Following is a piece I wrote a couple of years ago for a booklet our church printed for a Holy Week prayer vigil. I offer it now as a meditation to enrich your journey through this holiest of weeks. May you be blessed.
As Jesus watched Judas leave the upper room, a cold, hard ball of dread formed in his chest. “It has begun,” he thought and suppressed the shudder that threatened to unravel him. Then he turned back to the disciples, for there were many things yet to be said. As they broke bread with him and drank from the cup, he changed the significance of this simple act forever with his words of love and promise. Then they sang together, one final song of praise, though only Jesus knew this to be true. His grief for the loss of these, his closest friends, men who had stayed by his side through three years of controversial ministry, threatened to overwhelm him. He desperately needed to withdraw to the garden for prayer. And so they went.
“Watch and pray,” he said to the disciples, as he walked a short distance from them. Even though his prayer was a private thing, he wanted them near him for companionship and protection. The loneliness and vulnerability Jesus felt was overpowering. No one could possibly understand the weight of what was about to happen, the horror of the death he had to face. It was too much, just too much. The sweat of his anguish fell like rain from his brow. “Father, take this burden from me. Don’t make me do this. I’m scared. Please, Father. But I know it’s necessary. I know how much you love them, how much I love them. If this is your will, I surrender to it. Be with me.”
Returning to his friends, he saw them sprawled on the ground, limbs loose in sleep, the peace of their ignorance allowing them to feel no fear. How could they have abandoned him in his time of deepest need, when he yearned for their presence, their comfort? His anger rose, and he woke them. “Could you not stay awake for even a few minutes as I asked? Please keep watch with me and pray.” He left them again, and again they slept as he repeated his agonizing prayer of deliverance, his loving prayer of surrender. And somewhere in the dark, lonely silence, Christ found the strength to suffer the cross, to face and defeat death. But where will we be when that happens, asleep as the disciples were? Or will we watch and pray?