Mark 14:38
The mystery of our Lord's suffering is beyond our power of accurate analysis. We cannot fathom the depths of sin and grief which he experienced. We must not suppose that, because we are so familiar with this narrative, we know all its significance. At the most we have only felt one wave of the sea of sorrow which sobbed and swelled in his infinite heart. Only one phase of this manysided subject will engage our attention. Leaving the atoning nature of the sufferings of our Lord, we will now regard him as the Representative of his people, their Forerunner in this as in all things. The "cup" is a figure familiar enough to all students of Scripture.

I. THE CUP OF EXPERIENCE may be represented by the cup which was the symbol of the mockery and shame and grief the Savior suffered.

1. The phrase reminds us that our joys and griefs are measured. A cup is not illimitable. Full to the brim, it can only hold its own measure.

(1) Our joys are limited by what is in us, and by what is in them. If a man prospers in the world, his wealth brings him not only comfort, but care, anxiety, and responsibility, so that he may occasionally wish himself back in his former lowlier lot. And family joys bring their anxieties to every home which has them. No one drinks here of an ocean of bliss but he thanks God for a "cup" of it, measured by One who knows what will be best for character. This is true even of spiritual joys. The time of ecstasy is followed by a season of depression. The Valley of Humiliation is passed, as well as the Delectable Mountains, by Christian in his pilgrimage. Nowhere on earth can we say, "I am satisfied;" but many, like the psalmist, can exclaim, "I shall be satisfied."

(2) Our griefs are limited also. They are proportioned to our strength, adapted for our improvement. Even in the saddest bereavement there is much to moderate our grief if we will but receive it: gratitude for all our dear one was and did; gladness over all the testimonies of love and esteem in which he was held; hope that by-and-by there shall be the reunion, where there shall be no more sorrow and sighing, and where "God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes." God does not let an ocean of sadness surge up and overwhelm us, but gives us a cup, which we may drink in fellowship with Christ in his sufferings.

2. The phrase in our text suggests not only measurement, but loving control. Our Lord recognized, as we may humbly do, that the cup was filled and proffered by him whom he addressed as "Abba, Father." In one sense the events in Gethsemane and on Calvary were the results of natural causes. Integrity and sinlessness called forth the antagonism of those whose sins were thereby rebuked. Plain-spoken denunciations of the ecclesiastical leaders aroused their undying hate, and no hatred is more malignant than that of irreligious theologians. Judas, disappointed and abashed, was a ready instrument for evil work. Yet, behind all this, One unseen was carrying out his eternal purpose, fulfilling his promise, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." Hence Jesus speaks not of the plot accomplished by his foes, but of the cup given him by the Father. We are at an infinite remove from him, yet, as the same law which controls worlds controls insects, so the truth which held good with the Son of man holds good also with us. We may recognize God's overruling in man's working, and accept every measure of experience as provided and proffered by our Father's hand.

II. THE PURPOSE OF ITS APPOINTMENT. That it comes from our "Father" shows that it has a purpose, and that it is one of love, not of cruelty. It is not like the cup of hemlock Socrates received from his foes, but like that potion you give your child that he may be refreshed, or strengthened, or cured.

1. Sometimes the purpose respects ourselves. Even of Jesus Christ, the sinless One, it is said he was "made perfect through sufferings;" that as our Brother he might feel for us, and as our High Priest might sympathize, being "touched with the feeling of our infirmities." Much more is the experience of life a blessing to us who are imperfect and sinful; correcting our worldliness, and destroying our self-confidence.

2. Sometimes the purpose respects others. It was so with our Lord pre-eminently. He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." "None of us liveth unto himself." If our cup of blessing runs over, its overflowings, whether of wealth, or strength, or spiritual joy, are for the good of those around us. If our lot be one of suffering, we may in it witness for our Lord, and from it learn to console others with the comfort wherewith we ourselves have been comforted of God. - A.R.

The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.
Two points specially claim our attention here.

