[This chapter is based on
Matt. 26:36-56; Mark 14:32-50; Luke 22:39-53; John 18:1-12.]
In company with His disciples, the Saviour slowly made His way to the
garden of Gethsemane. The Passover moon, broad and full, shone from a
cloudless sky. The city of pilgrims' tents was hushed into silence.
Jesus had been earnestly conversing with His disciples and
instructing them; but as He neared Gethsemane, He became strangely
silent. He had often visited this spot for meditation and prayer; but
never with a heart so full of sorrow as upon this night of His last
agony. Throughout His life on earth He had walked in the light of God's
presence. When in conflict with men who were inspired by the very spirit
of Satan, He could say, "He that sent Me is with Me: the Father
hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please
Him." John 8:29. But now He seemed to be shut out from the light of
God's sustaining presence. Now He was numbered with the transgressors.
The guilt of fallen humanity He must bear. Upon Him who knew no sin must
be laid the iniquity of us all. So dreadful does sin appear to Him, so
great is the weight of guilt which He must bear, that He is tempted to
fear it will shut Him out forever from His Father's love. Feeling how
terrible is the wrath of God against transgression, He exclaims,
"My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death."
As they approached the garden, the disciples had marked the change
that came over their Master. Never before had they seen Him so utterly
sad and silent. As He proceeded, this strange sadness deepened; yet they
dared not question Him as to the cause. His form swayed as if He were
about to fall. Upon reaching the garden, the disciples looked anxiously
for His usual place of retirement, that their Master might rest. Every
step that He now took was with labored effort. He groaned aloud, as if
suffering under the pressure of a terrible burden. Twice His companions
supported Him, or He would have fallen to the earth.
Near the entrance to the garden, Jesus left all but three of the
disciples, bidding them pray for themselves and for Him. With Peter,
James, and John, He entered its secluded recesses. These three disciples
were Christ's closest companions. They had beheld His glory on the mount
of transfiguration; they had seen Moses and Elijah talking with Him;
they had heard the voice from heaven; now in His great struggle, Christ
desired their presence near Him. Often they had passed the night with
Him in this retreat. On these occasions, after a season of watching and
prayer, they would sleep undisturbed at a little distance from their
Master, until He awoke them in the morning to go forth anew to labor.
But now He desired them to spend the night with Him in prayer. Yet He
could not bear that even they should witness the agony He was to endure.
"Tarry ye here," He said, "and watch with Me."
He went a little distance from them--not so far but that they could
both see and hear Him--and fell prostrate upon the ground. He felt that
by sin He was being separated from His Father. The gulf was so broad, so
black, so deep, that His spirit shuddered before it. This agony He must
not exert His divine power to escape. As man He must suffer the
consequences of man's sin. As man He must endure the wrath of God
Christ was now standing in a different attitude from that in which He
had ever stood before. His suffering can best be described in the words
of the prophet, "Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, and against
the man that is My fellow, saith the Lord of hosts." Zech. 13:7. As
the substitute and surety for sinful man, Christ was suffering under
divine justice. He saw what justice meant. Hitherto He had been as an
intercessor for others; now He longed to have an intercessor for
As Christ felt His unity with the Father broken up, He feared that in
His human nature He would be unable to endure the coming conflict with
the powers of darkness. In the wilderness of temptation the destiny of
the human race had been at stake. Christ was then conqueror. Now the
tempter had come for the last fearful struggle. For this he had been
preparing during the three years of Christ's ministry. Everything was at
stake with him. If he failed here, his hope of mastery was lost; the
kingdoms of the world would finally become Christ's; he himself would be
overthrown and cast out. But if Christ could be overcome, the earth
would become Satan's kingdom, and the human race would be forever in his
power. With the issues of the conflict before Him, Christ's soul was
filled with dread of separation from God. Satan told Him that if He
became the surety for a sinful world, the separation would be eternal.
He would be identified with Satan's kingdom, and would nevermore be one
And what was to be gained by this sacrifice? How hopeless appeared
the guilt and ingratitude of men! In its hardest features Satan pressed
the situation upon the Redeemer: The people who claim to be above all
others in temporal and spiritual advantages have rejected You. They are
seeking to destroy You, the foundation, the center and seal of the
promises made to them as a peculiar people. One of Your own disciples,
who has listened to Your instruction, and has been among the foremost in
church activities, will betray You. One of Your most zealous followers
will deny You. All will forsake You. Christ's whole being abhorred the
thought. That those whom He had undertaken to save, those whom He loved
so much, should unite in the plots of Satan, this pierced His soul. The
conflict was terrible. Its measure was the guilt of His nation, of His
accusers and betrayer, the guilt of a world lying in wickedness. The
sins of men weighed heavily upon Christ, and the sense of God's wrath
against sin was crushing out His life.
