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What Happened in Gethsemane?

by Tom Stewart
July 2, 2001

To the east of Jerusalem, "over the brook Cedron" (John 18:1), probably at the foot of the Mount of Olives, there "was a garden" (18:1) "called Gethsemane" (Matthew 26:36). In the Greek, Gethsemane means an oil orchard. Attached to the garden was an orchard of olive, fig, and pomegranate trees to which "Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with His disciples" (John 18:2) to retreat from the crowds for rest, comfort, and prayer. The Garden of Gethsemane is best known to us for the scene of the betrayal of the LORD into the hands of the "chief priests and elders of the people" (Matthew 26:47). Of the events prior to His betrayal that night in Gethsemane, we are called upon to consider the nature of Jesus' agony when He prayed, "Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done" (Luke 22:42). Scripture records that immediately "there appeared an angel unto Him from Heaven, strengthening Him" (22:43), in response to His petition.

Shortly before Christ's prayer in Gethsemane, He and His disciples had just observed the Passover Supper, that we now commemorate as the
"Lord's Supper" (1Corinthians 11:20). They came to Gethsemane, where the LORD told the eleven, "Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder" (Matthew 26:36). Taking with Him Peter, James, and John about "a stone's cast" (Luke 22:41) from the remaining disciples, Jesus instructed them, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with Me" (Matthew 26:38). These were the LORD's closest earthly friends of which He asked their support in preparation for His death on the Cross. "And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup from Me: nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt" (Mark 14:36). It was not that His will did not match the Father's will, because the LORD Jesus certainly was one with the Father. "That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee" (John 17:21). Jesus just wanted to emphasize that it was the Father's will that mattered, not His own. What was the LORD Jesus doing at this pregnant moment before He knew He would be delivered into the enemies' hands for suffering and death? Was He praying that Satan would not be allowed to destroy Him in the Garden of Gethsemane before He had the opportunity to atone for the sins of mankind upon the Cross? Yes, most certainly. "And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44).

The body of the LORD Jesus was reported by
"Luke, the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14) to have "sweat... great drops of blood" (Luke 22:44). This was undoubtedly due to the great "agony" (22:44) He was enduring at that very moment in Gethsemane. "Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared" (Hebrews 5:7). The agony of Christ in Gethsemane was necessary-- as the Son of God, Who "stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51)-- for the voluntary sacrifice of His life on the Cross. This He knew would satisfy the Public Justice of God's Holy Law of Love, making it appropriate for the Father to forgive those who would repent and believe, while upholding the sanctity of the Moral Law. "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil" (Matthew 5:17). "For all the Law is fulfilled in one Word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Galatians 5:14). [See the instructive comments on the nature of Public Justice by Charles G. Finney ---New Window in his "Systematic Theology" ---New Window (1851), Lecture 34 on the "Atonement" ---New Window.]

This art print, "No Greater Love" by Robert Grace is provided courtesy of Christ-Centered Art ---New Window.
No Greater Love
But, the humanity of the LORD Jesus knew full well that He was about to endure unimaginable suffering, even for the noble cause of redeeming mankind.
"For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the LORD the Church" (Ephesians 5:29). Which of us would not appreciate Divine Grace to assist us to willingly lay down our lives, if so required? "2 Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of Our Faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Throne of God. 3 For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (Hebrews 12:2-3). Jesus "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (4:15). Humanly speaking, this meant that He could be tempted in the flesh to not want to be scourged and crucified, i.e., "Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death" (Hebrews 5:7). Since the Atonement of the LORD Jesus Christ was the substitution or exchange of His sufferings on the Cross for the punishment of Sinners, Christ needed to be strengthened by the angels to overcome the temptation not to go to the sufferings and death of the Cross. For if He had not gone, He would not have become a "Ransom for all" (1Timothy 2:6).

