Stay with Me, My Soul is Overwhelmed
“Stay with Me, my soul is overwhelmed.” Jesus spoke these words in His darkest hour. It was night time and He was in the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples. Very soon the soldiers would be rushing into the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Him with swords drawn, along with Judas and the religious leaders. Coming to betray Him and whip and mock Him and crucify Him. Jesus knew that His hour had come and He was overwhelmed with grief. In His agony, sweat began falling from his body like drops of blood. (Luke 22:44) Trembling all over He pleaded with His disciples: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.” (Matthew 26:38b) Jesus needed them so badly.
Isn’t Jesus Christ the Son of God and Savior, King of kings and Lord of lords? The image of the living God? All things that are created are created through Him and for Him. (Colossians 1:16) And yet Scripture tells us that in that lonely hour even Jesus the Son of God needed His own disciples to stay with Him, -to pray with Him - and to be there for Him. It would have meant so much to Him. The mighty Son of God needed humans to comfort Him! Let’s read the story.
“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.’ Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘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. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’
He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done.’ When he came back, he again found his disciples sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping? Look, the hour is near and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Matthew 26:36-46)
Bible scholars believe that Jesus’ sorrow was not just for himself. He was bearing the sins which the Father laid upon Him. The sufferings he was entering into were for our sins, the sins of us all. His sorrow was like no other sorrow. It had been prophesied of old that Christ, the Jewish Messiah, would be a Man of sorrows. “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) And He might also have been sorrowful because so many of the Jews would not recognize Him, and would reject their Savior.
Christ begs his Father that if possible to let this cup pass from him. He calls his sufferings a cup. Is it necessary for Him to drink this bitter cup of death? Would there be any other way that sinners could be cleansed from sin except by His gruesome death? But then He submits to the will of his Father as He prays: “Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.” During this dark night of His soul, Jesus turns to his disciples for comfort and support and they all fall asleep.
Jesus’ disciples will all panic and run away when the soldiers come to the Garden of Gethsemane and take Him away. His own disciples will add more grief to his sorrow by abandoning Him as He takes up his cross. Even Peter who swears he will always be there for Jesus, denies Him three times before the rooster crows – or before morning comes. No one is there to speak up for Him when He is whipped and mocked and when He carries the heavy cross all the way to Calvary. His disciples have all deserted Him. Jesus even describes his position like this: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) No place to lay his head and no one to walk with Him on His lonely road!
Several times through the long night as He prays in Gethsemane, Jesus begs his disciples to stand by Him and pray as He is approaching a terrible death. He is overwhelmed with grief and their presence would be a comfort for Him. But when they all ignore His pleas and go to sleep, Jesus even makes an excuse for them. He tells them: “The spirit is willing but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:38b) He gives them the benefit of the doubt. He says He knows they really wanted to stay awake with Him but the nighttime urge to sleep was too powerful. We humans might feel sorry for ourselves and angry if our loved ones went to sleep when we needed them most. But Jesus excused his disciples and forgave them.
Jesus still needs us, his modern- day disciples to stand by Him during difficult times. He asks us to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. (Mark 8:34) He calls on us to pray with Him and to feed the hungry, give to the poor and visit the sick. He says when we give a cup of cold water to the least and the lost that we are giving it to Him. The question we must ask ourselves: When He comes looking for us will He find us there by His side or will He find us sleeping?