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CHRIST'S PRAYER IN GETHSEMANE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, February 15, 2004

"Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:36-39).


Last Sunday night we followed Christ into the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane. We saw the horror and agony of His amazing suffering there.

See the suffering Son of God,
Panting, groaning, sweating blood!
Boundless depths of love divine!
Jesus, what a love was thine!
   ("Thine Unknown Sufferings" by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

Spurgeon pointed out the contrast between the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemane:

May we not conceive that as in a garden, Adam's self-indulgence ruined us, so in another garden the agonies of the [last] Adam should restore us[?]. Gethsemane supplies the medicine for the ills which followed upon the forbidden fruit of Eden (C. H. Spurgeon, "The Agony in Gethsemane," Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim, 1971, volume xx, page 589).

In the Garden of Eden, Adam sinned and brought ruin to humanity. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ took upon Himself the sin of mankind to restore our fallen race.

"The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [Christ] was made a quickening spirit" (I Corinthians 15:45).

"For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous"
      (Romans 5:19).

There, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ became the scapegoat, bearing all the sins of Adam's race.

"And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness" (Leviticus 16:22).

In the dark wilderness of Gethsemane, Christ took "upon him all [our] iniquities."

"The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).

He is

"a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows" (Isaiah 53:3-4).

All of the weight of our sins was placed on Jesus. No wonder He said,

"My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death"
     (Matthew 26:38).

No wonder that

"Being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground"
    (Luke 22:44).

Thus, Christ became our sin-bearer there in the Garden.

Much of His suffering under the weight of our sin is beyond human understanding. Even the angels in Heaven could not fully comprehend the agony of Christ, under the weight of human sin. As Joseph Hart put it,

Much we talk of Jesus' blood,
But how little understood!
Of His sufferings so intense,
Angels have no perfect sense.

Who can rightly comprehend
Their beginning or their end?
'Tis to God and God alone
That their weight is fully known.

See the suffering Son of God,
Panting, groaning, sweating blood!
Boundless depths of love divine!
Jesus, what a love was thine!
    ("Thine Unknown Sufferings" by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

Now we move to the prayer Christ prayed in Gethsemane. Please turn to Matthew 26:38-39. Let us stand and read these two verses aloud.

"Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:38-39).

You may be seated.

The common interpretation of Jesus' prayer is that He was praying to be delivered from the Cross. But I do not think this is the correct view. I believe that the interpretation of Dr. John R. Rice and Dr. J. Oliver Buswell is correct. Dr. Rice and Dr. Buswell say that the "cup" Christ prayed to be delivered from was not the Cross, which He would endure the next day, but that the "cup" referred to His death that night in the Garden. Dr. Buswell said,

Extremely profuse perspiration such as Luke described is characteristic of a state of shock in which the sufferer is in imminent danger of collapse and even death…Our Lord Jesus Christ, finding Himself in this physical state of extreme shock, prayed for deliverance from death in the garden, in order that He might accomplish His purpose on the cross (Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, Zondervan, 1971, part III, p. 62).

Dr. John R. Rice said virtually the same thing:

If you do not notice verses 37 and 38 [of Matthew 26], the meaning of the Gethsemane prayer will be missed. Jesus was sorrowful and heavy and His soul "sorrowful, even unto death," that is, was literally dying of grief…Jesus prayed that the cup of death would pass from Him that night so He could live to die on the cross the next day (Dr. John R. Rice, The Gospel According to Matthew, Sword of the Lord, 1980, page 441).

Dr. Buswell and Dr. Rice both point to Hebrews 5:7, and tell us that this verse refers to Christ's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Rice, ibid., Buswell, ibid., pages 62-63). Please turn to Hebrews 5:7. Let us stand together and read it aloud. This verse refers to Christ in His humanity. Please read it out loud.

"Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared" (Hebrews 5:7).

You may be seated.

