* * * *
“And He came out, and went, as He was wont, to the mount of Olives; and His disciples also followed Him. And when He was at the place, He said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him. 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. And when He rose up from prayer, and was come to His disciples, He found them sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. And while He yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss? When they which were about Him saw what would follow, they said unto Him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And He touched his ear, and healed him. Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to Him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against Me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness”—Luke 22:39-53.
* * * *
Leaving the upper room the Lord went with His eleven disciples across the brook Kedron to the Mount of Olives. It had been His custom, when in Judaea, to retire from time to time to a garden on the slope of this mountain, called, as we are told elsewhere, Gethsemane. To this retreat He pursued His way. Luke does not mention the fact that He left eight of His followers at the entrance but took Peter, James, and John with Him as He passed into the garden. Coming to the place where He was wont to engage in prayer He bade them, “Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast,” going deeper into the shades of the olive-yard, for such it was.
There He fell on His knees and prayed. He was suffering intense perturbation of spirit. The very fact that He was the infinitely Holy One filled Him with deepest grief as He contemplated the full meaning of the cross. He could not have been who and what He was if He could contemplate with equanimity the awfulness of being made sin for a guilty world. His holy human nature shrank from this terrible ordeal. It was not death that He dreaded; but “with strong crying and tears” He prayed to “Him who was able to save Him out of death,” as Hebrews 5:7 should be translated. We are told there that He “was heard in that He feared,” or literally, He “was heard for His piety”; that is, His reverence for God His Father.
In His soul’s distress, He prayed, saying, “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done.” What was the cup which He dreaded? I have heard many unworthy things said by those who have endeavored to explain this. Some have maintained that He was in such distress that He feared He might lose His reason and be unable to go on to the cross as a voluntary Substitute for sinners. But they who speak in this way lose sight of the fact that He was not only Man in all perfection, but also God with all power. Satan could do nothing against Him save by divine consent; and nowhere in Scripture is it intimated that the devil might be permitted such an advantage as this over the Christ of God.
Others have taught that He feared the adversary would crush Him to death in the garden, and the plan of God be defeated which involved His hanging upon a tree. But this theory ignores His own declaration, “No man taketh it (His life) from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power (authority) to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father” (John 10:18). This absolutely contradicts any supposition as to Satan’s ability to destroy Him before His time.
The cup He dreaded was not death as such. It was the cup of judgment which our sins had filled. In Psalm 75:8 we read, “In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and He poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.” This cup of the wrath of God against sin was that from which the Holy Soul of our Saviour shrank. There in the garden He prayed that if there were any other way whereby the sin question might be settled, it should be manifested. There was no opposition to the will of the Father, no conflict of wills. It was rather full acquiescence with the will of God, even though He dreaded the drinking of that chalice of judgment. It was the perfection of His humanity that was manifested in that hour of His spirit’s agony. Luke alone of all the Evangelists tells us that, “There appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him.” How this emphasizes the reality of His Manhood! He, the Creator of angels, now as Man, derived strength from the ministry of one of these glorious beings.
“Being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” There was great significance in this for Dr. Luke, to whom alone we are indebted for this information. It indicated the severity of the pressure under which our Lord was suffering.
When the ordeal was over He arose in perfect calmness of spirit and came to His disciples, whom He found “sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” For them the supreme test was about to take place, when He would be taken from them and they left bewildered and frightened. Even as He spoke lights were seen, and a mob of soldiers, priests, and civilians approached, led by Judas the traitor, who “drew near unto Jesus to kiss Him.” This was the prearranged signal which would indicate to the officers whom they were to arrest. “Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” Apparently, the wretched traitor made no reply, and the soldiers proceeded to take Jesus into custody. The disciples were aroused by this act and exclaimed, “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” One of them—Peter, as we know from other sources—began slashing about with his sword, and cut off the right ear of the servant of the high priest. But Jesus said, “Suffer ye thus far;” and He healed the wounded man. Someone has well remarked, “How busy we keep the Lord putting on ears that we in our mistaken zeal, cut off!”
Addressing the chief priests and other officials, Jesus said, “Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against Me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” It was a home-thrust. They had not dared attempt to arrest Him in the presence of the people, because many of them believed He was a Prophet even if they did not recognize in Him the promised Messiah. But in the dark these cowardly ecclesiastics and their henchmen laid hands on Him as He willingly surrendered Himself to them, and they led Him away for trial as a blasphemer and a sedition-ist. It was a sad manifestation of the incurable evil of the hearts of those outwardly pious priests and religious leaders.