What Was the Horror that Jesus Faced in the Garden?

We are continuing our meditation of the drama that went on in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before Jesus was crucified (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation). The second thing that was seen as a cup that Jesus had to drink was the temptation to walk away from what He faced. What was before Him was more than humiliation at the hands of evil men, and more than being crucified. Let us consider His temptation. When we struggle against sin, the temptation that comes to us is to seek for holiness from our sinful thoughts and actions. As Christians, our fight is against sin in three different battlefields all at the same time. The world system we live in, our own sinful nature, and our adversary, the devil and his demons. The writer to the Hebrews spoke of the temptation that we all face, saying that however hard we fight, it is nowhere near the unseen fight that Jesus faced in the garden that night:

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Hebrews 12:4).

Our struggle is to be holy when our natural tendency, our default nature, is toward sin. It was totally different, though, for the Lord Jesus. He had never known sin. He has always been Holy. He was born of a virgin and by the Holy Spirit. Christ was not conceived in the normal way, and, therefore, did not take on a sinful nature. He remained free from sin all His life, in order that he would die as an innocent Lamb for us and as us. The apostle Peter had been around Him for more than three years, yet he said about Christ: “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). As a Holy being, Christ’s struggle that day in the garden was to put on sin and be the living embodiment of sin. His striving was not against sin, but to be sin when every fiber of His Holy being cried out against sin. Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You cannot look on wickedness with favor” (Habakkuk 1:13). His default nature, every impulse of His diving being, was to abhor sin, and yet He had to put on sin to make us holy. How wonderful is His love! “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The temptation He faced was to abandon His holiness and embrace sin, and not just sin, but all sin, of all time, and for the whole human race.

Perhaps one would say that Jesus wasn’t tempted for He was holy, but in fact, He was tempted much worse than us in order that He might be able to feel what we feel when we are tempted:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).

What was distinctly different was that Christ would be separated from His Father for a time. When Christ hung on the cross, the sins of the world were laid upon Him, and the Father, who cannot look upon sin, left Christ for a time. The perfect character of Christ would be stained by sins of the blackest sort, every sin that you and I have ever committed were laid on Him. Not only sins committed in the present, but also those of the past and future. That is why He cried out from the cross; “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Those who believe that there are many ways to God, do not have an answer as to why the Father refused to take any other option other than His Son must drink the dregs of the cup. There was no other way. If there had been another way, God would have taken it, rather than see His Son suffer for the sins of man.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 60, Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53). Keith Thomas

What Was the Cup That Jesus Had to Drink?

We are meditating on what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before Jesus was crucified. God gave Jesus a cup with which to drink, so the question we wish to answer is, what did the cup represent? Here’s what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane:

38Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39Going 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” (Matthew 26:38-39).

There are two things that were seen as a cup that Jesus had to drink to the dregs there in the garden. The first is that the cup was a picture of the wrath of God that was deserved by you and me:

Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger (Isaiah 51:17; read also Jeremiah 25:15-17).

We deserved spiritual death because of the sins and choices that we have made in our lives. In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam that when you eat of the fruit on the tree of knowledge of good and evil you would surely die. Adam did not die physically the day he ate, but spiritually he and everyone else born into the world, was separated from God and a barrier between God and man existed (Isaiah 59:2), a condition of death in the eyes of God. The prophet Ezekiel spoke about this punishment on sin, when he said, “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). Sin had to be judged or God would be accused of injustice. The punishment of sin must be maintained, God cannot just overlook sin and justice. For God to be love and just, the God of love came to pay the punishment in order that we may be freed from the penalty of sin.  Matthew tells us of the one prayer that the Father denied Jesus, “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (Matthew 26:39). Christ would have to endure the full punishment of separation from God on the cross: “Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew27:46).

This God that we love and serve has made no other way of escape other than that His Beloved Son should go through this time of humiliation, pulling at His beard, spitting in His face, and flaying the skin off of His back, culminating in the torturous death of being crucified. There was no other way, no other solution. He didn’t tell man to wait until Mohammed. He didn’t change His salvation plan and tell man to go and see the Buddha. There was only ONE WAY and it involved God Himself becoming the substitute. Here we see the love of God revealed. God planned Operation Redemption. He Himself would pay the substitution ransom, the sacrificial price. Christ would drink the cup of God’s wrath. The price is free for us but it cost God His Son! He would take man’s place. The judgment was firm and just, the soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4), but Jesus, God’s Son, would take our place, the just for the unjust to bring us to God.

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the love of God said “no” to Jesus. It was not possible for there to be any other way but that He should take the cup and drink God’s wrath on sin to the dregs. If there was another way, don’t you think God would have taken it rather than watch His Son tortured and murdered?

