Under my last post, there has been some discussion about what emotions Jesus went through before going to the cross. If Jesus did not experience doubt or fear, then what was he feeling? The synoptic Gospels tell us something of Jesus’ emotional state as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. As Jesus’ sweat became like great drops of blood, the darkness of His final hours seems to have reached a climax.
Matthew 26:37 “And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.”
Mark 14:33 “And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.”
Luke 22:44 “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
None of these underlined terms indicate anxiety, fear, or doubt. Instead, they emphasize Jesus’ anguish as He faced a cruel death under the wrath of His Father. The word translated as “troubled” in Matthew and Mark is the Greek term ad?mone?, and it means “to be sorely troubled” or “to be in anguish” (LSJ). It’s the term used of Epaphroditus as he was longing to let his home church know that he was still alive (Phil. 2:26). The word “sorrowful” in Matthew translates the Greek term lupe?, which indicates grief or sadness (BDAG). The word rendered as “distressed” probably doesn’t capture the intensity of the Greek term ekthambe?, which usually indicates something like amazement or astonishment (cf. Mark 9:15; 16:5). The term indicates that Jesus’ emotional anguish was as severe as it gets; the pain reached levels that He had never before experienced. That is why Luke describes it as “agony.”
What is remarkable, however, is Jesus’ subsequent prayer: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39; par. Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42). Notice that Jesus’ anguish focused not on his tormenters but on a “cup.” It appears that the most painful part of Jesus’ anticipation was His consideration of this “cup” that He was soon to drink from. This is significant because the “cup” seems to be an allusion to Old Testament texts that associate God’s holy wrath with drinking from a cup.
Psalm 11:6 “Upon the wicked He will rain snares; Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.”
Psalm 75:8 “For a cup is in the hand of the LORD, and the wine foams; It is well mixed, and He pours out of this; Surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.”
Isaiah 51:17 “Arise, O Jerusalem, You who have drunk from the LORD’s hand the cup of His anger; The chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs.”
Jeremiah 25:15 “For thus the LORD, the God of Israel, says to me, ‘Take this cup of the wine of wrath from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it.’”
Jeremiah 51:6-7 “This is the LORD’s time of vengeance; He is going to render recompense to her. Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of the LORD, Intoxicating all the earth. The nations have drunk of her wine; Therefore the nations are going mad.”
As Jesus prayed, He anticipated His drink from this cup. It appears that the most painful aspect of His suffering was His experience of the wrath of God being poured out on Him. He walked into it willingly. He knew what was coming. He felt the anguish of it deeply in Gethsemane, and yet he faced it anyway so that sinners wouldn’t have to. In other words, He became our wrath-bearing substitute. What would have taken us an eternity in Hell to endure, Jesus experienced fully in the moment of the cross. I love how Spurgeon spoke of Jesus’ drink from the cup.
The whole of the tremendous debt was put upon his shoulders; the whole weight of the sins of all his people was placed upon him. Once he seemed to stagger under it: “Father, if it be possible.” But again he stood upright: “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” The whole of the punishment of his people was distilled into one cup; no mortal lip might give it so much as a solitary sip. When he put it to his own lips, it was so bitter, he well nigh spurned it: “Let this cup pass from me.” But his love for his people was so strong, that he took the cup in both his hands, and
“At one tremendous draught of love
He drank damnation dry,”
for all his people. He drank it all, he endured all, he suffered all; so that now for ever there are no flames of hell for them, no racks of torment; they have no eternal woes; Christ hath suffered all they ought to have suffered, and they must, they shall go free. The work was completely done by himself, without a helper.
What pained Jesus in the garden is that He knew that very soon He would be saying, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt 27:46) It should evoke worship in us that Jesus faced this for us, that He never shrank back, that He never doubted God or feared man. It is difficult to imagine that anyone could endure this kind of misery without doubting God or fearing man, and yet that is precisely how the Bible says Jesus faced it. He was fearless and full of faith. And He was all of these things for us.
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”