, wait with me. But the disciples slept.

The cricket has such splendid fringe on its feet,
and it sings, have you noticed, with its whole body,
and heaven knows if it ever sleeps.

Jesus said, wait with me. And maybe the stars did,
maybe the wind wound itself into a silver tree, and didn’t move, maybe
the lake far away, where once he walked as on a
blue pavement,
lay still and waited, wild awake.

Oh the dear bodies, slumped and eye-shut, that could not
keep that vigil, how they must have wept,
so utterly human, knowing this too
must be a part of the story.

Isn’t this a powerful poem? It came to mind as I prepared a devotion this week on what it means to pray “Thy will be done,” because I used Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane as a focal point. While Jesus was praying, the disciples slept. So utterly human, as Mary Oliver writes, and it is true. For the disciples, and for us. We all fall asleep on the job of being faithful disciples. It is why Gethsemane and the cross was necessary, why Jesus had to take the cup, had to die for us. Because we fall asleep, we sin. The grass never sleeps, nature doesn’t sin. But we do.

How those first disciples must have wept, Mary Oliver writes, knowing that they must tell this story of falling asleep as Jesus prayed. If they are going to be faithful followers, they must be honest, and tell the story, tell all of the story. And how grateful we are, to know all of the story, to know that even those closest to Jesus, who were there in that holy garden on that holy night, slept. They waited, slept, and wept. Because the spirit was willing, but their flesh was all too weak. Thank you, Jesus, for bearing our sin for us, for staying awake for us. Amen


Mary Oliver’s poem can be found in a wonderful collection of her poetry called “Devotions” that I read from often and can be purchased through Bookshop or Amazon.

Church of All Nations
The Garden of Gethsemane

5 thoughts on “Gethsemane by Mary Oliver

  1. Thanks for the post, and the photo.

    While we were in the Garden of Gethsemane, I expected that there would be a hushed silence, as we remembered the events that happened there.
    This was not the case.
    There was loud chatter, as pilgrims chose this time to look at photos of each others’ grandchildren. Others discussed baseball statistics, or how their investments are doing…

    Like the first disciples, we are weak and frail, and yet our Lord loves us unconditionally. ⚘🤗

    Liked by 1 person

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