Dr. Buswell said that Christ

prayed for deliverance from death in the garden, in order that He might accomplish His purpose on the cross. This interpretation would harmonize with Hebrews 5:7, and it seems to me the only interpretation which will thus harmonize (Buswell, ibid.).

Dr. Rice said,

The cup mentioned…was the cup of death, death that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is made clear especially in Hebrews 5:7 where we are told that Jesus "offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared." About to die in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed that the cup of death would pass from Him that night so that He could live to die on the cross the next day. The Scripture says that "He was heard"! God answered His prayer (Rice, ibid.).

Then Dr. Rice points out the importance of Christ's prayer in the Garden.

How thankful we ought to be that Jesus "prayed through" that night and got the answer to His prayer. If Jesus had died in the Garden of Gethsemane then we would have no saving Gospel, for the Gospel is "that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (I Corinthians 15:3-4). No ordinary death would do; the death of Christ must be according to the Scriptures…If Jesus did not die literally "according to the scriptures," then He could not be our Saviour. Thank God, His prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane were answered!...Luke 22:43 tells us "there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him." Without supernatural strengthening of His body, Christ would surely have died in the Garden that night (Dr. John R. Rice, ibid., pp. 441-442).

Dr. Rice made a good point. If Christ had died in the Garden of Gethsemane, He could not have saved us - because He had to die "according" to the Old Testament Scriptures. Kata tas graphas, "according to the scriptures." Before the crucifixion, Jesus said,

"This that is written must yet be accomplished in me" 
    (Luke 22:37).

After His resurrection, Jesus said,

"O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:25-27).

"This that is written must yet be accomplished in me." Christ must die kata tas graphas, "according to the scriptures." If He had died there in the Garden, under the weight of our sins, He would not have fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures - and, thus, He could not have been the prophesied Saviour!

Let us turn to several places in the Old Testament which foretold how the Saviour must die, "according to the scriptures." First, turn to Isaiah 50:6.

"I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting" (Isaiah 50:6).

If Jesus had died under the weight of our sins in Gethsemane, He would not have fulfilled this Scripture. He would not have been flogged by the Roman soldiers, as He was the next morning. He would not have had parts of His beard pulled out by their cruel hands. He would not have undergone the shame of having people spit in His face.

Now turn to Isaiah 53:5.

"But he was wounded [pierced through] for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes [scourging] we are healed"
    (Isaiah 53:5).

If Jesus had died under the weight of our sins in Gethsemane, He would not have fulfilled this Scripture. He would not have been wounded, or pierced through. He would not have been bruised. He would not have been scourged half to death by flogging before He was crucified.

Now look at Isaiah 53:9.

"And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death…" (Isaiah 53:9).

If He had died in Gethsemane, He would not have been buried with the wicked and the rich, as Matthew 27:57-61 tells us He was, after the crucifixion.

Look at Isaiah 53:12.

"Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors;and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12).

If He had died under the weight of our sins in Gethsemane, He would not have been "numbered with the transgressors," crucified between two thieves. He would not have "made intercession for the transgressors," as He did when He prayed, from the Cross, "Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Now turn to Psalm 22. In this great prophetic Psalm David told us many things that would not have happened "according to the scriptures," if Christ had died under the weight of our sins in Gethsemane. Look at verses seven and eight.

"All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him" (Psalm 22:7-8).

The chief priests and scribes mocked Jesus, thus, as He hung on the Cross,

"He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God" (Matthew 27:43).

Look at verse sixteen.

"For dogs have compassed me [surrounded me]: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet" (Psalm 22:16).

His hands and feet would not have been pierced if He had died in Gethsemane, under the weight of our sins. The prophet Zechariah also said,

"They shall look upon me whom they have pierced"
    (Zechariah 12:10).

"And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends" (Zechariah 13:6).

These three verses, in Zechariah 12:10, Zechariah 13:6, and Psalm 22:16, all show that the Saviour's hands and feet had to be pierced. If Jesus had died in Gethsemane He would not have died "according to the scriptures." He would not have been the prophesied Saviour.

