Watch With Me – Matthew 26:38

When I visited the Christian school where both my grandsons attend, I got to visit with the high school boys’ Bible teacher in his classroom.  He is John Wetteland, best known as MVP in the 1996 World Series as closing pitcher for the Yankees, who pitched for the Rangers through 2000.  He told my daughter and me how he was teaching his classes that day from Matthew 26:38.  Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his death.  He took Peter, James and John aside and said, “Stay here and keep watch with me.”  Twice in three days after that visit with John, this same passage was brought to my attention again, in totally separate ways.  Naturally, I began to think about it even more and study its message for me.

A few verses earlier, Peter is quoted as saying to Jesus, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (26:33) and, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (26:35)  We know what’s coming when Peter denied he even knew Jesus three times, but have you noticed his inability even to stay awake when Jesus asked him to.  Three times after telling his disciples to “keep watch with me,” he returned to find them asleep.  “‘Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter.  ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.'” (26:40-41)

We know the prayer Jesus prayed three times, while they slept, about God taking the cup of suffering away.  “Yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (26:39)  We know about Peter’s blatant denials during the mockery of trials Jesus endured.  We know about the crucifixion.  But, did you notice how Jesus’ friends failed Him when He needed them most?  Matthew 26:56 solemnly adds, “Then all the disciples deserted Him and fled.” 

Matthew and Mark agree in most details about the Garden experience, but Matthew is the only gospel writer who adds “with me.”  Luke has much less detail and John has nothing about this scene.  According to Matthew, this critical hour in Jesus’ earthly life has Him needing the companionship and sympathy of close friends.  He is filled with anguish and dismay as he thinks about the hours just ahead and the burden He would carry as Sin-bearer for mankind.  He is not just telling his inner circle to pray for themselves, for self-protection and safety.  He is asking them to join Him in watching for the expected enemy.  He confided in them how he was feeling overwhelmed.  He needed them to stay alert with Him and for Him, but they did not.  They disappointed Him and, too often, we do the same.

Jesus may be saying to you right now, “Watch with me.”  Put down that Ambien and instead, watch for both subtle and not-so-subtle ways the devil tries to work.  The lies he tells.  The seductions he orchestrates.  The laziness he encourages.  The betrayals he buys.  Watch for other believers who are overwhelmed.  For fellow strugglers who need a friend, a hand, a word of encouragement.  For the little people in our lives who have no power except what we give.  Watch with Him because He is coming back.  He promised to return and He keeps His promises.  He might do it today!  And, one more thought — don’t hesitate to imitate Jesus in your own critical hour and ask your friends to watch with you.  They may surprise you and come through with the prayerful support that claims God’s help when you need it most.

Article copyright (c) 2009 by Charles G. Mickey.  All rights reserved.

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