In this week when we commemorate Christ’s passion for us, I’m spending some time contemplating and examining Matthew’s eyewitness account of the last hours before Jesus was arrested, tried, convicted, and crucified.
In particular, I’m drawn anew to the moments He spent praying in Gethsemane. Here, in its context, is the line that finds special significance for me this Easter season:
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me” (Matthew 26:36-38 NASB).
The grieved and distressed, these I understand. As my pastor pointed out this morning—this grief, this distress that Jesus experienced in that hour and the much greater suffering in the hours that followed—those He experienced on my behalf, and yours. No one on this planet or in all of creation could take His place or do what He was called on to do in that hour. Only He could carry our sins, our grief, our sorrows, our pain. There was no other alternative. If we were to be rescued from the curse of Eden’s sin, only Christ could enter into death itself to buy us back at the cost of His precious lifeblood.
But this simple request of our Master as He faced the hour that would culminate in the reason He entered space and time in human form, is so telling. “I’m in distress, my friends, and I need you to just be here with me in this moment.” There was nothing the disciples could do to lessen Christ’s load. He would never permit it. (Remember the conversation, probably just weeks before, when Peter blurted out the claim that he never would let his Master be put to death? Jesus had a quick and strong rebuke for His friend—“Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's” [Matthew 16:23 NASB]).
No, there was no way anyone could lessen the Messiah’s suffering—except simply by being with Him in this hour. Much like Mary who had anointed Jesus’ feet with costly perfume days earlier in Bethany, these three inner-circle friends (Peter included) had the opportunity to sit with Jesus as He poured out His grief and distress to the Father.
If you know the rest of the story, you know the disciples weren’t up to the task, for exhaustion (and perhaps grief) overtook them. But the significance here is that even Christ, in this moment of high drama and overwhelming intensity, called on trusted loved ones to sit beside Him.
Which brings us to the significance of this passage to us as caregivers: The beauty of being members of Christ’s family is that in compassion, camaraderie, and comfort, we can just be with each other in our most challenging and grievous moments. No one can be the daughter to my parents except me. No one can perform your role in your loved one’s life, either. But we can stand together (or sit together) to pour out our hearts and share our stories and remind each other that we’re not alone. We are a family, and when one hurts we all close ranks to offer hearts of compassion and ears to listen and arms to hug and eyes to share tears.
I have the privilege of being part of a prayer team—a team of caregivers across several states—all of whom read The Overwhelmed Woman’s Guide to … Caring for Aging Parents and decided they needed each other’s prayer support as they went about the challenging tasks of honoring their aging parents. When I heard about the group, I asked if I could be a part of it. I can’t tell you what a blessing these women are to me. We have the opportunity, via cyberspace, to just be with each other in these deeply grievous times.
But there is even better news yet … the God/Man Christ experienced in that hour in the Garden of Gethsemane my grief—and yours. He knows how it feels. He knew what it meant to be overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of distress and exhaustion. He experienced it all for us—and He will sit with us in our moments today, if we will but carry them to Him in prayer and heartfelt pleas. We don’t even need Internet access to get to Him—and He won’t ever fall asleep as He watches and prays with us.
A blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week to you, my friend!
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