In his darkest moments Jesus felt heartbroken and alone. It’s hard to believe, at times, that we have a God that allowed for those two visceral emotions to be part of his experience here on earth? I do my best to avoid heartbrokenness and aloneness at all cost. Both are too painful to embrace.
“Then Jesus came with the disciples to a place called Gethsemane and said to them, “Sit down here while I go over there and pray.” Then he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to be in terrible distress and misery. “My heart is nearly breaking,” he told them, “stay here and keep watch with me.” Then he walked on a little way and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me—yet it must not be what I want, but what you want.”Then he came back to the disciples and found them fast asleep.” (Matt 26:36-40a)
I wonder specifically about the aloneness of Jesus. He had deep friendships with his twelve closest companions and was especially connected to Peter, James and John. When Jesus said, “stay here and watch with me,” he was desperately asking his closest friends to be with him. Their response was to fall asleep. If you read on Jesus asks his friends two more times to be with him in his moment of need and two more times they fall asleep.
What caused his friends to fall asleep? Maybe they saw the pain in Jesus’ eyes and just didn’t want to feel what he was feeling. Jesus was pleading for his friends to join him in his pain. I think part of what was happening in the Garden of Gethsemane is that Jesus was modeling for us how to hold pain, to not run away from it.
There was a lot going on that night for Jesus, much of it we can’t comprehend. But what we can understand, at some level, is what it feels like to be heartbroken and alone. Jesus is with us in our pain, he understands, and unlike his friends he doesn’t fall asleep. He hears our pleading and he is with us.