Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
(Matthew 26:36-46 ESV)
After finishing His final Passover meal with His disciples (known as The Last Supper), Jesus takes the eleven remaining disciples to a place called Gethsemane. The Aramaic word “gethsemane” means “olive press”. It was probably an olive grove where olives were crushed in a large vat and pressed-over with a large stone in order to release their oil.
Just like the olives that were crushed in this garden in order to access their oil, Jesus’ soul was “crushed” there too. He says that His soul was very sorrowful, even to death. The Greek word Matthew uses for “sorrowful” here is very intense. It describes a sorrow that cannot be surpassed. There are a few reasons for this.
First, Jesus was alone. Judas had departed the group and was in the process of betraying Him. The remaining disciples were of no help, as we’ll learn tomorrow. Also, Jesus knew what lay ahead for Him.
Within a few hours Jesus would be beaten within inches of His life. He would then have nails driven through His wrists and feet and left to hang on a cross to die. But as bad as the physical torture would be, Jesus would face something far worse: the sins of the billions and billions of people who have walked this earth would be placed upon Him and He would pay the penalty for each and every one of them.
Jesus was holy. He was God’s own Son who resided with Him in heaven. He had not one drop of sin in Him. Up until this point in His life He knew nothing but complete and perfect harmony with God. But He was about to face the penalty for sin – complete abandonment by God [Matthew 27:46].
It was this cup which Jesus asked His Father to let pass from Him, if possible. The fact that Jesus did go to the cross tells us that there was no other way. Sure Jesus could have refused to go. Or God could have prevented it from happening. But then there would be no forgiveness of sins available to you and me. The only way possible for my sins and your sins to be forgiven was for Jesus to shed His own blood and be forsaken by God in our place.
You and I are up to our eyeballs in sin and should be the ones God abandons. But we can avoid this since Jesus placed God’s will ahead of His own. Rather than take the selfish, self-preserving way out, Jesus sacrificially went to the cross so that those who accept God’s offer of forgiveness can enter heaven [John 3:3, 16; Acts 4:10]. There is no other way.
Jesus knew how horrible it is to be separated from God. That is why His soul was being crushed in Gethsemane. He was going to go through the worst possible experience a human being could go through. This passage should open our eyes to the horrific reality of hell which, be definition, is the eternal separation from God.
If the prospect of being abandoned by God distressed Jesus to the point He sweated drops of blood [Luke 22:44] – a rare, but real, phenomenon known as hematohidrosis – it should scare us too such that we, like Jesus, give up our own will for God’s. That is the only way to save one’s soul.
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