"Being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly."
The word agony suggests the contests of the Grecian games, in which the competitors struggled with tremendous exertion, often with the loss of blood, to win the wrestler's prize. Thus our Lord exhorts us to agonize to enter in at the strait gate. The word is now employed to signify either intense bodily pain, or crushing grief of soul.
We behold in Gethsemane a perfectly righteous Man enduring unexampled agony of mind. God, in some mysterious but real sense, is also there in agony. Jesus could say there, as everywhere else, "He who has seen me has seen the Father."
The agony is narrated by Matthew, who partially witnessed it, and who would at once learn from his three fellow-disciples what they had seen and heard. It is also described by Mark, to whom his intimate friend, Peter, would narrate it; and by Luke, intimately acquainted with the disciples, and a fellow-worker. He claims to have had "perfect understanding of all things from the very first." John records the entering into the garden and the Sufferer's word of loving resignation—"The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it," and so confirms the narratives already given. These writers were under the special direction of the Spirit whom Christ promised to "bring all things to their remembrance." The inspired author of the Epistle to the Hebrews supplements their accounts. Putting together these records the full narrative is as follows—
"He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful, greatly amazed, and sore troubled. Then He said unto them, my soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death—abide here and watch with me. And He went forward a little, and was parted from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and fell on the ground on His face, and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass away from Him. And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto You, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not what I will, but what You will. O my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass away from me—nevertheless not as I will but as You will. And He came unto the disciples and found them sleeping, and said unto Peter—What, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation—the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, Your will be done. And He came again and found them sleeping—for their eyes were heavy, and they knew not what to answer Him. And He left them again and went away, and prayed a third time, saying the same words. And there appeared unto Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly. He offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears unto Him who was able to save Him from death. And His sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground. And when He rose up from His prayer He came unto the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, Why are you sleeping? Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation. Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners."
The particulars thus given, with such sublime simplicity, set before us more powerfully than by any human eloquence the depth of this mysterious agony. The obvious depression; the features, tones and words of extreme woe; the retirement with a few; the solitary wrestling in prayer; the kneeling; prostration; the face on the ground; the earnest appeal that a cup so bitter might be taken away; the rising from prayer to His Father in order to seek human sympathy; the returning to His Father and praying more earnestly with tears and strong cryings—in this agony of soul, blood exuding from the pores and tinging the copious sweat of the body; and in this conflict the Sufferer so exhausted, "exceeding sorrowful even unto death," that life might have failed and He might have actually died then and there of a broken heart before the time of His completed sacrifice on the cross, had not an angel come to strengthen Him—surely the "Man of Sorrows," in Gethsemane, surpassed every other sufferer in agony.
Let us, in any garden of grief, think of Him. Jesus, the Son of God, in agony—Jesus, the absolutely perfect Man, in agony! Jesus, with His sensitive body, His vivid mental perception, His loving heart, His enlarged capacity for suffering—He in such agony! Jesus in agony for us! Should not beholding Him lessen the sense of our own grief? Unlike Him, we suffer often by our own folly; and our sorrows are those of sinners, whose stripes are fewer than their faults, and who need the grief as fatherly chastisement for their spiritual culture. "Consider Him, lest you be weary and faint in your minds."
Let the sorrowful seek comfort in the same manner as their Lord. "Being in an agony He prayed the more earnestly." He poured out His grief to God. His Father knew all without His telling, but His telling lessened it. Expressing His sorrow to One who loved Him helped to draw away His mind from the grief itself to the Father who over-ruled it and shared it; who could sustain in it, and deliver from it. Cold philosophy may suggest—"God knows, why tell Him? or, if you tell Him, do it calmly; or if earnestly, why 'more earnestly?'" But human hearts find comfort in expressing their grief to one who sympathizes, and in repeating their requests to one who can help. So let us pray "the more earnestly." More agony—more importunity! More cares—more cries! More pains—more prayers! More sorrow—more sympathy sought—and we shall receive more Divine help to say with Jesus, "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?"
When crushed with care, and sunk in woe,