The agonized prayer of Jesus
I tend to think of Jesus as the model of peace and serenity and calm in all circumstances but that wasn’t the case at least once. The night before His death, He went to a place called Gethsemane and prayed in deep agony of soul. Here is what Mark records from that evening (in Mark 14:33-34): “He began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ He said to them.”
What brought Him such distress? What made Him feel so troubled? What caused Him to be “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”?
His deep agony of soul had to do with what He was about to do: He was about to die in our place, with the sin of our lives upon Him. That’s why He prayed for God to “take this cup from Me,” if that was at all possible.
In The PAPA Prayer, Larry Crabb stresses, “In Gethsemane, He asked to be spared the cross centrally because He knew His Father would turn away from Him as He hung there. That prospect terrified Him far more than the nails.”
It’s not that Jesus was afraid of dying. It goes much deeper than that. He was about to endure what life would have been like for us if He had not gone through what He did for us. He was about to endure what life would be like totally separated from God.
If the Bible is correct is asserting that God is love, then to be totally separated from God would involve the absolute absence of love. If the Bible is correct in stating that God is good, then to be totally separated from God would mean the complete absence of goodness. If, as Christians claim, that God is the true source of hope and joy, then to be totally separated from God would involve the complete absence of hope or joy.
Henri Nouwen remarked, “Hell is the bitter fruit of a final no to God.” That’s what Jesus was about to endure on our behalf
In his great novel The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodr Dostoevsky wrote, “Hell is the suffering of being unable to love.” That’s what Jesus was about to endure for us.
Marilynne Robinson suggests, “If you want to inform yourselves as to the nature of hell, don’t hold your hand in a candle flame, just ponder the meanest, most desolate place in your soul.” That’s what Jesus endured when He took upon Himself the whole of our sins.”
No wonder He prayed in such extreme agony that blood dripped from the pores of His skin.
And no wonder life went out from Him as He hung on the cross. It wasn’t the loss of blood or the smothering nature of crucifixion that took His life. It was that there is no life left when absolutely separated from God!
Why would He put Himself through such suffering?
He did it for one reason only: He did it so that we would not have to. He did it out of love for us.
The agony He experienced in Gethsemane and the suffering He endured on the cross reveal the never-quitting nature of Christ’s love for us!
Alexander Whyte summarizes it well: “The love of Christ has no border; it has no shore; it has no bottom. The love of Christ is boundless; it is bottomless; it is infinite; it is divine…. We shall come to the shore, we shall strike the bottom of every other love; but never of the love of Christ!… You will never come to the length of it, or to the breadth of it, or to the depth of it, or to the height of it. To all eternity, the love of Christ to you will be new.”