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

When we truly understand all that God has done for us, the only response is love for the One who has made our freedom and deliverance from sin possible. Self-sacrifice is the “God way”. The way of the cross is the only way to God. We will look at the second thing the cup represented tomorrow.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 60, Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53). Keith Thomas

Why Was Christ Overwhelmed with Sorrow in the Garden?

We are continuing our meditations on the last hours of Christ before His crucifixion (Scroll down for earlier meditations). When they arrived in Gethsemane, Christ went from them a stone’s throw distance and Luke tells us that He fell to His knees to pray (Luke 22:41). Matthew tells us that at times His posture was one of lying down with His face to the ground in impassioned prayer:

37He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39Going 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” (Matthew 26:37-39).

The phrase, “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” is quite a descriptive phrase and leaves us wondering as to what was going on inside His soul. Whatever it was that He was going through, Jesus described it as being so overwhelming as to bring Him close to death (v. 38). Such was the intensity that He begged for prayer support, saying to the disciples, “Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). Mark, in his gospel, describes Jesus as being “deeply distressed and troubled” (Mark 14:33). The writer to the Hebrews also wrote about Jesus in the garden, saying, “he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death” (Hebrews 5:7). The English King James Bible translates the same verse with the words: “He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears.” Luke described Jesus as: “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling down to the ground” (v. 44). The Greek word translated anguish is where we get our English word agony. The Greek word is used in terms of someone fighting a battle with sheer fear.[1]

Jim Bishop, in his book The Day Christ Died, comments on Christ’s sweat being like drops of blood:

“Medically, this is called haematidrosis. It occurs when fear is piled upon fear, when an agony of suffering is laid upon an older suffering until the highly sensitized person can no longer sustain the pain. At that moment, the patient ordinarily loses consciousness. When that does not happen, the subcutaneous capillaries sometimes dilate so broadly that, when they come into contact with the sweat glands the little capillaries burst. The blood is exuded with the perspiration and, usually, this occurs all over the body.”[2]

I have read of this happening during the Second World War, when Germany was bombing London in what was known as the Blitz. The daily pressure of the bombing brought a number of cases where this occurred. The stress of fear was so great, that it caused some people to literally sweat blood.

There are some scholars that interpret this verse to mean: “his sweat was like drops of blood,” and that He didn’t actually bleed. They reason that Jesus was sweating so hard, it was “as if He were bleeding.” They say that He could have been sweating from the energy of His impassioned praying or because of stress. Passover falls in our calendar between the months of March and April, and it is usually cold in Jerusalem due to being situated higher in the mountains. Later on, Peter had warmed himself by the fire with those that had arrested Jesus in the courtyard of Caiaphas. If it was just sweat, why would blood be mentioned? This would have been difficult to see in the moonlight at a stone’s throw distance away, but perhaps when He came to wake up the disciples, they noticed that He had been sweating. If it were blood, it would have been evident by the color of His tunic when He came near. I leave you to decide which interpretation you find to be the most believable. Personally, I think that the scriptures mention drops of blood because He was literally sweating blood, due to the extreme aguish and stress that He was going through in the garden. At great cost to our Savior was our salvation won by Him.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 60, Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53). Keith Thomas

[1] William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, The Gospel of Luke, Saint Andrew Press Publishers, Edinburgh, Page 271.

[2] The Day Christ Died by Jim Bishop. Harper San Francisco Publishers. Page 169.

Gethsemane: The Place of the Olive Press

We are continuing our meditations on the drama that took place the night before Christ was crucified. It was late in the evening when the disciples left the Upper Room where they had eaten the Passover supper together. Tradition tells us that the room was situated to the west of the Old City of Jerusalem. They walked eastwards together to the Mount of Olives on the eastern side of the Temple Mount, crossing the Kidron valley that separated the Mount of Olives from Herod’s temple. Luke tells us that this was Christ’s usual place to stay the night, sleeping under the stars (Luke 22:39). Even though He knew that Judas was about to bring the temple guards there to arrest Him, He still went to the place Judas knew of. The arrest was no surprise to Jesus; He knew how much time He had to pray and had no thought of escape or avoiding what was coming. Matthew and Mark both tell us that the place was called Gethsemane, whereas John calls it an olive grove. Luke just says the place was the Mount of Olives. Passover always coincided with the full moon, which afforded the disciples the opportunity to look in on the scene that took place. The Mount of Olives was so called because of the many olive trees growing there. Gethsemane literally means the place of the olive press. Olive oil was used for lighting, and perhaps was the very source of the huge candelabra’s that lit up the temple and the surrounding area of Jerusalem at night. The oil was extracted by crushing the olives in the press, maybe the very press there in the Garden of Gethsemane.

