"This cup."

Human sensitiveness, though explaining in some degree the grief in Gethsemane, is far from fully accounting for the exceeding agony. Some have taught that our Lord's soul was sorrowful even unto death, because the wrath of God was resting on Him as bearing the sin of the world. But this is repugnant to all we are taught of the Father's justice and love, and opposed to the facts detailed. On the Mount of Transfiguration the conversation on "the decease He was to accomplish at Jerusalem" was closed by the Father's voice—"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." That Son so beloved, when about to die, could not be in agony because of the displeasure of Him who was "well pleased." The intercessory prayer just offered had expressed the Savior's joy in finishing His appointed work. His prayer of agony, not as to an angry God, but to His "Father," and His readiness to drink "the cup which His Father had given;" the angel sent from heaven to comfort Him; the strength thus imparted to enable Him to "pray the more earnestly;" and His expressed confidence that had He so desired His Father would send Him more than twelve legions of angels—these facts forbid such an explanation. Dean Alford in his Greek Testament says, "We must not for a moment think of the Father's wrath abiding on Him, as the cause of His suffering. Here is no fear of wrath—but, in the depth of His human anguish, the very tenderness of filial love."

May we not rather infer that the agony was caused by His own sense of the evil of sin? Imperfect men have grieved bitterly for the sins of others. Moses, when he descended from the Mount and witnessed the wickedness of the people, cast down the tables of the Law and broke them—and prayed, "Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—and if not, blot me, I pray you, out of Your book which You have written." The Psalmist said, "Rivers of waters run down my eyes, because they keep not Your law." Jeremiah exclaimed, "O that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears; that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people." Paul, lamenting the unbelief of the Jews, said, "I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were separated from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." How often Christian pastors have grieved for members of their flocks who have made shipwreck of faith, parents for children's sins, and friend for friend. Christians cannot, in their present condition, live in unbroken bliss unless they are callous to the sins and sorrows of others. Wickedness must cause sorrow to benevolent holiness, even when that holiness is defective. How much more must the sin of others have oppressed the sinless Son of Man!

Prophets, apostles, pastors, parents, have mourned for the sins of particular nations, churches, families, at particular periods. But, to the all-observant soul of Jesus, all the sins, of all mankind, of all ages, in all regions; sins of which history has no record; sins which could not be depicted or described; sins beyond all reckoning both in number and degree; secret as well as open sins, of heart as well as action, with all their varied aggravations and consequences—these were all and at once present to His holy and compassionate mental vision, causing agony beyond any mere human capacity to understand. More than this, He was the Representative of our race, and came to bear our sins as well as our sorrows. He could not be personally guilty, being "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners;" but as our High Priest the sins of the race had been, as it were, confided to Him. He carried them on His heart. He confessed them to God. He offered atonement and intercession for them. "He bore our sins in His own body on the tree," and in Gethsemane also.

"We must not pass over the last and deepest mystery of the Passion—the consideration that upon the holy and innocent Lamb of God rested the burden of all human sin—that to Him, death, as the punishment of sin, bore a dark and dreadful meaning, inconceivable by any of us, whose inner will is tainted by the love of sin." (Dean Alford.) Thus the "Son of David" fulfilled the Psalmist's words, "Innumerable evils have compassed me about—my iniquities" (the iniquities of humanity, of His brethren, becoming His by His fellowship with them; for surely He has borne our sins) "have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head—therefore my heart fails me. There is no rest in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities are gone over my head—as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly" (Ps. 40:12; 38:1-6). "My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death."

In the case of this Sufferer, Divine purity was incarnated in a frail human body, which had come into close contact with sin. Absolute perfection was brought near to absolute depravity in its blackest phase—the approaching murder of the Just One, revealing intense hatred of goodness, cruel repulse of love, resolute rebellion against God. As a person in perfect health might be shocked when brought into a crowded fever or small-pox ward, when the habitual attendants, accustomed to the signs of sickness and the polluted air, might not suffer; as one coming out of the bright sunshine into a darkened room feels it to be blackness, while those dwelling there can see around them; as a virtuous woman would shrink with revulsion from the talk and the conduct of the utterly fallen and shameless—far more must the absolute Perfection of Divine holiness be in agony when brought face to face with deadliest depravity.