Thank you, LORD Jesus, for willingly enduring the
"contradiction of sinners" against Yourself, and "despising the shame" of the Cross to purchase our Redemption. Thank you for overcoming the temptation to not go to the suffering and death of the Cross. And, thank you, Father, for loving us so much that You gave us your Only Begotten Son and strengthening Him in Gethsemane and on the Cross to endure the suffering to purchase our Forgiveness.

Amen, and Amen.

Tom Stewart

Related Topics:

What the Bible Says About
Why Did Jesus Have to Suffer?
---New Window
by Tom Stewart
"Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust,
that He might bring us to God,
being put to Death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit"

(1Peter 3:18).
"The Natural Love that we have for ourselves is a Universal Truth, for 'no man ever yet hated his own flesh' (Ephesians 5:29); and, Jesus the Son of Man was no different. 'For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin' (Hebrews 4:15). He had no special enjoyment of suffering, just as we do not enjoy suffering. 'Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a Merciful and Faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make Reconciliation for the sins of the people' (Hebrews 2:17). It is difficult for the Righteous to watch the Guiltless and Innocent suffer, because their suffering is our suffering. 'Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body' (Hebrews 13:3). Further, we have been advised by the Scriptures to remain 'simple' concerning the specifics of the sufferings that evil men inflict. 'For your Obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple [Greek, akeraion, harmless] concerning evil' (Romans 16:19). It was only the Providence of God that allowed the human mother of Jesus to be at the scene of Christ's Crucifixion, and one can only imagine the impression upon Mary as she beheld the Agony of her Son upon the Cross! Perhaps it was at that moment that Mary recalled the prophetic words of Simeon from the dedication of Jesus. '34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary His mother, Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a Sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed' (Luke 2:34-35). For those we love, suffering and even death for ourselves would be more desirable than to watch them suffer. But, Jesus willingly set His face like flint to suffer the Cruel Death of the Cross for friend and foe alike, e.g., the Roman centurion in charge of His Crucifixion exclaimed about the events and manner of Christ's Death on the Cross, 'Truly this was the Son of God' (Matthew 27:54)."

The Majesty of the Atonement of Jesus Christ ---New Window
Or, Christ's Humanity Provided an Atoning Sacrifice for the Sins of Mankind

by Tom Stewart
"And not only so, but we also joy in God through our LORD Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the Atonement" (Romans 5:11).
"At this moment, only a short time before the
'glorious appearing of the Great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ' (Titus 2:13), it is a retrospective of awe and wonder that we would consider again the central, fundamental, and timeless theme of the atoning self-sacrifice of the Creator for the well-being of rebellious and sinful man... he most majestic act of God towards us was the Atonement of Jesus Christ on the Cross for all mankind. So marvelous was this act of atonement, that the angels were quite eager to see how the LORD would handle it. 'Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven; which things the angels desire to look into' (1Peter 1:12). Eternity cannot exhaust our study of the love of God that was manifested in His atonement for us."

The Amazing Humanity of Jesus Christ ---New Window
Or, The Benefit of Christ's Birth

by Tom Stewart
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father,) full of Grace and Truth"
(John 1:14).
"The Old Testament of the Scriptures is replete with clues of God's purpose to redeem and govern mankind through the human advent of the Divine Son of God.
'6 For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will perform this' (Isaiah 9:6-7). What astounds us is that the Son of God condescended to become a man-- to suffer all the difficulties of the flesh and the human condition, 'yet without sin' (Hebrews 4:15). Heaven will surely be filled with the Saints' praise and admiration for so bold an act of love that the Son of Man would become human flesh and then 'lay down His life for His friends' (John 15:13). 'Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you' (15:14)."

His Resurrection Is The Highest Proof That Jesus Is The Messiah ---New Window
by Tom Stewart
"What evidence should satisfy the most inquisitive mind that Jesus is the Messiah? All of humanity must be born into this world, and it will be by the hand of the Almighty that He will take us out of this world, i.e., 'And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this The Judgment' (Hebrews 9:27), so birth and death are common to man. However, who but God Alone has the Power to resurrect from the dead? 'God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that Power belongeth unto God' (Psalm 62:11). Even if a questioning mind could not settle whether Jesus resurrected by His own Power or whether it was the Power of the Almighty to resurrect Jesus from the dead, Why would Jehovah resurrect Jesus and thereby vindicate the claims of Jesus of Nazareth that He would Rise again after three days, unless Jesus is the Messiah? '3 Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our LORD, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 and declared to be the Son of God with Power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the Resurrection from the dead' (Romans 1:3-4)."