I. THE COMMAND GIVEN — "Watch and pray."

1. Watch. The word is very simple. A physician watches a sick man. A porter watches a building. A sentinel watches on a city's wall.(1) To watch implies not to be taken up with other things.(2) To watch implies to expect the enemy's approach.(3) Watching also includes an examination of the points of attack. The physician will observe what course the disease is taking, what organs it is likely to touch. Thus he watches.

2. Pray.(1) This seems to refer to a habit of prayer. Not a wild cry in danger or sorrow.(2) Special prayer with reference to temptation is also implied. Prayer to be delivered from the presence of temptation, prayer for victory in temptation.


1. The two parts together form the safeguard. Watching supplies materials for prayer. Prayer makes watching effectual. To pray only is presumption. To watch only is to depend on self.

2. The command also suits us because of the enemy's subtlety. We need to discover his wiles by watching. We pray for wisdom to discern his specious assaults.

3. And because of our own weakness. (Compare vers. 29, 31, with 67, 68).

4. It is also suitable in consequence of our Lord's appointment. The battle is His. He appoints its laws. And He has said, "Watch and pray." The command speaks thus to true disciples. What does it say to those who are careless and unbelieving?

(W. S. Bruce, M. A.)

Christian World Pulpit.
Prayer is not only request made to God, but converse had with Him. It is the expression of desire to Him so as to supply it — of purpose so as to steady it — of hope so as to brighten it. It is the bringing of one's heart into the sunshine, so that like a plant, its inward life may thrive for an outward development." It is the plea of one's better self against one's weaker self. It utters despondency so that it may attain confidence. It is the expression and the exercise of love for all that is good and true. It is a wrestle with evil in the presence of Supreme Goodness. It is the ascent of the soul above time into the freedom of eternity.

(Christian World Pulpit.)

It seems as though there were no word so far reaching as the word "watch." Vigilance is the price of everything good and great in earth or heaven. It was for his faithful vigilance that the memory of the Pompeian sentinel is embalmed in poetry and recorded in history. Nothing but unceasing watchfulness can keep the heart in harmony with God's heart. It was a stormy, boisterous night. The dark clouds hung over us, and the wind came with tenfold fury. The sea roiled in mountains, and the proud ship seemed but a toy amid those tremendous billows. Far up on the mast, on the look out, the sailor was heard to cry, "An iceberg on the starboard bow." "An iceberg on the larboard bow!" The deck officer called to the helmsman, "Port the helm steadily!" and the sailors at the wheel heard and obeyed. The officers were aroused, for there was danger on board to three hundred precious souls. The captain spent a sleepless night, pacing the deck or cabin. Gigantic icebergs were coming against the vessel, and eternal vigilance was the price of our safety in that northern sea. And so it is all through human life.


