A favorite childhood game of mine is Red Light Green Light. When the caller says, “Green Light,” everyone races toward the finish line. When the caller says, “Red Light,” everyone stops. Whoever moves on the command of “Red Light” must return to the beginning. I use this game to coach my judo students, only I say Hajime (start) and Matte (stop). I think God likes this game, too.
In Numbers 9:15-23 we get a glimpse of God playing Red Light Green Light with the Israelites. In this version though we would say “Move Cloud” to go and “Stay Cloud” to stop. Like the game the amount of time the cloud would stay was unpredictable. The only rule was that when it moved so did you. I imagine there were mixed responses to the lengths of stay. When the cloud settled for long periods of time some we thankful for the stability, while others were dying to get a move on. When the cloud stayed only for a short period of time the sentiment was reversed. When the cloud stayed only for a night I imagine that everyone was thinking, “What is God up to?” One things is certain, God is always on the move and He expects His people to follow.
I use this game for several reasons. Obviously, it’s fun. I also use the game so that students practice hearing and responding to the words hajime and matte. At the same time they are also learning to hear my voice and obey it instantly. That is an important ingredient to successful coaching – students who listen and obey.
As a coach I can see things that my students can’t. For example, I can see when one of my judo students has an opportunity to execute sasae tsurikomi ashi. When I coach people in their strengths I can see how two or more of their strengths combine and influence their thinking and behavior. When I coach people in the faith I can often see where they need to confess, invest, repent, etc. That is the benefit of being a coach – you have a coach’s eye view.
Unfortunately I don’t always have a coach’s eye view. I miss opportunities to throw people when I compete. I fail to overcome some obstacles because I don’t see how my strengths can work together. I even fail to notice the areas of my life that I need to confess, invest, repent, etc.
I think this is where Mark 14:32-41 brings us. Let’s look first at Jesus in this story. Having taken on the frail covering of humanity (Philippians 2:5-11) Jesus is now pleading for life in the Gethsemane. In fact, he is so disturbed by what he knows is coming that he is sweating blood (a known medical condition called hematidrosis). Jesus is the player in this game of life and death and he knows he needs his coach’s advice. Jesus has been in the habit of stopping to listen to his coach, the Father. Here he asks if there is any other way; any way other than death. What makes Jesus successful is that he listens fully to his coach, “Yet not my will, but your will be done.” The Father has a coach’s eye view and sees what Jesus does not see. Therefore, the Father knows what the right next step is for his Son, whom he loves.
In this passage, Jesus moves between the role of student and the role of coach. As he comes to his disciples (who now take on the role of student) he coaches them, “Stay here and keep watch.” Fairly simple directions that the disciples have a hard time following. Keep watch. Why? They’re in the middle of an olive tree garden. It’s late in the evening and it’s Passover. What could happen? So they decide to go to sleep.
Jesus returns and finds them sleeping. This is another opportunity for coaching. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Jesus, the coach, sees something the disciples, Peter in particular, do not see. It’s not that they cannot see it. Jesus has predicted his death several times already. He has told all along that the path he travels is difficult and will be difficult for them. But like so many of us, the disciples just don’t seem to see the truth of their situation. So Jesus says, “Watch and pray.”
Perhaps if the disciples knew just how close the “hour” was they would have been more fervent in prayer. If I had known how open my opponent was to sasae tsurikomi ashi then maybe I would have thrown him. If I had recognized that my strengths work in combination with one another then perhaps my last failure would have been a success. If I had recognized the temptation in front of me, or confessed the sin that held me captive, or spent more time on my knees or in the word, then perhaps I would not have “fallen into temptation.” If only I had listened to my coach.
Jesus words to the disciples are alive and active and cut even into our own lives. As one commentator put it, “Spiritual wakefulness and prayer in full dependence upon divine help provide the only adequate preparation for [faithful discipleship].”
God is certainly on the move in your life and in the life of Light & Life and the only way we will be ready to move when the cloud does is if we are being watchful and prayerful.
As the psalmist says, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Our job is to wait on the Lord, to be watchful and to be prayerful. We need to learn to listen to Jesus, our coach, and be ready to move. Remember, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Are you willing to listen to Jesus, the author and perfecter (and coach) of your faith?