When going through a difficult time, some people may say they are experiencing their own ‘personal Gethsemane.’ The truth is, we are treading on holy ground – a unique experience. Only the Saviour ever experienced Gethsemane. Thousands shared the experience of crucifixion, the intense physical suffering. But what no film, no description can truly convey is the suffering our Saviour endured in those hours of darkness. There is nothing like it recorded in human history. We can learn something of the mystery of our Saviour’s experience through the Holy Spirit.
If we look at the setting, our Saviour is coming to the end of three years of ministry. Judas has left the upper room.The Saviour and the remaining disciples go across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus then left most of the disciples at the gate whilst He, Peter, James and John entered the garden. We then have a sudden change, ‘He began to be troubled and distressed.’ (Mark 14:33). We are given a glimpse into our Saviour’s soul – the human Jesus expresses His deep concern to His disciples, ‘Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”’ (Mark 14:34). On every side our Saviour is shut in by distress of soul. He has anguish of soul. The three disciples must have been amazed at what was happening after seeing His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. Here, the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, the Incarnate Son of God is now bowed down in deep distress. You almost feel things can’t be any more heart-rendering than they are. But then ‘He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.’ (Mark 14:35). After only a few steps it seems He is crushed to the ground, pressed into the dust. This anguish lays hold of the whole being of Christ.
What is happening? Why is this experience laying hold of the Saviour? Turn to the Saviour’s prayer in verses 35-36, ‘And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”’ (Mark 14:36). Jesus prayed if it were possible the hour might pass from Him. It’s surely at this point we try to enter into the mystery of the hour. It’s clearly a reference to His death. Jesus always knew He was coming to die for His people. Now He prays to the Father asking for release. What is going on here? His depth of agony doesn’t leave any space for pretence. Does it show an element of weakness? Is He weakening when others have stood firm and given their lives for the gospel? No! He did not fail. As Judas and the authorities came He left willingly. The intense agony of Gethsemane can be explained as we consider verse 36. Jesus prays this prayer which had so much meaning for every Jew. ‘Take this cup away from Me.’ The picture of the cup can refer to joy, ‘I will take up the cup of salvation,’ (Psalm 116:13). But more often, it’s a symbol of judgement and of God’s wrath against sin (Isaiah 51:7, Jeremiah 25). Also in the New Testament, Revelation 14 speaks of the ‘cup of His indignation.’ Here lies, surely, the explanation for the Incarnate God lying crushed in the Garden. He begins to experience the sufferings He alone could endure on the cross. The two thieve endured the physical suffering. What we could not see on the cross we see here – how awful sin is. Our Saviour here looked at the sin which He was to bear on the cross for others, He saw it in its deformity. He sees the wrath of God. His holy soul recoils. That’s what the Saviour experienced here in Gethsemane. He began to experience the cup of wrath, the separation of fellowship with His Father. He begins to experience Hell that He will experience on the cross. He begins to see Hell as His companion as others desert Him. He begins to experience the full horror. So He prays, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”’ (Mark 14:36). But He receives no answer. Heaven is silent. If He didn’t go to Calvary then the cup of wrath would have been drunk by all of mankind. The debt was so great only God could pay it. The life of this one man was so precious it was able to pay the debt. The cup must be drunk to its last drop. Jesus began to experience the eternal sufferings of His people if no-one had died in their place.
The wonder of the experience is having prayed that the cup might be taken away, He goes on to say, ‘Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.’ (Mark 14:36). Jesus came in to the full eternal agreement with the Father. Hebrews declares He learned obedience by the things He suffered. He proved His absolute obedience. Our Lord’s prayers were heard, even though heaven was silent. The Father heard in heaven His Son’s prayers. In three days’ time He answered Him gloriously and raised Him from the dead, triumphant. Now we can sing,
Up from the grave He arose;
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
The glory of the gospel is that faith in Christ brings us to a God of peace, a God of grace in this life and the glory to come. Christ delivers the way, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6). We have a great encouragement here, we have a Saviour who knows what it is to go through life’s darkest experiences. Death is conquered and is but a step to glory. Come in repentance, seek Him. You have a Saviour who has died for you.