Yesterday, I began to unpack the most uncomfortable scene in the New Testament. (See yesterday’s blog here). In the gospels we’re regularly confronted with the tremendous power and dignity of Christ who was the judge of the earth, the eternal Son of God. He is the absolutely assured of His sonship to the father yet he trembles at death with more fear than humans much weaker than him. He is different than we have ever seen him and if we think about it, it bothers us. More on this scene…
Jesus led them to a place called Gethsemane, a place that was a familiar hangout for him and the disciples, not to conceal himself but so the betrayer could easily find him as The Savior had made a voluntary rendezvous with Death. Then Jesus began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” (cf. Mark 14:32ff)
Jesus has talked about his death before without a display of grief or sorrow, but now his secret feelings are abundantly displayed. There is a terror that strikes his mind that appears inconsistent with the divine glory of Christ. How could the Christ be seized with trembling and sadness?
We shouldn’t be ashamed that our Savior should experience fear and sorrow because Christ has taken on the total reality of the incarnation, not just an appearance of it. Christ must take on grief that he might overcome it so that through trust in Him, grief and sorrow would not overwhelm us. Ambrose, one of the early church Fathers says this,
“I not only don’t think that there is any need of excuse, but there is no instance in which I admire more his kindness and his majesty; for he wouldn’t have done so much for me, if he had not taken upon him my feelings. He grieved for me, who had no cause of grief for himself; and laying aside the delights of the eternal godhead, he experiences the affliction of my weakness.”
But he doesn’t want to face this experience. There is something more at stake here for Jesus as we peak back into the scene in the garden, “And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.” Jesus was deeply affected by grief and sorrow, seized with anguish, trembling, collapsing, sweating profusely, later fainting half-dead with sorrow and as Luke reports, perspiring with the most severe anxiety with sweat like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44). A darkness comes over his eyes, He is sinking, He is breaking even before the flogging and crucifixion. The very anticipation and foretaste of what he is about to experience throws his soul into violent agony.
But why the agony when so many others have faced death with courage?