Watching is never pleasant work; no soldier really likes it. Men prefer even the excitement and danger of the battlefield to the long weeks of patient vigilance, which nevertheless may do quite as much as a victorious battle to decide the issues of a campaign. Now it is just so in the spiritual war. The forces of civilization rendered our soldiers more than a match for all the barbarous courage of their swarthy foes, provided only by constant vigilance they were in a position to use those forces; and even so the omnipotence of God renders the true Christian more than a match for all the forces of hell, provided only he too is sufficiently vigilant to detect the approach of the foe, and sufficiently wise to confront him with the courage of faith when his approach is detected; but if he walks carelessly, or fails to exercise proper vigilance, the battle will be lost almost before the danger is realized, and Faith will forfeit her victory just because she was not ready to put forth all the supernatural powers that she may command. It is, alas! not an uncommon thing to meet with Christian souls that seem to know something of the life of faith, and yet, to their great surprise, find themselves overcome when they least expect it. We observe sometimes a certain tone of petulance in these admissions of failure, as if in their heart of hearts some sort of implication were cast upon the faithfulness of God, although they would shrink from expressing this in so many words. Now, clearly the cause of all such failures must lie with us, and it will be our wisdom to endeavour to discover it; while it is the worst of folly to charge God with unfaithfulness. What are we placed in this world for? Obviously that we may be trained and developed for our future position by exposure to the forces of evil. Were we so sheltered from evil as that there should be no need for constant watchfulness, we should lose the moral benefit which a habit of constant watchfulness induces. We know that it is a law of nature, that faculties which are never employed perish from disuse; and, on the other hand, faculties which are fully and frequently employed acquire a wonderful capacity. Is not this equally true in the spiritual world? We are being trained probably for high and holy service by-and-by, in which we shall need all those faculties that are now being quickened and trained by our contact with danger, and our exposure to apparently hostile conditions of existence. We are to be trained, by learning quickness of perception of danger here, to exercise quickness of perception in ministry and willing service yonder. Besides, Watchfulness continually provides opportunities for faith, and tends to draw us the closer, and keep us the closer, to Him by whom alone we stand. Were we to be so saved from evil by a single act, as that we should have no further need of Watchfulness, should we not lose much that now makes us feel our dependence on Him who is our constant safety? Have we not to thank God for the very daggers that constrain us to keep so near Him if we are to be safe at all? Let us point out what Watchfulness is not before we go on to consider what it is. And

I. WATCHFULNESS IS SOMETHING QUITE DISTINCT FROM NERVOUS TIMIDITY AND MORBID APPREHENSIVENESS — the condition of a man who sees an enemy in every bush, and is tortured by a thousand alarms and all the misgivings of unbelief. David did not show himself watchful, but faithless, when he exclaimed, "I shall now one day perish by the hands of Saul;" and we do not show ourselves watchful when we go on our way trembling, depressed with all sorts of forebodings of disaster. Let me offer a homely illustration of what I mean. I was amused the other day at hearing a soldier's account of a terrible fright that he had during the time of the Fenian scare a few years ago. It fell to his lot one dark night to act as sentinel in the precincts of an important arsenal, which it was commonly supposed might be the scene of a great explosion any night. The fortress was surrounded by a common, and was therefore easy to be approached by evil-disposed persons. The night, as I have said, was as dark as a night could be, and he was all alone, and full of apprehensions of danger. He stood still for a moment fancying he heard something moving near him, and then stepped backwards for a few paces, when he suddenly felt himself come into violent contact with something, which he incontinently concluded must be a crouching Fenian. "I was never so frightened," he said, "before or since in my life, and to tell you the truth, I fell sprawling on my back. Imagine my feelings when I found that the thing that had terrified me beyond all description was only a harmless sheep that had fallen asleep a little too near my beat." Now, dear friends, I think that this soldier's ridiculous, but very excusable, panic may serve to illustrate the experience of many timid, apprehensive Christians. They live in a state of chronic panic, always expecting to be assailed by some hostile influence, which they shall prove wholly incompetent to resist. If they foresee the approach of any circumstances that are likely to put their religion to a test, they at once make up their mind that fiasco and overthrow are inevitable; and when they are suddenly confronted by what seems an adverse influence, or promises to be a severe temptation, they are ready to give all up in despair. They forget that our Lord has taught us to take no anxious thought for the morrow, and has assured us that sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.