Behold Him contemplating the price to be paid for the human soul. In
His agony He clings to the cold ground, as if to prevent Himself from
being drawn farther from God. The chilling dew of night falls upon His
prostrate form, but He heeds it not. From His pale lips comes the bitter
cry, "O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from
Me." Yet even now He adds, "Nevertheless not as I will, but as
The human heart longs for sympathy in suffering. This longing Christ
felt to the very depths of His being. In the supreme agony of His soul
He came to His disciples with a yearning desire to hear some words of
comfort from those whom He had so often blessed and comforted, and
shielded in sorrow and distress. The One who had always had words of
sympathy for them was now suffering superhuman agony, and He longed to
know that they were praying for Him and for themselves.
How dark seemed the malignity of sin! Terrible was the temptation to
let the human race bear the consequences of its own guilt, while He
stood innocent before God. If He could only know that His disciples
understood and appreciated this, He would be strengthened.
Rising with painful effort, He staggered to the place where He had
left His companions. But He "findeth them asleep." Had He
found them praying, He would have been relieved. Had they been seeking
refuge in God, that satanic agencies might not prevail over them, He
would have been comforted by their steadfast faith. But they had not
heeded the repeated warning, "Watch and pray." At first they
had been much troubled to see their Master, usually so calm and
dignified, wrestling with a sorrow that was beyond comprehension. They
had prayed as they heard the strong cries of the sufferer. They did not
intend to forsake their Lord, but they seemed paralyzed by a stupor
which they might have shaken off if they had continued pleading with
God. They did not realize the necessity of watchfulness and earnest
prayer in order to withstand temptation.
Just before He bent His footsteps to the garden, Jesus had said to
the disciples, "All ye shall be offended because of Me this
night." They had given Him the strongest assurance that they would
go with Him to prison and to death. And poor, self-sufficient Peter had
added, "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I." Mark
14:27, 29. But the disciples trusted to themselves. They did not look to
the mighty Helper as Christ had counseled them to do. Thus when the
Saviour was most in need of their sympathy and prayers, they were found
asleep. Even Peter was sleeping.
And John, the loving disciple who had leaned upon the breast of
Jesus, was asleep. Surely, the love of John for his Master should have
kept him awake. His earnest prayers should have mingled with those of
his loved Saviour in the time of His supreme sorrow. The Redeemer had
spent entire nights praying for His disciples, that their faith might
not fail. Should Jesus now put to James and John the question He had
once asked them, "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall
drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized
with?" they would not have ventured to answer, "We are
able." Matt. 20:22.
The disciples awakened at the voice of Jesus, but they hardly knew
Him, His face was so changed by anguish. Addressing Peter, Jesus said,
"Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye
and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but
the flesh is weak." The weakness of His disciples awakened the
sympathy of Jesus. He feared that they would not be able to endure the
test which would come upon them in His betrayal and death. He did not
reprove them, but said, "Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into
temptation." Even in His great agony, He was seeking to excuse
their weakness. "The spirit truly is ready," He said,
"but the flesh is weak."
Again the Son of God was seized with superhuman agony, and fainting
and exhausted, He staggered back to the place of His former struggle.
His suffering was even greater than before. As the agony of soul came
upon Him, "His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling
down to the ground." The cypress and palm trees were the silent
witnesses of His anguish. From their leafy branches dropped heavy dew
upon His stricken form, as if nature wept over its Author wrestling
alone with the powers of darkness.
A short time before, Jesus had stood like a mighty cedar,
withstanding the storm of opposition that spent its fury upon Him.
Stubborn wills, and hearts filled with malice and subtlety, had striven
in vain to confuse and overpower Him. He stood forth in divine majesty
as the Son of God. Now He was like a reed beaten and bent by the angry
storm. He had approached the consummation of His work a conqueror,
having at each step gained the victory over the powers of darkness. As
one already glorified, He had claimed oneness with God. In unfaltering
accents He had poured out His songs of praise. He had spoken to His
disciples in words of courage and tenderness. Now had come the hour of
the power of darkness. Now His voice was heard on the still evening air,
not in tones of triumph, but full of human anguish. The words of the
Saviour were borne to the ears of the drowsy disciples, "O My
Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy
will be done."
The first impulse of the disciples was to go to Him; but He had
bidden them tarry there, watching unto prayer. When Jesus came to them,
He found them still sleeping. Again He had felt a longing for
companionship, for some words from His disciples which would bring
relief, and break the spell of darkness that well-nigh overpowered Him.
But their eyes were heavy; "neither wist they what to answer
Him." His presence aroused them. They saw His face marked with the
bloody sweat of agony, and they were filled with fear. His anguish of
mind they could not understand. "His visage was so marred more than
any man, and His form more than the sons of men." Isa. 52:14.
