This morning, I was reading in Matthew. I read chapter 26, the pretty familiar-to-me account of Jesus’ anointing, last supper, Gethsemane, and arrest. As I was reading, something about chapters 36-45 struck me:
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.
I thought about how Jesus was totally vulnerable with his disciples; especially Peter, James and John. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Jesus was experiencing deep, dark, feelings, and he tells his friends. And he asks them, “stay here and keep watch with me.” Jesus tells his dearest friends that he wants their company, he needs them there with him.
And they fall asleep.
They are really tired, they don’t fully understand the gravity of the situation, they could be with Jesus in the morning, they thought.
But the morning wouldn’t come.
Their being present wouldn’t have altered the fact that Jesus would be arrested, or tried or crucified. That all needed to happen.
But Jesus needed them there to be with him in the midst of his darkness. In the midst of his fear, in the midst of the weight of his pain, in the midst of the unknown.
And what struck me, is that I have friends who have shared their darkest hours, and have asked me to stay and keep watch.
And sometimes I sleep on them.
Sometimes I get busy with my day to day routines, I prioritize checklists over checking in with them, and before I know it, it’s been days or weeks that I’ve been sleeping. Sometimes my eyes get heavy because darkness doesn’t turn into light quickly – I start out strong, but in the wee hours of the morning, I wane, and slowly I stop watching as closely. Sometimes my own darkness blinds me to their darkness. Sometimes the darkness wears me out.
And I sleep.
But that’s not what friends need in the midst of darkness. They need presence.
This morning was a good reminder to me to stay with my dear friends and to keep watch. Surely dawn will break.