II. NOR AGAIN DOES WATCHFULNESS CONSIST IN MORBID INTROSPECTIVENESS, OR IN A DISPOSITION TO CHARGE OURSELVES WITH ALL SORTS OF IMAGINED FORMS OF EVIL. To their morbid sensibility everything has depravity in it; good and generous actions only spring from self-seeking; every natural affection is inordinate; every commonplace gratification a loving of pleasure rather than God. It is surely possible, believe me, dear Christian friends, to emulate the exploits of a Don Quixote in our religious life, and to run a tilt at any number of spiritual windmills, but this is not watchfulness. A clerical brother of mine, alarmed from his slumbers by a policeman who reported his church open, imagined that he had captured a burglar by the hair of his head in the tower of his church, when he had only laid violent hands in the darkness upon the church mop! It is quite possible to convert a mop into a burglar in our own spiritual experiences. Just once more let me ask you to bear in mind that Watchfulness does not consist in, and is not identical with, a severe affectation of solemnity, add a pious aversion to any. thing like natural mirth or cheerful hilarity. I have before my eyes at this moment the recollection of a dear and honoured brother, who, when something amusing had been related at his table, suddenly drew himself up when he was just beginning to join in the hearty laugh, and observed to me with much seriousness, "I am always afraid of losing communion by giving way to levity." I confess I admired the good man's conscientiousness, which I am sure was perfectly sincere, but I could not help thinking that he was confusing between sombreness and sobriety.

III. But having pointed out certain forms or habits of conduct which are not be mistaken for Watchfulness, though they often are, LET US PROCEED TO INQUIRE WHAT WATCHFULNESS IS; we have seen what it is not. And here it may be well to notice that two distinct words, or perhaps I should say sets of words, in the Greek, are translated in our version by the one word — watch. The one set of terms indicates the necessity of guarding against sleep, and the other the necessity of guarding against any form of moral intoxication and insobriety. Both these ideas are presented to us together in a single passage in the first Epistle to the Thessalonians: "Let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they who sleep sleep in the night: and they that be drunken are drunken in the night." Here the two dangers arising — the one from sleep, and the other from drunkenness — are brought before us at once; and the two words, which are each of them usually translated by the English word — watch, are employed to guard us against these dangers. "Let us watch and be sober." These dangers seem to be in some respects the opposites of each other — the one springs from heaviness and dullness of disposition, and the other from undue excitability. The one is the special danger incidental to monotonous routine and a dead level of quiet regularity, the other is the danger incidental to a life full of stir and bustle — a life where cares and pleasures, successes and failures, important enterprises and stunning disappointments, bringing with them alternating experiences of elation or depression, are only too apt to prove all-engrossing, and to exclude the vivid sense of eternal realities. The one danger will naturally specially threaten the man of phlegmatic temperament and equable disposition, the other will more readily assault the man whose nervous system is highly strung, whether he be of sanguine or melancholic habit. In the present passage the call to watch is coupled with the exhortation to pray, and similarly St. Peter warns us "to be sober and watch unto prayer." This suggests to us that Watchfulness needs first of all to be exorcised in the maintenance of our proper relations with God. If only these be preserved inviolate, everything else is sure to go well with us; but where anything like coldness settles down upon our relations with God, backsliding has already commenced, and unless it be checked we lie at the mercy of our foe. Oh, Christian soul, guard with jealous care against the first beginnings of listlessness and coldness and unreality in thine intercourse with God! Not less, perhaps even more, do we need to watch in the other sense which, as I have pointed out, the word bears in New Testament Scripture. Let us not only keep awake, but let us be sober. We need to remember that we are in an enemy's land, and that unless we are constantly breathing the atmosphere of heaven, the atmosphere of earth, which is all that we have left, soon becomes poisonous, and must produce a sort of moral intoxication. How often have I seen a Christian man completely forget himself under the influence of social excitement! But I hasten to say, Do not let us fall into the mistake of supposing that it is only the light-hearted and the pleasure loving that need to be warned against the danger of becoming intoxicated by worldly influences. The cares and even the occupations of life may have just as deleterious an effect upon us in this respect as the pleasures. Many a man of business is just as much intoxicated with the daily excitements arising from the fluctuations of the market or of the Stock Exchange, and just as much blinded to higher things by the absorbing interests connected with money making or money losing as the votary of pleasure can be at the racecourse or in the ballroom. Yet again, Watchfulness is to be shown not only in maintaining our relations with God, in resisting any disposition to be drowsy, and in guarding against the intoxicating influence of worldly excitement; it is also to be shown in detecting the first approach of temptation, or the first uprisings of an unholy desire. The careful general feels his enemy by his scouts, and thus is prepared to deal with him when the attack takes place. Even so temptation may often be resisted with ease when its first approach is discerned; but it acquires sometimes an almost irresistible power, if it be allowed to draw too near. But I spoke a few moments ago of the importance of watching, not only against the beginning of temptation without, but also against any disposition to make terms with temptation within. Here, I am persuaded, lies, in most instances, the secret cause of failure. Balaam was inwardly hankering after the house full of silver and gold at the very moment when he affected to despise it. But there is a danger on the other side, against which we have to guard with equal watchfulness. And it is the danger of incipient self-complacency.