Turning away, Jesus sought again His retreat, and fell prostrate,
overcome by the horror of a great darkness. The humanity of the Son of
God trembled in that trying hour. He prayed not now for His disciples
that their faith might not fail, but for His own tempted, agonized soul.
The awful moment had come--that moment which was to decide the destiny
of the world. The fate of humanity trembled in the balance. Christ might
even now refuse to drink the cup apportioned to guilty man. It was not
yet too late. He might wipe the bloody sweat from His brow, and leave
man to perish in his iniquity. He might say, Let the transgressor
receive the penalty of his sin, and I will go back to My Father. Will
the Son of God drink the bitter cup of humiliation and agony? Will the
innocent suffer the consequences of the curse of sin, to save the
guilty? The words fall tremblingly from the pale lips of Jesus, "O
My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy
will be done."
Three times has He uttered that prayer. Three times has humanity
shrunk from the last, crowning sacrifice. But now the history of the
human race comes up before the world's Redeemer. He sees that the
transgressors of the law, if left to themselves, must perish. He sees
the helplessness of man. He sees the power of sin. The woes and
lamentations of a doomed world rise before Him. He beholds its impending
fate, and His decision is made. He will save man at any cost to Himself.
He accepts His baptism of blood, that through Him perishing millions may
gain everlasting life. He has left the courts of heaven, where all is
purity, happiness, and glory, to save the one lost sheep, the one world
that has fallen by transgression. And He will not turn from His mission.
He will become the propitiation of a race that has willed to sin. His
prayer now breathes only submission: "If this cup may not pass away
from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done."
Having made the decision, He fell dying to the ground from which He
had partially risen. Where now were His disciples, to place their hands
tenderly beneath the head of their fainting Master, and bathe that brow,
marred indeed more than the sons of men? The Saviour trod the wine press
alone, and of the people there was none with Him.
But God suffered with His Son. Angels beheld the Saviour's agony.
They saw their Lord enclosed by legions of satanic forces, His nature
weighed down with a shuddering, mysterious dread. There was silence in
heaven. No harp was touched. Could mortals have viewed the amazement of
the angelic host as in silent grief they watched the Father separating
His beams of light, love, and glory from His beloved Son, they would
better understand how offensive in His sight is sin.
The worlds unfallen and the heavenly angels had watched with intense
interest as the conflict drew to its close. Satan and his confederacy of
evil, the legions of apostasy, watched intently this great crisis in the
work of redemption. The powers of good and evil waited to see what
answer would come to Christ's thrice-repeated prayer. Angels had longed
to bring relief to the divine sufferer, but this might not be. No way of
escape was found for the Son of God. In this awful crisis, when
everything was at stake, when the mysterious cup trembled in the hand of
the sufferer, the heavens opened, a light shone forth amid the stormy
darkness of the crisis hour, and the mighty angel who stands in God's
presence, occupying the position from which Satan fell, came to the side
of Christ. The angel came not to take the cup from Christ's hand, but to
strengthen Him to drink it, with the assurance of the Father's love. He
came to give power to the divine-human suppliant. He pointed Him to the
open heavens, telling Him of the souls that would be saved as the result
of His sufferings. He assured Him that His Father is greater and more
powerful than Satan, that His death would result in the utter
discomfiture of Satan, and that the kingdom of this world would be given
to the saints of the Most High. He told Him that He would see of the
travail of His soul, and be satisfied, for He would see a multitude of
the human race saved, eternally saved.
Christ's agony did not cease, but His depression and discouragement
left Him. The storm had in nowise abated, but He who was its object was
strengthened to meet its fury. He came forth calm and serene. A heavenly
peace rested upon His bloodstained face. He had borne that which no
human being could ever bear; for He had tasted the sufferings of death
for every man.
The sleeping disciples had been suddenly awakened by the light
surrounding the Saviour. They saw the angel bending over their prostrate
Master. They saw him lift the Saviour's head upon his bosom, and point
toward heaven. They heard his voice, like sweetest music, speaking words
of comfort and hope. The disciples recalled the scene upon the mount of
transfiguration. They remembered the glory that in the temple had
encircled Jesus, and the voice of God that spoke from the cloud. Now
that same glory was again revealed, and they had no further fear for
their Master. He was under the care of God; a mighty angel had been sent
to protect Him. Again the disciples in their weariness yield to the
strange stupor that overpowers them. Again Jesus finds them sleeping.
Looking sorrowfully upon them He says, "Sleep on now, and take
your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed
into the hands of sinners."
Even as He spoke these words, He heard the footsteps of the mob in
search of Him, and said, "Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at
hand that doth betray Me."
