By Doug Inglish — Did you ever read something in the Bible and notice an odd word or phrase? Like most everyone else, I spend the majority of my reading in relatively recent translations, meaning those from the last 150 years or so. But even in that span, language has changed enough to cause certain words or terms to fall on 21st century ears in a way that may be to some degree different than intended by 19th century writers. Read any book by Ellen White (in their early editions) and you will see some examples.
So, naturally, if you read much in the King James Version, you will see many instances where we may get the meaning, but recognize that a modern writer would not have put it quite that way. Usually, we assume we know what was meant, and usually we are correct in that assumption.
Once in a while, though, I get struck by the way a passage is written and wonder if the assumptions I have always had about this particular passage are correct, or if I am missing some nuance that the author intended. It can send me into a study through several translations, the SDA Bible Commentary (and sometimes a couple other commentaries as well), and an observation or two from Ellen White on those verses.
My experience indicates that God’s oversight of how His Word was originally written and His protection of it through various translations is so thorough that the true meaning is there for us, and most of the time, my curiosity ends with me satisfied, knowing that I haven’t missed anything in our modern translations. But a deeper study is often rewarded with deeper understanding, and from time to time, the effort to see through the quirky phrasing yields a wonderful surprise. It is also true that sometimes it yields a previously-unnoticed warning.
Mark 14:41 in the KJV reads, “And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.” Various other translations render the phrase ‘it is enough’ as in ‘Enough of that’, ‘that’s enough’, or simply, ‘Enough!’ Not really too much difference. But it caught my eye because none of the other Gospels, which all report on this event, indicate that He said this specific thing, no matter how it was translated.
The story is familiar enough. Following what we call the last supper, Jesus and the apostles, minus Judas, have gone to the Mount of Olives. He implores them to pray while going off by Himself to pray alone, knowing that the trial, the cross, and the grave will follow in rapid succession. Three times He returns to find them sleeping, and the last time He returns occurs just as Judas arrives with Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers to arrest Jesus.
But if you read the passage in Matthew, Jesus’ words to the apostles do not contain anything that corresponds to the phrase ‘It is enough’. Luke is not only missing those words, but he only records once that Jesus returned from prayer and said anything to them. In John’s account, there is not even a mention that the apostles slept while Jesus prayed.
I don’t have a problem with these differences. After all, when John wrote his gospel there were already accounts of the sleeping, and he was less focused on events than on teaching. Luke was not an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry, so his impressive research reports some details that others missed while some things are left out that others included. Matthew’s variation is a minor one. None of that leads me to doubt the reliability of Scripture.
That leaves Mark’s account, which is widely regarded as Peter’s report to Mark of his experiences with Jesus. Perhaps, and this is a reasonable speculation, some of the apostles were not awake enough to catch all of Jesus’ words, but Peter was among those who did. And when he recalled the event, he remembered a word that does not appear in the other accounts: Apechei.
It is a Greek word, and this is its only appearance in the entire Bible. I am not a Greek scholar and those who are can quibble if they wish, but my study on this word relies on sources I trust. Its most accurate translation is indeed the English word ‘enough’, but it isn’t used in quite the way that we use it. Its most common use was to write it across a receipt or an invoice, and it meant that no more money would be exchanged in this transaction. When you paid off a purchase and you wrote apechei across the invoice, you were telling the other party, “That’s all you are going to get”. In similar situations today, we most commonly use the phrase “Paid in Full.”
In light of this, Jesus’ words in Mark take on a new meaning. He is not saying, “That’s sufficient prayer time for you to face what lies ahead”, or even, “That’s enough praying, we have other matters to attend to now”. Those interpretations leave room for the idea that although He had encouraged them to pray instead of sleep, whatever prayer they had done was good enough, because, as we all know, prayer is a powerful thing and a little can do a lot.
Instead, He is using that one word to express His frustration over the time wasted in sleep. A more thorough expression of His meaning would be along the lines of, “It no longer matters how much prayer time you really needed, because whatever time you have spent in prayer is all you are going to get. If it is insufficient, then it is too late to do anything about it. You are not going to get any more.”
Maybe that word stuck with Peter because moments after it was spoken, he tried to kill a man, and hours later he was denying he even knew Jesus. Perhaps when he was weeping bitterly over his decidedly un-Christlike behavior, it rang in his memory because he wished he had spent more time praying and less time sleeping. If he had taken advantage of the time available to pray, his story might have been different. He could have been fortified to stand beside his Lord through anything. Instead he resorted to violence, cowardice, and lies.
I think there is a message here for the church in what is, prophetically, the time of Laodicea. A trial awaits us all, and yet it is so easy to sleep instead of pray. But how any individual is able to perform when everything gets real is closely related to how they use the time available to them for preparation.
- Apechei is that moment when the starting flag is waved, and there is no more time for the crew to tune the car because the race has begun.
- Apechei is that moment when the professor drops the final on your desk, and there is no more time to study because the test has begun.
- Apechei is that moment when the minister says, “I now pronounce you husband and wife”, and there is no more time to date around because the marriage has begun.
- Apechei was that moment in the garden when Jesus declared, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Mark 14:41-42 (NIV).
- Apechei will be that moment prophesied in Revelation 22:11-12, when Jesus declares, “Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy. Look, I am coming soon!” (NIV).
We, who live in the eleventh hour before that final pronouncement, are no less in need of prayer than the eleven who slept in the garden. The parallels between our situations are striking. Three times Jesus told them to pray, and three times in Revelation 22, He tells us that He is coming soon (verses 7, 12, and 20).
The hour is approaching. Watch and pray, because soon enough, it is apechei.
—Doug Inglish is RMC director of planned giving and trust services; photo by UnSplash