Matthew 26:38, "Then He said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.'"
A few years ago, my small group took communion. As we encircled a friend's living room, I dipped my piece of torn bread in the cup of dark purple juice and placed it in my mouth. I tasted the ripeness of the fruit and savored the texture of the bread. “I will remember, Lord.” I spoke the words in my head, silently thanking Jesus for the sacrifice He made for me on the cross. My mind and heart were fully tuned in to communion.
Yet within a minute, the aftertaste of the strong grape juice distracted my communion meditation. It was more bitter than usual and I thought about taking a sip of something else to remove the flavor from my mouth. Should I grab my coffee, or some water? My thoughts had definitely jumped far from communion with Christ.
Immediately, the Lord spoke to my heart: “Suffer with me awhile.”
Tears filled my eyes as I realized how quickly I wanted to move away from the unpleasant taste … and how fast my thoughts drifted from the suffering of Christ to my own comfort. And my mind went back to the first night followers of Christ took communion and what happened.
On the night of His betrayal, after sharing a meal in the Upper Room, Jesus went to pray and asked Peter, James and John to stay awake, and watch and wait for Him. Jesus knew His death was imminent and was grieving what was about to happen. In Matthew 26:18, the Bible says our Lord was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” that night. And while He prayed, His closest friends couldn’t keep awake. Three times Jesus returned to find them sleeping.
For those three disciples, it was sleep that drew them from Christ’s request to keep watch with Him. What is for me? What keeps me from obeying Jesus’ requests? Oh, the easy ones I have no problem with. It’s the ones that infringe on my comfort that I wrestle with.
Today many churches will remember Jesus' final night on earth in what is called Maundy Thursday. On Friday we will remember the day of Jesus' death. And on Sunday we get to celebrate the greatest miracle the world has ever seen.
I love Easter and celebrating the resurrection. But that morning at my small group, Jesus clearly called me to remember His suffering as well as His victory. This is something God calls me to remember every day, and apply it to serving Him. While my flesh would prefer a cushy assignment, I don’t want to shake the nail-scarred hands of Jesus, the hands that touched lepers, the hands that stroked the head of a broken sinful woman, with hands that have never gotten dirty with life. Which means pressing in deeper when there is suffering instead of running away.
This Sunday, I'll be the first to wake up and greet my family with "He is Risen!" But I'll also spend some time remember Christ's suffering and the suffering of so many around me. And it's my prayer that I'll stay awake and alert to whatever Jesus wants me to do.
In His Love,