Besides this, Divine love was brought into the presence of human misery. The holy God, hating sin, was the merciful God, loving the sinner; and therefore grieved because of the evils sin was bringing on its victims. He who wept over Jerusalem, foreseeing the calamities their crime would bring on them, was grieving now for the self-same reason. Knowing all the evils sin entails in the present life, all the woes it causes in the future, all the damage it does to the immortal nature itself—how could Divine love do otherwise than grieve? If He had compassion on the lepers and the blind, if He felt for the weary and hungry, much more would He feel for the infinitely greater calamities and sorrows of sinners. This agony was a necessary result of Christ being both Son of God and Son of Man. Incarnate Holiness was shocked—Incarnate Love was grieved. "The chastity of His pure feeling recoils with horror from the hell-gulf of wrong and wild judicial madness into which He is now descending; and the love He has for His enemies brings a burden of concern upon His heart that oppresses, and for the time well-near crushes Him." (Bushnell)

Bishop Pearson, in his Exposition of the Creed, with admirable force and condensation, says—"We may know thus much, that the griefs He felt were incomparably beyond all of which any man is capable. 'He began to be sorrowful, sore amazed, and very heavy,' words which come far short of the original, which signifies not only excess of sorrow, but such as brings consternation, bowing the soul under the pressure of it—signifies the highest degree of horror and amazement, even unto stupefaction—anguish in excess. The occasion of the grief will manifest the bitterness thereof—for God 'laid on His own Son the iniquities of us all;' and as we are obliged to sorrow for our own particular sins, so was He grieved for the sins of us all. If, then, we consider the perfection of His knowledge—He understood all the sins for which He suffered; all the evil and the guilt; all the offence against the majesty, and ingratitude against the goodness of God, which was contained in all those sins. If we look upon His absolute conformity to the will of God—He was inflamed with most ardent love; He was most zealous of His glory; and most studious to preserve that right which was so highly violated by those sins. If we look on His relation to men—He loved them all far more than they did themselves; and knew those sins were sufficient to bring eternal destruction on their souls and bodies—He considered them whom He so much loved as lying under the wrath of God, whom He so truly worshiped. If we consider all these circumstances, we cannot wonder at that grief. For if the true condition of one single sinner, only for his own iniquities, cannot be without great bitterness of sorrow, what bounds can we set unto that anguish which proceeds from a full apprehension of all the transgressions of so many millions of sinners?"

David was in agony of soul for sin, not so much because of the consequences to himself as of dishonor to God, saying—"Against You, You only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight." It appalled him to think of his secret sins being set before God in the light of His countenance. What must it have been for Jesus, the Holy One of God, to have all the sins of mankind set before His soul, as their Representative! Taking their sins and sorrows on Himself as Mediator, and in this sense making them His own, He fulfilled the words of the Prophet—"Surely He has borne our sins and carried our sorrows." "He who knew no sin was made sin for us." "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." "He bore our sins in his own body." (Ps. 40:12; Is. 53; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:24.)

This soul-agony was intensified by association with His infirm humanity. Even the most robust human frame could ill sustain the anguish of so great a heart—how much less a frame the most sensitive! The horror of Divine holiness at such sin, the grief of Divine love at such misery, were felt though a human brain and thrilled a human body. Was not this enough to cause the groans and the blood-sweat?

"That this Divine, suffering sensibility should not fearfully wrench, and burden even to crushing, the human vehicle it occupies, is scarcely credible. A suffering that exceeds the proportions of the vehicle must needs appear by violent symptoms—even as a powerful engine in a frail, light-timbered vessel must needs make it groan heavily, or shake it even to wreck. What then is the fact? Is there any sensibility in God that can suffer? Nothing is more certain. He could not be good, having evil in His dominions, without suffering even according to His goodness. For what is goodness but a perfect feeling? And what is a perfect feeling but that which feels towards every wrong and misery, according to its nature?" (Bushnell.)

But it may be asked, Why should the everlasting Son of the Father assume the frail humanity which involved such special suffering? Why, Himself guiltless, endure agony deserved by the most guilty? Why might not man be saved without such divine sorrow? We presume not to argue from what we may conceive as having been necessary, and so deduce the fact; but we take the fact as revealed, and so conclude that it must have been necessary to secure the best results for the salvation of man and the glory of God. We may infer what is abundantly verified by the Word of God, that no remedy for man's sin and misery, no vindication of Divine righteousness, no manifestation of Divine love, no effectual influence on man's heart to make him holy and happy, no method of promoting the greatest happiness of the greatest number, the welfare of the universe and the manifestation of God, could have been so well provided.