(W. H. Aitken.)

It is the interest of every man not to hide from himself his ailment. What would you think of a man who was sick, and attempted to make himself believe that it was his foot that was ailing, when it was his heart? Suppose a man should come to his physician and have him examine the wrong eye, and pay for the physician's prescription, founded on the belief that his eye was slightly but not much damaged, and should go away, saying, "I am a great deal happier than I was," although the doctor had not looked at the diseased eye at all? If a man should have a cancer, or a deadly sore, on one arm, and should refuse to let the physician see that, but should show him the well arm, he would imitate what men do who use all deceits and delusions to hide their moral sores and weaknesses and faults, as far as possible, from themselves, from all persons, and then congratulate themselves that they are not in danger. Watchfulness requires that a man should be honest, and should know where he is, and where his danger is. Let others set their watch where they need it, and you set yours where you need it. Each man's watchfulness should be according to his temperament and constitution.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Undoubtedly this is a military figure; although watching may be a domestic figure, ordinarily it is military. A tower, a castle, a fort, is not content with simply the strength of its walls, and its various defences. Sentinels are placed all round about it, and they walk both night and day, and look out on every side to descry any approaching danger, that the soldiers within may put themselves at once in a condition to receive attack. Still more are a moving army watchful, whether upon the march or in the camp. They throw out advanced guards. The picket line is established by night and by day. Men are set apart to watch on purpose that no enemy may take them unawares; that they may constantly be prepared for whatever incursion the chances of war may bring upon them. It is here taken for granted that we are making a campaign through life. The assumption all the way through is, that we are upon an enemy's ground, and that we are surrounded, or liable to be surrounded, with adversaries who will rush in upon us, and take us captive at unawares. We are commanded, therefore, to do as soldiers do, whether in fort or in camp — to be always vigilant, always prepared.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Your excess of disposition, your strength of passion, and your temptableness are not the same as your neighbour's. Therefore it is quite foolish for you to watch as your neighbour watches. Every man must set his watch according to his own disposition, and know his own disposition better than anybody else knows it. If a fort is situated so that the weakest side is on the east, the commander, if he is wise, will set his watch there. He says, "I believe that if I defend this point, nothing can do me any harm," and sets his watch there. But suppose the commander of a fort, whose weak place was on the west side, should put his force all on the other side! If he would defend his fort successfully, he should put his soldiers where it is weak. Here is a man who watches against pride; but your temptation is on the side of vanity. It will not do for you to watch against pride, because pride is not your besetting sin. There is many a man who flatters himself, that because his neighbour has corrected his faults by gaining a victory over pride, all he himself needs to do is to gain a victory over pride. He has no difficulty in that, because he is not tempted in his pride. It is very easy to watch against an enemy that does not exist. It is very easy to gain a victory where there is no adversary.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Every man should know what are the circumstances, the times, and the seasons in which he is liable to sin. To make this matter entirely practical, there are a great many who neglect to watch until the proper time and seasons for watching have passed away. Suppose your fault is of the tongue? Suppose your temper takes that as a means of giving itself air and explosion? With one man it is when he rises in the morning, and before breakfast he is peculiarly nervous and susceptible. It is then that he is irritable. It is then that things do not look right. And it is then that his tongue, as it were, snaps, and throws off sparks of fire. With another man it is at evening, when he is jaded, and wearied with the care and labour of the day. He has emptied himself of nervous excitement, and left only excitability. And then is the time when he is liable to break down in various ways. Men must set their watch at the time when the enemy is accustomed to come. Indians usually make their attack at three or four o'clock in the morning, when men sleep soundest; and that is the time to watch against Indians. There is no use of doing it at ten o'clock in the morning. They do not come then. If it be when you are sick that you are most subject to malign passions, then that is the time when you must set your watch. Or, if it be when you are well that the tide of blood swells too feverishly in you, then that is the time when you must set your watch. If, at one time of the day more than another, experience has shown that you are liable to be tempted, then in that part of the day you must be on your guard. Everybody has his hours, his times and seasons, and his circumstances; and every man should learn them for himself; and every man should set his watch then and there. And frequently, by watching at the right time, you can easily carry yourself over all the rest of the day.

