by Loren Stacy
As we approach our annual commemoration of the Lord’s Supper, our minds focus on our Lord’s death that He suffered in our place to pay the just penalty for our sins. What Jesus did on the mount called Calvary is awesome! But are you aware of what Jesus did the night before on the mount called Olives?
Mark tells us that following Christ’s “last supper” with His disciples, “They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, ‘Sit here until I have prayed.’ And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch’” (14:32-34).
Distressed translates a Greek word that may be translated “terrified surprise.” Even though Jesus came to die for the sins of the world, and even though He knew and had already informed His disciples, as Jesus entered Gethsemane to prepare Himself for death, He was suddenly surprised by a terror of going through with it. Troubled translates a Greek word that indicates severe mental and/or emotional anguish. When Jesus told Peter, James, and John, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death,” He meant that literally!
What do you suppose caused Jesus to be so terrorized and distressed that He was close to dying? I think Jesus was suddenly terrorized by thoughts of His imminent sinfulness as He took upon Himself the sins of the world. I think He was anguished by the thought of separation from the heavenly Father that sinfulness would cause.
Until this time, Jesus had been perfectly sinless. He had enjoyed perfect and intimate fellowship with God the Father. But that was about to end. Jesus was about to take upon Himself the guilt of every vile and disgusting sin that ever was or would be committed. That sudden sinfulness would mean that Jesus would be cut off from the heavenly Father. Indeed, that is what took place as Jesus became our sin-bearer. Who can forget His anguished cry from the cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (15:34).
That night in the garden, Jesus battled the temptation to save Himself from having to endure that sinfulness and separation. If your mental picture is one of Jesus praying serenely to the Father, please replace that picture with the words of Scripture. The Greek of Mark 14:35 indicates that Jesus “kept falling to the ground” and “kept on praying.” Mark pictures Jesus in spiritual agony. Hebrews adds, “He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death . . .” (5:7). Luke writes, “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (22:44).
Mark indicates that Christ faced three horrible waves of the same horrible temptation that night in Gethsemane and that Jesus dealt with those three waves of temptation to abort His mission with three periods of intense prayer. “Father, I know that You can do anything You decide to do. Decide to do something different! Decide to do what You want to do in a way that doesn’t cost Me, doesn’t hurt Me, doesn’t terrify Me. But Father, if You know that I need to go through this, I will.”
This year as you remember Christ’s death in our place for our sins, I urge you to remember that our Lord’s sacrifice cost Him far, far more than just the pain of crucifixion. And I urge you to follow His example of how to do battle with temptation in a way that leads to spiritual victory.
Reprinted by permission from Afterglow. To request Afterglow, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Loren Stacy is president of the General Conference. Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.
The Church of God (Seventh Day) will commemorate the Lord’s Supper Thursday, April 21, after sundown.