As I spent time meditating on the Bible this morning (25th June), I was struck by a verse in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus, about to be arrested and crucified, goes to Gethsemane to pray. When he arrives he turns to the closest of his disciples and speaks these words.
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matt 26:38)
This statement and request are so rich and poignant.
In the darkness that precedes the whole purpose of Jesus’ ministry on earth, his death on the cross, he feels overwhelmed by the prospect and cost of what is to come and he shares it with his closest disciples.
Jesus displays such vulnerability. It is not a weakness to be honest and his confession of such sorrow and darkness does not disqualify him from what is to come. Ultimately, his disciples cannot share his burden or his task, but they can watch with him and Jesus tells them that he needs them to do so.
Jesus is so honest. In his darkest time, Jesus does not push people away or hide his feelings and pain. He tells them what is going on and asks them to be with him in prayer. Time and again, Jesus told his disciples to imitate what he did. I find this quite a profound implication as a leader and as a disciple.
There is an honesty that is breathtaking about the way Jesus speaks out his situation to his disciples. There is also a deep security that is evident in him. That Jesus feels able to share such a dark feeling without fear of the perception of others.
We do Peter, James and John a disservice if we simply move quickly on to the fact that in the next hour they fell asleep. “The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (v 41) . I think that Jesus’ friends will have seen the depth of his pain and sorrow in his eyes and movements, as well as hearing it in his voice. They would have been deeply concerned that their master was so close to breaking point and full of sorrow. Yet all they could do was watch with him.
Praise God for the people who simply make themselves available to watch with us during times of great sorrow and stress. Those who we are aware will simply be next to us. A presence of comfort and a gift of loving friendship.
How many of us know friends who are going through a wilderness time? All we can do is listen and pray. It seems like so little, but it is as much as we can do. Someone once said that prayer is the least and most that we can do.
This verse has profound implications for me and, I think, for others. As a leader, I find that to witness Jesus’ vulnerability and honesty is humbling. As a disciple, seeking to follow my master, I find the depth of Jesus security in His Father and faith in the midst of darkness a simple inspiration. As a friend to others, I see the need for others, to simply watch with those who are at their most vulnerable and pray, unable to do any more. It is a profound encouragement to show love by simply drawing alongside and being present in Gethsemane.
- If you are going through a dark time, share it with honesty and openness with someone you trust and pray together.
- If you know of someone who is ‘overwhelmed’ with what they are facing, watch with them and love them.