Without Jesus, My Wage is Death ---New Window
by Katie Stewart

"Without Jesus, as my very
'Life', no amassed regretting, no mustered repenting, no aggregate of tears-- NOTHING I could ever do-- could EVER change the wage I had earned for the sin I had committed against God's Holy Law. 'Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be Justified when Thou speakest, and be Clear when Thou judgest' (Luke 20:21). My wage was rightfully-- Death. 'The soul that sinneth, it shall die' (Ezekiel 18:20). A Death which would forever separate me from the Creator of my soul. 'Commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well doing, as unto a Faithful Creator' (1Peter 4:19)... Without Jesus Christ, we will pay our own sin debt, 'for the wages of sin is Death' (Romans 6:23). With the Atoning Work of the Cross that the LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ suffered, our debt of Death has been paid in full. He did that for us! As 'The Gift of God' (6:23), the Father has given Jesus Christ, His Son, to us. He is our 'Eternal Life' (6:23). And, dear reader, if you receive Him, this 'Life' begins in you NOW. You will live victoriously-- without sin-- ONLY if you live 'through Jesus Christ' (6:23). 'In this was manifested the Love of God toward us, because that God sent His Only Begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him' (1John 4:9)."

What the Bible Says About Temptation ---New Window
by Tom and Katie Stewart

"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:13).
"This is a study about understanding temptation, not simply because the Master enjoined, 'Pray that ye enter not into temptation' (Luke 22:40), but because we also desire to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in doing all that is humanly possible to prevent temptation from turning into sin. '10 With my whole heart have I sought Thee: O let me not wander from Thy Commandments... 133 Order my steps in Thy Word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me' (Psalm 119:10, 133). From the first temptation of Eve in the Garden when the Serpent succeeded in causing our First Parents to doubt the love of God, to the final 'Hour of Temptation' (Revelation 3:10) of the Apocalypse, mankind has struggled, and will struggle, with the necessity to overcome temptation. Our present unwillingness to enter into temptation is the same unwillingness to enter into the 'Hour of Temptation' (3:10) soon prophesied to come upon this world. 'Because thou hast kept the Word of My Patience, I also will keep thee from the Hour of Temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the Earth' (3:10). But, since 'all the Promises of God in [Christ] are Yea, and in Him Amen' (2Corinthians 1:20), we can lay hold of the Master's instruction to 'pray that ye enter not into temptation' (Luke 22:40), with the bold assurance that, indeed, 'sin shall not have dominion over [us]' (Romans 6:14)!"

Seven Reasons Why I Believe in
by Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley
New Window
"This vital consideration brings us to the fulcrum of the great operation of the Divine Revelation, to the centre of the vast circumference of Divine Redemption and to the very heart of the throbbing purpose of Divine Reconciliation. We come from the shallows of human speculation to the depths of divine revelation when we come to the Blood. We step at this juncture from the shadows of Old Testament typology to the blazing sunshine of New Testament theology. It is here we launch our souls from the shores of man's estimate into the boundless, tideless, endless sea of God's ultimate."

Seven Reasons Why I Believe in
by Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley
---New Window
"The Resurrection is essential to Christianity, for by it alone can Christianity be confirmed. The Resurrection is the great corroborator of the Christian gospel. Remove this keystone and the goodly temple crashes into ruin. As life is essential to living so the Resurrection is essential to a living Christianity. Take away the Resurrection and Christianity becomes a dead letter, but another contribution to the world's Pantheon."
"And if Christ be not raised, your Faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1Corinthians 15:17).

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