 39Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.45When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46“Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:39-46).

What was happening there on the Mount of Olives? That’s the big question we want to answer with our study today. In this passage, we see Jesus confronting His own death. In the Garden, we get a picture of what was going through His mind as He talks to His Father in prayer. We see the state of His heart and the thoughts He had in the hours before crucifixion. It seems significant that He who called Himself the Light of the World (John 8:12), would go through a crushing and pressing experience there in Gethsemane, the place of the olive press. The Lord also said that we as Christians are also lights of the world (Matthew 5:14). If we desire to shine brightly for God, we also will be taken by the Spirit into the darkness of a Gethsemane experience, where we will have to make spiritual choices to relinquish our wills to Christ. Many of us have come to Christ by going through a broken and pressing experience that has caused us to wonder about what would happen to us when we die, or wonder about the meaning of our lives. The Lord allows a Gethsemane in our lives. In Gethsemane we are tempted to give in to our flesh to do whatever would please us or give us some relief. Life teaches us that the easy way is not always the right way. We can answer to our fears and our appetites, or we can seek a higher way. During these times, we face crossroads in our lives. We can take the easy road or we can take the “Christ road.” The Christ road will bring us pain at times, but it is the way of fruitfulness. The road to maturity is the way of the Cross. The Lord allows growth spurts to come to our lives by giving us situations designed by God to prompt faith-filled choices. These choices seem counter-intuitive when viewed in the light of self-preservation. In our Gethsemane experiences, we can trust the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the way to go. He will reveal the choices that honor God and keep us true. He will give us the strength and ability to choose the right way, if that is what we desire. Although it may be hard, He offers us His strength and peace when we face our own temptations. He will always leave us to make the choice. Let’s talk more about this tomorrow.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 60, Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53). Keith Thomas

Jesus Told Them to Bring a Sword

We are meditating on the last instructive words of Jesus with His disciples the night before His crucifixion. Christ and His disciples have been reclining at the table together, and now, as the evening draws to a close, He begins to prepare them for His arrest:

35Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. 36He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” 38The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied (Luke 22:35-38).

The Lord reminds His disciples of the time He had sent them out to heal the sick and preach about the coming of the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:1-5). At that time, He had instructed them to take no bread, no staff, no bag or money, and no spare cloak. They would learn by experience that Christ truly can meet their every need as they go out in ministry. Now He instructs them to be prepared for any journey by taking money and a bag, and yes, even to buy a sword to defend themselves (v. 36), because they are about to experience opposition of the highest order, both natural and spiritual. The enemy, Satan and his demons, will throw at them all kinds of things to try and stop their preaching and the forward movement of God’s kingdom on earth. Each one of us as believers must decide within our own hearts how we are to interpret this passage, because previously the Lord had said:

39“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40“If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41“Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two (Matthew 5:39-41).

On this occasion, however, Jesus told the disciples to buy a sword. Was the sword to defend themselves against animals on the way, or to defend themselves against evil people? In saying that we should not resist an evil person, does that mean we should allow our families, or other innocents to be killed in front of us by those whose motive is to destroy us? I personally don’t think so. There may be times when as Christians we should be passive in the hope of stopping violence from escalating, but how far should this go? Should we not resist the “Adolf Hitler’s” of this world by taking action? At the beginning of the Second World War, when Neville Chamberlain came back to Britain with a signed letter of peace by Adolf Hitler, thank God for Winston Churchill who stood up against evil and spoke the truth, leading Britain to defend herself against that evil regime!

We can think of many examples in history when God used brave men and women to stand up against evil. When the disciples found two swords, Jesus said to them, “It is enough.” Some commentators say that the Lord was saying this out of exasperation, that He had heard enough of ideas that were contrary to His teaching. If that was the case, why did He allow Peter to even carry a sword into the Garden of Gethsemane? Jesus knew that they had swords, and we know that Peter tried to defend the disciples by striking the high priest’s servant, and cutting off his ear (Luke 22:50). In my opinion, He was saying two swords would be sufficient for His disciples to defend themselves. Jesus clearly did not want them to pursue violence, and He did heal the high priest’s servant, but it could be that He also wanted the disciples to be able to protect themselves if needed. Otherwise, why would He tell them to sell their cloak in order to buy a sword (v. 36)? Jesus knew they were taking swords into the garden and even encouraged it, although He did not carry one. It was clear that the Lord knew His time had come for Him to be delivered into the hands of evil men in order to fulfill His Father’s ultimate plan of redemption.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 60, Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53). Keith Thomas