Keep Watch with Me | Matthew 26

Welcome to Real Life. The night before his crucifixion, a spiritual battle is raging.

"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.
Stay here and keep watch with me."[1]

Earlier that evening, Jesus shared a Passover meal with his twelve apostles. As they ate and drank, he tried to prepare them for what was coming. This bread is my body broken for you. This wine is my blood poured out for the sins of many. The disciples heard Jesus’ words. But in their wildest dreams, could they have imagined their fulfillment would come in the form of a cruel crucifixion?

After dinner, they arrive in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus walks a little further for privacy. He asks his three closest friends—Peter, James, and John—to accompany him. “Watch and pray,” he pleads. But the hour is late. Sleep comes unbidden. It makes me wonder. Were these three oblivious to the distress in Jesus’ eyes? Or perhaps it caught them off guard. After all, they were the needy ones. Jesus was the strong one, the Savior, the one who always came to their rescue. Maybe they assumed. Jesus can handle this. He can handle anything, right?

For months, the religious leaders had been targeting Jesus. Yet each time they tried to seize him, he miraculously slipped through their grasp. Tonight, however, would be different. Jesus’ hour had come. The crucifixion would be the culmination of his ministry and the fulfillment of his mission. The Lamb of God would shed his blood for my sin and yours. And as he bore the weight of our ugly depravity, the Father would turn his face away. He would suffer and die alone.

That night in the garden, in anticipation of all he was about to endure, Jesus sweats great drops of blood. “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” He then turns and finds his friends asleep.
"Could you not keep watch with me one hour in prayer?"
“I would not have fallen asleep,” I want to tell him. “I love you. I care. I would have remained with you to the end.” But I know the truth. Peter, too, made this promise. Then denied he even knew Jesus. I am no better. I fall asleep. I forget to pray. I do a thousand little things and leave the one important thing undone. Keep watch with me.

If Jesus needed the love, support, and prayers of his friends as he faced the most intense trial of his life, how much more do we? God never meant for us to live this Christian life alone. We desperately need Jesus. But we also need one another. Who is overwhelmed? Who is struggling? Who needs our love, help, encouragement, and especially our prayers? Keep watch with me.

And yes, like Peter, James, and John, we fail at times. Our spirits are willing. Our flesh is weak. Yet even after Peter’s betrayal, Christ forgave him, restored him, and appointed him to lead the early church. We serve a God of second and third and many chances. Let’s not allow past failures to defeat us. His mercies are new every morning. 

Today and every day, the Lord Jesus invites us to come, draw near to his heart, and keep watch with him.

Dear Lord Jesus,
Are we willing to keep watch with you in prayer?
We’re so busy and tired and distracted,
It can be difficult to close the door, quiet our hearts, and carve out time for prayer.
And yet...
If you, Lord of All, entreated your friends to pray
is any weapon more powerful?
Open our eyes to the spiritual battle raging in our midst.
Fill us with the courage and strength and passion to keep watch with you this day.
We pray in your holy name. Amen.

Take it further...
Are you overwhelmed? Are you struggling? How can I keep watch with you today? Leave me a comment or send me a private message. I would count it a privilege to pray for you.

Image of Jesus and the Disciples in Gethsemane by Lumo Project.
[1] Matthew 26:38


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