Our Lord, having loved His own, "loved them unto the end." It was a love to last until He died, after death, when He ascended, and forever. He cleaved to them with human affection as well as divine. He wished to be loved by them, to be held in affectionate remembrance. For this He instituted the Holy Supper. The valedictory discourse was uttered to console and instruct His chosen friends. He said little of His own approaching sorrows in His desire to soothe theirs. Then, as the High Priest of His Church, He offered to His Father the Intercessory Prayer, which the disciple, specially loving and beloved, stored up for us in his divinely-aided memory. Then they sang a hymn together, most probably chanting the Psalms of the Passover Service, containing predictions of His own Paschal Sacrifice. Then, all things being accomplished for the welfare of His disciples—calmly, deliberately, well knowing what awaited Him there—He led the way to Gethsemane.
We are reminded of another traveler along that road—His type and human ancestor. The same nation revolted against both their kings; one was betrayed by his son, the other by His disciple. With a few chosen followers both went forth from the same city. With feet bared and head covered in token of grief David crossed the Kedron, passed Gethsemane, and ascended Olivet, "weeping as he went." And now the Son of David, the victim of a more monstrous conspiracy—leaving the city, which, after witnessing His works of healing and listening to His words of love, was about to clamor for His blood—went forth with tears, prepared to agonize and die for its salvation.
David's chosen body-guard were faithful in his extremity. "As the Lord lives, surely in what place my Lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will your servant be." Ittai kept his word. But the chosen captains and friends of Jesus were about to forsake Him. His foreknowledge of this was one element in His sorrow. Jesus said to them as slowly they descended towards the Garden—"All you will be fall away because of me this night; for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered."
His human heart craved human sympathy; but He was to be "wounded in the house of His friends." Not only would Judas betray Him, but "His own familiar friends in whom He trusted," would forsake Him when He most needed them. Peter protested that even though all the others failed he would follow Jesus to prison and to death. The sorrow of the Savior's heart was expressed in the reply—"Even in this night you will deny me thrice. This very night, in which at the Supper we solemnly pledged our mutual love, in which you listened to my counsel and consolation, and avowed unchanging fidelity—this very night when I shall lean on you for the special help which you alone can render by human sympathy with human sorrow—Verily I say unto you, that even in this night you all will forsake Me."
How true to human nature is such grief! Great woe does not blunt the feelings to minor sorrows. Our Lord's chief burden was unspeakably greater than the temporary failure of His friends. The world's sin lay on Him, and the world's redemption was before Him. Yet He felt keenly this additional pain. Great sorrow makes us specially sensitive, enlarging the capacity and stimulating the faculty of suffering. Stripped and bare we feel keenly what we, if thickly clothed with comfort, would not have noticed. The open wound smarts with each breath of cold. When property, health, reputation, life are threatened, we can least endure a slight from those we love. When foes are most cruel we need friends to be most kind. When the world frowns, we most need the home to smile. Even under the burden of guilt and fear the cup is not so full but that an unkind look will add gall and render it more difficult to drink. If, then, we should ever have cause to say, "Reproach has broken my heart; I am full of heaviness; I looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none," let us remember that He of whom this was predicted was "in all points tried like as we are."
Thus answering, Jesus sadly forewarning, the disciples vainly protesting, they reached "the place." Then He kindly counseled them once more. "Pray that you enter not into temptation." They were sincere in their expression of resolve, but ignorant of their own weakness and the force of their great enemy. Jesus knew their danger, foresaw their fall, and directed them to their only Refuge. Times of sorrow may be as perilous as times of gladness. If the mountain top has its precipices, the low valley has its bogs and pitfalls. Jesus warned His disciples because He loved them. He was willing to drink His own cup of sorrow, but He was not willing that they should fail in sharing it and so sharing the resulting joy. Jesus warned them also for His own sake. He felt He would need them very near in His conflicts. Even they could be a solace and a strength, although, compared with Himself, infinitely inferior. They were as yet ill-informed; very weak in many ways; would soon forsake Him, and one of them deny Him. They had leaned on Him, yet He now leaned on them.
In great sorrow we also may find help from people very inferior in station, education, and Christian attainment. It is not the wisdom, the culture, the strength that are needed—so much as the sympathy. The nervous system of sufferers may be so shattered that solitude becomes intolerable, and they may be refreshed by the presence of those who can render no effectual help against the outward trouble. Thus, in the darkness of the night, or the roaring of the storm, the company of a child has often calmed the terror. A woman, broken-hearted by the death of her husband, spoke of being chiefly comforted by the visits of a little girl who, when asked what she did, replied, "I only put my cheek against hers, and cry when she cries." So in this darkest hour even the "strong Son of God" craved the company of friends so weak.
Then Jesus said to the disciples—"Sit here, while I go and pray yonder." There was an agony of which there could be no close spectator. But He still clung to human sympathy, and was unwilling to be absolutely alone. When the dark cloud was beginning to overshadow Him, He longed for the nearer presence and sympathy of His friends.
And this is one precious leaf of healing in the Garden of Grief. At all times, true friendship is one of the chief charms of life. But in sorrow we specially appreciate its priceless worth. Stars shine brightest when the night is deepest. The helping hand and the voice of cheer are most welcome when the way is roughest and the burden heaviest. Human friendship has its outer and inner circles. Only some of those with whom we walk on the highway, or sit down at the marriage-feast, would we select to weep with us in the Garden of Grief. In our sorrows let this be a solace, that God has given us the friendship of any on whose wisdom we may rely in times of perplexity, whose sympathy soothes in seasons of sadness, to whom we carry and confide our secret sorrows, for whose presence and prayers we can hope in the dark valley or on the river-bank. "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."
All solace for a sorrowing heart