The Agonizing Saviour

The Lord’s agonizing prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is recorded in the gospel of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The gospel of John however did not record the Lord’s travail during prayers to His Father in heaven. In fact even the name of the garden was omitted. The other three gospel accounts vividly described the Lord’s agony and travail when He prayed before heading to the cross of Calvary.

This was the end stage where Lord was dealing with His calling and mission to come into this world for the express purpose to save sinners from their sins. As the drama for the redemption of fallen men was heading into its epilogue, the intensity of the Lord’s conflict and sorrows became manifest just prior to His arrest and subsequent road to Golgotha Hill for His eventual crucifixion.

Matthew 26:36: Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.

Matthew 26:37: And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.

Matthew 26:38: Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

Matthew 26:39: And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

Matthew 26:40: And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?

Matthew 26:41: Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Matthew 26:42: 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, thy will be done.

Matthew 26:43: And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.

Matthew 26:44: And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

Matthew 26:45: Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Throughout the Lord’s earthly ministry, He had never been exposed to be weak other than prior to entering the ministry during the forty days fasting tempted by Satan. The heart wrenching episode here before the Lord went to the cross fully manifested the severe burden with regard to the Lord’s mission to save lost sinners. Never had the Lord asked His disciples to keep Him company and share His burden and sorrows other than during this occasion.

The Lord’s request was reasonable and even very simple. It was not something requiring enormous resources or exceptional effort. It was simply just to watch the Lord while He prayed. Yet they failed Him!

The disciples failure was really tragic. In fact, they failed the Lord on three consecutive occasions in that short time span. Whatever happened to their empty boasting just prior to this incident in the garden of Gethsemane?

Matthew 26:30: And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

Matthew 26:31: Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.

Matthew 26:32: But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.

Matthew 26:33: Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.

Matthew 26:34: Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

Matthew 26:35: Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

Peter boasted he would be the last man standing even when everyone else denied the Lord. He went as far as claiming he would give up his life for the Lord. But he could not even stay awake to watch over the Lord during His time of need.

So when the Lord found them asleep, He spoke to Peter who boasted earlier and still Peter could not rise to the occasion. He was asleep again when the Lord returned the second time after pouring His heart out to His Father in heaven.

The Lord already told Peter he would deny Him three times before the cock crow. Right here Peter had already failed the Lord three times. Of course the rest was history when he denied he knew the Lord three times after the Lord was arrested and being judged by the religious authority of the day.

Likewise the other disciples who also boasted they would not deny the Lord and would die for Him also failed completely. This illustrated how weak human flesh is! Hence the Psalmist advice is always current.

Psalms 118:8: It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.

Even before the Lord began praying, He already told His disciples He was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. Didn’t they get the message? Did they empathize with the Lord? That was before they fell asleep.

Their earlier response concerning the revelation of the disciples’ betrayal and denial was met with strong response. But this time, there was no response at all. Their silence was deafening!

The Lord’s simple request that they tarry and watch Him pray fell on deaf ears. The intensity of the Lord’s grief and sorrows during prayers was vividly described by Luke concerning the same incident.

Luke 22:44: And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

The Lord’s perspiration was as it were great drops of blood falling on the ground. The viscosity of His sweat was like heavy bleeding. The Lord’s heart was pounding so hard and fast during such agony in earnest prayer. So we have records in the Book of Hebrews what the Lord went through.

Hebrews 12:3: For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

Hebrews 12:4: Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

It was night time and wasn’t hot at all in the garden. With such bloody perspiration, the Lord’s prayers must be so intense and agonizing that even without physical exertion, He became so heavy and weak. Hence when the Lord endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, resisting sin unto blood was an understatement.

In the past, praying was easy as breathing. The Lord could just ask His Father in heaven and response was immediate and effective. The raising of Lazarus was a case in point. Casting out devils was effortless. Healing the sick was as easy as flipping the palm. Calming a storm was simply rebuking the wind and it was done.

But now in the garden of Gethsemane, it was a very different scenario. The Lord had never had to pray this hard. He even requested His three closest disciples to watch while He prayed. The Lord’s agony was so intense it was mentioned an angel from heaven came to strengthen Him.

Luke 22:43: And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

The Lord’s tribulation here was so severe that while His closest chosen men failed Him, heaven intervened with the presence of an angel during this occasion. Perhaps the Lord’s intense agony and sufferings were not meant to be seen by fallen men.

The Lord knew what exactly was coming. Many years later Paul wrote:

2 Corinthians 5:21: For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

God the Father was going to make His Son who knew no sin to be sin for sinners. Such terrible trials and tribulations are unfathomable and beyond description. How could the Holy Son of God so pure and so clean be made into the very epitome of ugly disgusting putrefying filth of sin for fallen man!

Walking in the midst of unclean and rebellious sinners dealing with their constant murmurings and ungratefulness would be disgusting enough. To be made sin was far beyond words.

The Son of God was going to be all on His own walking down the road in the shadow of death. This eventuated in Christ being forsaken by His very own Father in heaven while dying on the cross of Calvary.

His shrieking cries still strike terror and horror in both the terrestrial and celestial world when in extreme agony He questioned why God had forsaken Him!

Matthew 27:46: And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Knowing full well ahead of time His tribulations awaiting Him, He submitted Himself to the will of His Father. And the rest was history!

The intense agony of the Lord’s soul was epically summarized in the Book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 5:7: Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;

Hebrews 5:8: Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

Hebrews 5:9: And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

So the Lord’s prayer was not silent at all! It was loud with strong crying and tears and yet amazingly none of His disciples heard His wailing. It was such a sad scene that night with the Lord struggling all alone.

Which father would not hear his child’s cries for help! But the answer from the Father in heaven was a resounding negative. It was the will of the Father that Jesus His Son should go to the cross to taste death for every man.

Hebrews 2:9: But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

The travail of the Lord’s soul was also recorded in Isaiah.

Isaiah 53:10: Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Isaiah 53:11: He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

The scene that night was sadder than sad. The Lord’s cries to be spared was denied. This transaction between heaven and earth forever sealed the fate of countless millions of sinners who come to Christ for salvation when the Lord submitted to the will of His Father.

What many failed to notice was the Son of God even feared! Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ feared! There is no mistake in this record of the Holy Scripture.

The immensity of the cross and the coming abandonment by His Father was so frightening the Lord feared. He would be all alone on His own. But as God’s Son, He also learned obedience.

It is definitely understandable how weak the Lord became that night in the garden of Gethsemane, made sadder when none of His disciples could at least watch Him pray let along comfort Him. Only those sinners saved by grace would appreciate what the Lord went through that horrible night could chorus with the hymn writer who wrote:

Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget Thine agony;
Lest I forget Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.

So the Lord Jesus Christ obeyed His Father and went to the cross for sinners. He became the author of eternal salvation for all those who obey Him and Him alone.

He was forsaken so we would never be forsaken again. He prayed so hard so now we would not have to prayed like He did when He sent us the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit of God to help us in our prayers.

Romans 8:26: Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Where will sinners stand on judgment day when they deliberately reject the Lord’s salvation who went through so much for them! Pen from fallen man can not adequately describe the Lord’s travail and agony from the garden of Gethsemane to Calvary.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. None who obeys Him will lose his salvation because this salvation is eternal not temporal.

Amen! And Praise the Lord for His goodness towards unworthy sinners from ages past to eternal future.

Let the Lord’s name be praise forever more!