I find it telling that as Jesus is on the cusp of going to the cross, as he goes to Gethsemane to wrestle in prayer with God concerning what lies ahead, he does not go alone. He takes his small group—Peter, James, and John. There are few times in the gospel when Jesus takes only these three along.
Perhaps some of those times are for extra training, Jesus taking them under his wings to prepare them for leadership once he’s gone. I suppose that could be at play here too, but there is something more. Their presence is to benefit Jesus. The text says that he is “sorrowful,” “troubled, and his “soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” His request to them is simple. Be present and be alert. Keep watch. Pay attention.
True, if you know the story you know that have a hard time with the second part of that request (they keep falling asleep). But I would rather highlight the basic need we all have that Jesus exposes here. We all need somebody to lean on, even the Messiah. Being a friend doesn’t always mean riding to the rescue. (Put your sword away, Peter. That’s not what Jesus needs). It doesn’t mean taking someone else’s burden away. Often that is impossible. But we can be present, and we can pay attention.
After the 16 months we’ve all just gone through, I think a lot of us could use a non-judgmental presence and a listening ear right now. A lot of us could use friends who are with us as we sort through what we’ve come through and wrestle with what lies ahead.
So, be courageous, be vulnerable, and ask a friend to be present and keep watch when you are struggling. There are people who love you and care for you but might not always know you have a need unless you tell them. Speak up and tell them.
At the same time, be compassionate and be proactive. If you see someone in need, don’t wait for them to ask. They may be too embarrassed. They may be the kind of person that doesn’t want to be a burden. They may not know how much they need it until you reach out. So, reach out. Just like Jesus, we all need somebody to lean on.