Look at verses fourteen and fifteen.

"I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death" (Psalm 22:14-15).

The Scofield note says,

Psalm 22 is a graphic picture of death by crucifixion. The bones (of the hands, arms, shoulders, and pelvis) out of joint (v. 14); the profuse perspiration caused by intense suffering (v. 14); the action of the heart affected (v. 14); strength exhausted, and extreme thirst (v. 15); the hands and feet pierced (v. 16); partial nudity with the hurt to modesty (v. 17), are all incidental to that mode of death. The accompanying circumstances are precisely those fulfilled in the crucifixion of Christ…When it is remembered that crucifixion was a Roman, not Jewish, form of execution, the proof of inspiration is irresistible (The Scofield Study Bible, note on Psalm 22).

But, one more time, look at Psalm 22:1.

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Those were the exact words Christ uttered on the Cross (Matthew 27:46). And, then, look at verse eighteen.

"They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture" (Psalm 22:18).

"Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments…the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did" (John 19:23-24).

If Christ had died in Gethsemane, the Roman soldiers would not have gambled for His robe at the foot of the Cross, and Christ would not have died "according to the scriptures."

Those are just a few of the Old Testament Scriptures that were literally fulfilled when Christ was crucified - from Isaiah, Zechariah, and David, in Psalm 22. Christ fulfilled these prophecies in minute detail when He was crucified. If He had died in Gethsemane, under the weight of our sins, none of these prophecies would have been fulfilled - and Christ would have been an impostor, not the prophetic Saviour of mankind! Christ would not have "died for our sins, according to the scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:3).

No wonder He prayed in Gethsemane,

"O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me"
    (Matthew 26:39).

In Gethsemane, He

"offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death"
    (Hebrews 5:7).

And God heard the prayers of Jesus, and strengthened Him there in the Garden, for the dreadful ordeal He would go through the next day to atone for our sins "according to the scriptures" - on the Cross.

I would draw three brief lessons to close this sermon. First, you can trust the Bible. The precise fulfillment of the details concerning the Old Testament prophecies of Christ's crucifixion are one of the proofs that the Bible is reliable - the very Word of God. Never doubt what you read in the Bible. Last Thursday was Lincoln's birthday. Abraham Lincoln once said,

I believe the Bible is the best gift God has given to man. Take all of it you can by reason, and the rest by faith, and you will live and die a better man.

The second lesson we learn from Gethsemane is the need to "pray through." Jesus prayed for three periods, throughout the night, until the answer came, and God removed the bitter cup - so He could go to the Cross. Sometimes we must pray for a long time before the answer comes. This makes the answer even more sweet when God grants it, after long "prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears" (Hebrews 5:7).

But the third and most important lesson is how greatly Christ suffered to pay for our sins.

"Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger" (Lamentations 1:12).

"Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow."

"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" (Luke 22:44).

See the suffering Son of God,
Panting, groaning, sweating blood!
Boundless depths of love divine!
Jesus, what a love was thine!
    ("Thine Unknown Sufferings" by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

Alas, and did my Saviour bleed?
   And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
   For such a worm as I?

But drops of grief can ne'er repay
   The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away,
   'Tis all that I can do!
("Alas, And Did My Saviour Bleed?" by Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).

Take a deep look at your heart and life. Think of the sins you have committed. Think of the sin in your heart. Think of the sins you have committed, recorded in God's "books" (Revelation 20:12).

Christ paid the penalty for your sin on the Cross. His Blood is the only thing that can cleanse your sin from God's record. Will you come to Christ? Will you be cleansed from sin by His Blood? Will you enter in to Christ?

We would like to talk with you about having your sins cleansed by the Blood of Christ. When we sing the last stanza of hymn number 7, please step to the back of the room. Dr. Cagan will take you to the inquiry room, where we can talk this over.

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 22:39-45.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Thine Unknown Sufferings" (by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).