Jesus said, “Stay Awake!” Was He Anti-Sleep?


How much do you typically sleep on any given night or week? If you were honest with yourself, would you say that you usually get enough, too much, or not enough sleep? (This is important, because the aim of the rest of this entry depends on your honesty.)

You see, in studying the Gospel of Mark, I found it interesting that, over the course of a couple chapters (chaps 13-14), Jesus tells His disciples to stay awake. Granted, in chapter 13 the phrase is metaphorical for “stay alert” or “be sober minded.” Nevertheless, it’s an uncanny choice of words, especially since Jesus, in chapter 14, asks the disciples to “stay awake” and pray while He Himself prayed in Gethsemane. Here’s are the verses:

  • Mark 13:37: “And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
  • Mark 14:34: “Remain here and watch [literally, stay awake].”

Does Jesus mean that sleep is anti-Christian? Of course not. On the contrary, He encourages His disciples to take time to rest in at least one instance (Mark 6:31). So, sleep and rest are necessary. We know that naps are helpful, too. Napoleon, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan–all of these men were leaders who took regular naps. There’s nothing wrong with that either! But those men were also incredibly productive in their own right. The point is this: sleep, rest,  recuperation–these things are necessary for a healthy life. But when they begin to creep into the areas of our day that are meant and designed by God to be productive areas, then we’re in danger of misusing the life that God has given us for the sake of sleep. 

What Jesus was warning us against wasn’t just the metaphorical sense of being mentally dull, but also those occasions in which we should literally deny ourselves “more” sleep in exchange for “more” character. Think about it: How much character development is accomplished in our sleep? None! Who are we helping while we sleep? No one! What are we accomplishing in our sleep? Nothing! There are some times when ready God’s Word, praying, interceding, fellowship are far more important than another hour of sleep.

How much do you typically sleep on any given night or week? Is your sleep stealing time from your character development?




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