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

Jesus, the Passover Lamb

We are told that Jesus arrived in Bethany six days before the Passover (John 12:1). In Israel, everything stops for the Passover festival. At the time of Jesus, Jerusalem swelled in size anywhere from one to two and a half million people with pilgrims arriving from all over the world. Jesus waited in Bethany until four days before Passover, presenting Himself to the Jewish people as the Passover lamb on the tenth day of Nisan, in fulfilment of Moses’ command:

3Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight (Exodus 12:3-6).

Jewish people were instructed to take the lamb during the tenth day of the month and to keep it until the fourteenth day of the month. During the four days, the lamb could be inspected and observed as to its worthiness to be a substitute for the family. In the days when Israel was enslaved in Egypt, God had spoken that He would judge the Egyptians for not releasing Israel from their slavery. The Lord told the Israelites that a destroying angel would go through Egypt and that judgment would not fall on the Israelite homes if the blood of a substitute lamb was seen on the doorposts and lintel (Exodus 12:12-14). The blood was a sign that a substitutionary sacrificial lamb had been slain for the occupants of the house.

Messiah would endure four days of inspection by the religious elders and the people, before He would be crucified as the Passover Lamb slain to deliver them from the slavery of sin. He was crucified at the same time the Passover lambs were starting to be sacrificed for the Passover on the fourteenth day of Nisan. When no sacrificial lamb’s blood was seen on the doors in Egypt, the destroying angel took the lives of every first born. It was a very visual reminder for the Israelite families to see this innocent lamb give up its life as a substitute for each household. As the Israelite families followed this ritual every year, they remembered how they were protected by the blood of the slain lamb (Hebrews 11:28).

The blood of an innocent lamb had to be shed for the Israelites to leave Egypt, the place of slavery. In the New Testament, the writer to the book of Hebrews writes, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). The lamb was to be pure and with no spot or defect. Of course, this was a shadow picture for what God was going to do when Jesus the Messiah came. His blood would make atonement for all who trust His sacrificial death to deliver them from slavery to sin and Pharaoh/Satan. In the plan of God, Messiah is the One slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), the Lamb of God, innocent, pure, and with no fault or defect. Thank God for His deliverance!

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 52. Luke 19:28-48, The King Comes to His Temple. Keith Thomas

The Self-Substitution of God

What does self-substitution mean? In his book, Miracle on the River Kwai, Ernest Gordon tells the true story of a group of Prisoners of War working on the Burma Railway during World War Two. At the end of each day the tools were collected from the work party. On one occasion a Japanese guard shouted that a shovel was missing and demanded to know which man had taken it. He began to rant and rave, working himself up into a paranoid fury and ordered whoever was guilty to step forward. No one moved. “All die! All die!” he shrieked, cocking and aiming his rifle at the prisoners. At that moment one man stepped forward and the guard clubbed him to death with his rifle while he stood silently to attention. When they returned to the camp, the tools were counted again and no shovel was missing. That one man had gone forward as a substitute to save the others. In the same way Jesus went forward and satisfied justice by dying in place of us.

Jesus was our substitute. He endured crucifixion for us. Cicero described crucifixion as “the cruelest and hideous of tortures.” Jesus was stripped and tied to a whipping post. He was flogged with four or five thongs of leather interwoven with sharp jagged bone and lead. Eusebius, the third century church historian, described Roman flogging in these terms: “the sufferer’s veins were laid bare, and…the very muscles, sinews and bowels of the victim were open to exposure.” He was then taken to the Praetorium, the Roman courtyard inside the fortification, where a crown of thorns was thrust onto His head. He was mocked by a battalion of 600 men and hit about the face and head. He was then forced to carry a heavy cross bar on His bleeding shoulders until he collapsed, and Simon of Cyrene was press-ganged into carrying it for Him.

When they reached the site of crucifixion, He was again stripped naked. He was laid on the cross, and six-inch nails were driven into His forearms, just above the wrist. His knees were twisted sideways so that the ankles could be nailed between the tibia and the Achilles’ tendon. He was lifted up on the cross, which was then dropped into a socket in the ground. There He was left to hang in intense heat and unbearable thirst, exposed to the ridicule of the crowd. He hung there in unthinkable pain for six hours while His life slowly drained away. Yet the worst part was not the physical trauma, nor even the emotional pain of being rejected by the world and deserted by His friends, but the spiritual agony of being separated from the Father for us—as He carried our sins.

Because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross, in full payment for what your sins deserved, God is now able to grant those who will receive it, a full pardon. The Lord shows us that He is not aloof from suffering. He Himself has taken all and more than many of us deserved upon Himself. He died in place of us and for us. On the cross God revealed His love for us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

If you will believe the truth of what God has done for you, the gift of righteousness and peace along with the Holy Spirit, will flood your mind and heart. He is as near as a prayer. Can you simply speak to Him and tell Him that you need forgiveness for things you have done? Ask Him to come into your life, and receive the free gift of eternal life.

Keith Thomas

Taken from the study that is second from the top in the middle column, Why Did Jesus Die?