(H. W. Beecher.)

There is such a thing as dallying with temptation. Many a maiden will insensibly, and step by step, allow herself to be led to things that, if not wrong, are yet so near it that they lie in its very twilight and she is all the time excusing to herself such permissions and such dalliance, Baying, "I do not intend to do wrong; I shall in due time recover myself." There is many a man who takes the serpent into his hand, because it is lithe', and graceful, and burnished, and beautiful, and plays with that which in some unguarded moment will strike him with its poison fangs; and it is poor excuse, when this dalliance has led him to the very edge of temptation, and has struck the fatal poison into him, for him to say, "I did not mean to." The mischief is done. The damnation is to come. And it is poor comfort to say, "I did not mean to." Pass by it; come not near it; keep far from it, and then you will be safe. But it is not safe for innocent, or inexperienced, or unconscious, or Inconsiderate virtue, to go, by dalliance, near to things that carry in them the very venom of Satan. What should you think of a man who, coming down to New York, should say, "I have had quite an experience this morning. I have been up to one of the shambles where they were butchering; and I saw them knock down oxen, and saw them cut their throats, and saw the blood flow in streams from the great gashes. I spent a whole half-day there, looking at men killing, and killing, and killing." What would you say of a man who said, "I have been crawling through the sewers under the street; for I want to know what is at the bottom of things in this city?" What kind of curiosity would that be? What would you think of a man who went where he could see the offal of hospitals and dissecting rooms, and went wallowing in rottenness and disease, because he wanted to increase his knowledge of things in general? And yet, here are men who take things more feculent, more fetid, more foul, more damnable and dangerous — the diseases, the ulcers, the sores, and the filth of the appetites and the passions; and they will go wading and looking at things that a man should shut his eyes on if they were providentially thrown before him. Why, there are some things that it is a sin to look at twice. And yet there are men who hunt them up! Then again, there are men who live so near to cheating that, though they do not mean to cheat, circumstances cannot bend them without pushing them over. There are many men who are like an apple tree in my garden, whose trunk and roots, and two-thirds of the branches, are in the garden, and one-third of whose branches are outside of the garden wall. And there are many men whose trunk and roots are on the side of honesty and uprightness, but who are living so near the garden wall that they throw their boughs clear over into the highway where iniquities tramp, and are free. It is never safe for a man to run so near to the line of right and wrong, that if he should lose a wheel he would go over. It is like travelling on a mountain road near a precipice. You should keep so far from the precipice, that if your waggon breaks down there is room enough between you and the precipice. Otherwise, you cannot be safe.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Mark 14:38 NIV
Mark 14:38 NLT
Mark 14:38 ESV
Mark 14:38 NASB
Mark 14:38 KJV

Mark 14:38 Bible Apps
Mark 14:38 Parallel
Mark 14:38 Biblia Paralela
Mark 14:38 Chinese Bible
Mark 14:38 French Bible
Mark 14:38 German Bible

Mark 14:38 Commentaries

Bible Hub
Mark 14:37
Top of Page
Top of Page