"Why are You cast down, blessed Jesus, and why disturbed? Certainly it was nothing of despair or distrust of the Father, much less any conflict or struggle with Him. He engaged in an encounter with the powers of darkness. Now the serpent makes his fiercest onset on the seed of the woman, and directs his sting, the sting of death, to His very heart. The sufferings were for our sins; they were all made to meet upon Him, and he knew it." (M. Henry.)

But this is not our present subject. Holy Scripture, in its simple but emphatic words, best answers the question. Gethsemane fulfills the ancient prediction—"Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." He Himself declared, "I lay down my life for the sheep. The Son of Man came to give His life a ransom for many. This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins." This is the explanation of the Apostles, "Christ has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God. Christ has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. He is the propitiation for our sins. He gave Himself a ransom for all. He laid down His life for us. The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." Heaven confirms this explanation—"Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." (Isa. 53; Mark 10:45; John 10:15; Matt. 26:28; Eph. 5:2; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 1:7, 2:2; 1 Tim. 2:6; Rev. 1:5, 6.)

The blood shed for man's salvation was not only that which streamed from His wounds on the Cross, but also the mysterious pre-libation in Gethsemane, which the agony of the soul forced from the pores of the skin without external violence. The atoning death, completed on the Cross, began in the Garden. Physical pain was chiefly exhibited at Calvary; mental and spiritual pain, the deepest agony, in Gethsemane. There He poured out His blood for us; there "He carried our sorrows."

Let those who are in the Garden of Grief pluck some of the olive leaves of healing which grow in this Gethsemane.

Be comforted by the assurance of pardon.—The horror of Christ's holy soul shows that sin is unspeakably hateful. We may well mourn because of our own guilt when He who knew no sin so mourned for that of others. The more we know of Christ the more we shall know our exceeding sinfulness, the burden of which would be intolerable but for this sacrifice. In the Garden He was offering what He completed on the Cross—"A full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world." (Book of Common Prayer—Holy Communion.) If sin is our chief sorrow, remission of sin by Christ is our chief comfort. If sin inflicts the deadliest wounds, the healing leaves of the agony applied by faith effect the cure. "Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven; go into peace." "The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations."

Be comforted by help obtained to conquer sinfulness.—If we really believe in Christ we shall share His detestation of evil. Love to Him who forgives us at so great a cost will promote hatred of that which caused His agony. The power of sin in us; the struggles it costs us, and our failures; the dishonor thus cast on Christ; the injury to His cause and to our fellow-men; above all, the grieving the Holy Spirit of Jesus by disobedience or neglect; any failure of return of love to Him whose love to us is so unspeakably great—surely sin, not so much for its penalties but for itself, should be our chief sorrow. As a farm-laborer, dying in extreme agony, said to the writer, in response to words of sympathy, "My biggest pain is ever to have sinned against my dear Lord Jesus." Love to Him who for us endured agony, and resemblance to Him in abhorrence of sin, will help us to say, "Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Such victory over sin is consolation indeed.

Be comforted by sharing Christ's love for sinners.—To feel for others is a remedy against engrossing grief for ourselves. Let us think of those who are ignorant of our source of comfort, and instruct them. Let us pity those who are exposed to the woes which sin entails, and pray for them. Let us more tenderly carry the sins and griefs of others, and we shall feel less the burden of our own.

Christ both knows our sorrows and actually sympathizes in them.—He is with us in our Garden of Grief. "In all their affliction He was afflicted." He knows our sorrows better than even our nearest earthly friend. He who sought His chosen disciples for sympathy comes to us as our Brother, holding us with a hand human as well as Divine—"I am with you always. I will never, never leave you; no, I will never, never forsake you."

GETHSEMANE! most holy place,
 With unshod feet I turn to thee;
With weeping eyes and reverent pace,
 Human, Divine, Gethsemane!

O Man of Sorrows, why that groan,
 That bloody sweat of agony;
Prostrate, convulsed, o'erwhelmed, alone,
 In death-shades of Gethsemane?

Divine perfection sank aghast,
 Fronted by man's depravity;
Its basest token, blackest, last,
 The murder near Gethsemane.

Divine Compassion grieved for men,
 The death by sin, the misery;
He bore our guilt and sorrow then,
 In awful, dark Gethsemane.

Unspotted Goodness, crushed by guilt;
 Heart-broken Love, by enmity;
More than Your blood by sinners spilt
 Combined in Your Gethsemane.

O Sacrifice for sinners' sin!
 Priest perfected for sympathy!
Who did by grief salvation win,
 We bless You for Gethsemane.

O You whose agony of love
 The deadly burden bore for me,
Look down with pity from above,
 And save through Your Gethsemane.
—Newman Hall

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