No traces of His recent agony were visible as Jesus stepped forth to
meet His betrayer. Standing in advance of His disciples He said,
"Whom seek ye?" They answered, "Jesus of Nazareth."
Jesus replied, "I am He." As these words were spoken, the
angel who had lately ministered to Jesus moved between Him and the mob.
A divine light illuminated the Saviour's face, and a dovelike form
overshadowed Him. In the presence of this divine glory, the murderous
throng could not stand for a moment. They staggered back. Priests,
elders, soldiers, and even Judas, fell as dead men to the ground.
The angel withdrew, and the light faded away. Jesus had opportunity
to escape, but He remained, calm and self-possessed. As one glorified He
stood in the midst of that hardened band, now prostrate and helpless at
His feet. The disciples looked on, silent with wonder and awe.
But quickly the scene changed. The mob started up. The Roman
soldiers, the priests and Judas, gathered about Christ. They seemed
ashamed of their weakness, and fearful that He would yet escape. Again
the question was asked by the Redeemer, "Whom seek ye?" They
had had evidence that He who stood before them was the Son of God, but
they would not be convinced. To the question, "Whom seek ye?"
again they answered, "Jesus of Nazareth." The Saviour then
said, "I have told you that I am He: if therefore ye seek Me, let
these go their way"--pointing to the disciples. He knew how weak
was their faith, and He sought to shield them from temptation and trial.
For them He was ready to sacrifice Himself.
Judas the betrayer did not forget the part he was to act. When the
mob entered the garden, he had led the way, closely followed by the high
priest. To the pursuers of Jesus he had given a sign, saying,
"Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He: hold Him fast."
Matt. 26:48. Now he pretends to have no part with them. Coming close to
Jesus, he takes His hand as a familiar friend. With the words,
"Hail, Master," he kisses Him repeatedly, and appears to weep
as if in sympathy with Him in His peril.
Jesus said to him, "Friend, wherefore art thou come?" His
voice trembled with sorrow as He added, "Judas, betrayest thou the
Son of man with a kiss?" This appeal should have aroused the
conscience of the betrayer, and touched his stubborn heart; but honor,
fidelity, and human tenderness had forsaken him. He stood bold and
defiant, showing no disposition to relent. He had given himself up to
Satan, and he had no power to resist him. Jesus did not refuse the
The mob grew bold as they saw Judas touch the person of Him who had
so recently been glorified before their eyes. They now laid hold of
Jesus, and proceeded to bind those precious hands that had ever been
employed in doing good.
The disciples had thought that their Master would not suffer Himself
to be taken. For the same power that had caused the mob to fall as dead
men could keep them helpless, until Jesus and His companions should
escape. They were disappointed and indignant as they saw the cords
brought forward to bind the hands of Him whom they loved. Peter in his
anger rashly drew his sword and tried to defend his Master, but he only
cut off an ear of the high priest's servant. When Jesus saw what was
done, He released His hands, though held firmly by the Roman soldiers,
and saying, "Suffer ye thus far," He touched the wounded ear,
and it was instantly made whole. He then said to Peter, "Put up
again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall
perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My
Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of
angels?"--a legion in place of each one of the disciples. Oh, why,
the disciples thought, does He not save Himself and us? Answering their
unspoken thought, He added, "But how then shall the scriptures be
fulfilled, that thus it must be?" "The cup which My Father
hath given Me, shall I not drink it?"
The official dignity of the Jewish leaders had not prevented them
from joining in the pursuit of Jesus. His arrest was too important a
matter to be trusted to subordinates; the wily priests and elders had
joined the temple police and the rabble in following Judas to
Gethsemane. What a company for those dignitaries to unite with--a mob
that was eager for excitement, and armed with all kinds of implements,
as if in pursuit of a wild beast!
Turning to the priests and elders, Christ fixed upon them His
searching glance. The words He spoke they would never forget as long as
life should last. They were as the sharp arrows of the Almighty. With
dignity He said: You come out against Me with swords and staves as you
would against a thief or a robber. Day by day I sat teaching in the
temple. You had every opportunity of laying hands upon Me, and you did
nothing. The night is better suited to your work. "This is your
hour, and the power of darkness."
The disciples were terrified as they saw Jesus permit Himself to be
taken and bound. They were offended that He should suffer this
humiliation to Himself and them. They could not understand His conduct,
and they blamed Him for submitting to the mob. In their indignation and
fear, Peter proposed that they save themselves. Following this
suggestion, "they all forsook Him, and fled." But Christ had
foretold this desertion, "Behold," He had said, "the hour
cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his
own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the
Father is with Me." John 16:32.
[ Back ] [ Up ] [ Next ]