“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.” (Mark 14.32-34)
As the last 4 days before Good Friday begin to unfold, we see an encounter between Jesus and the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane filled with intensely powerful language. Jesus is in agony as he prepares for what is ahead. Is it the fear of death and torture that is distressing him so?
V33: “he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.”
Something is ‘beginning’ for Jesus in the Garden that has never happened to him before. The word ‘distressed’ gives us a hint as to what is beginning.
In KJV ‘distressed’ is translated “sore amazed.” It is the word for astonishment, but astonishment at some type of great horror or darkness. What was the great horror/darkness that was beginning?
V36: “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
What is the great horror that Jesus was getting a glimpse of?
First, he was seeing the cup. The cup was the OT metaphor for the wrath of God towards evil. If you have ever seen something so evil that it caused you to have a visceral reaction of outrage, then you can begin to understand the magnitude of what it must mean to take on the full weight of the outrage of evil of every atrocity committed in human history. To get even a glimpse of this was an absolute horror.
Second, he was losing the Father. ‘Abba’ was the diminutive form of ‘Father’ in Aramaic, and was considered so intimate that Pharisees would not use it for fear of being disrespectful to God. Prayer for Jesus was the vehicle by which he drew closer to the Father and strengthened his connection and intimacy. But in the Garden we see that the more intensely Jesus prays, the faster he seems to be losing the intimacy of the Father. This will continue until it fully disappears on the Cross, and Jesus will cry out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me.”
It was not fear of death that had Jesus sweating so hard in the Garden that his sweat looked like drops of blood. It was the foretaste Jesus was getting of the coming Hell he would experience on the Cross.
Why did Jesus have this experience? It was his last opportunity to duck and run. He saw what lied ahead, he saw the frailty of those he would be doing it for, and he was given one last chance to decide.
Remember that as you prepare your heart to take in the full meaning of Holy Week. When Jesus looked down the pike and saw the agony of all of hell coming towards him, and then looked at you and I in all of our frailty and failure, he never had a second thought.
Jesus would go to hell and back again if it meant you experiencing the love, forgiveness, and new life in God.