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THE HORROR OF GETHSEMANE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, March 30, 2014

“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).


The night before Jesus died on the Cross He led His Disciples into the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane. It was very late, probably at midnight. Jesus left eight of the Disciples at the edge of the Garden. He took Peter and James and John deeper into Gethsemane. He “began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy” (Mark 14:33). He said to those three Disciples, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death” (Mark 14:34). He went forward a few steps and fell on the ground. He prayed in agony that if possible that “hour might pass from him” (Mark 14:35). I believe that the entire time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was about one hour – for Jesus said to them, when He found them asleep, “Could ye not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40).

Something horrible happened to Jesus – at midnight in that Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matthew 26:38). The Greek word “perilupos” means “encompassed around with sorrows.” He could say with the Psalmist, “The pains of hell gat hold upon me” (Psalm 116:3). The waves and billows of sorrow went over Him. Above Him, beneath Him, around Him, outside Him, and within Him – all was sorrow – even unto death – such sorrow that He was nearly killed by it! There was no escape from the pain! No grief could have been worse than this! He was so squeezed by the horror of it that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

Yes, the Bible tells us that Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). But He didn’t walk around all the time with a long, sad face. He knew grief. He knew sorrow. But most of the time Jesus was a peaceful, happy man. He went to so many parties that the Pharisees complained and said, “He eats with publicans and sinners” (Matthew 11:19, etc., etc.)

But in Gethsemane all is changed. His peace is gone. His joy is turned into churning grief. “Perilupos” – surrounded by sorrow; squeezed half to death by it!

Jesus had hardly said a word about sorrow or depression during his whole lifetime. But now, in that Garden, all is changed. He cries out to God, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). He had never before complained. But now “he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Why? Why? Jesus, what causes your suffering?

Dr. John Gill said it was because Satan came into the Garden. In our time Mel Gibson, in his movie “The Passion of the Christ,” portrayed Satan coming into Gethsemane as a snake, to torment Jesus in the darkness. But none of that is in the Bible. Some people quote Luke 22:53, when Jesus said to the soldiers who came to the Garden to arrest Him, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). They are right to say that this refers to Satan. But notice that Christ said this to the soldiers who came to arrest Him after His conflict and bloody sweat in Gethsemane. At the end of His agony in the Garden, He said to the soldiers, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” So Satan came after Christ’s agony in the Garden. Judas became demon possessed (actually, Satan possessed) a few days earlier. We are told in Luke 22:3, “Then entered Satan into Judas.” Satan came into the Garden after Christ’s horrible struggle, in possession of Judas and drawing the soldiers to arrest Jesus and treat Him shamefully.

So, we are still left wondering why Jesus was so tormented that He sweat a bloody sweat as He prayed for deliverance. I am convinced that the answer is given in our text. In the Garden, Jesus “prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). What was the “cup”? If it was His suffering on the Cross the next day, His prayer was not answered. If the “cup” was deliverance from Satan that night, His prayer was not answered, for demonized men dragged Him away to be crucified. Our text in Hebrews 5:7 gives part of the answer. Please stand and 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. Now, the verse tells us that Jesus prayed this prayer “in the days of his flesh” – that is, while He was living on this earth. We also learn that He prayed with “strong crying and tears” to be saved from death – so this prayer was prayed before He was crucified. The verse also tells us that His prayer was heard, and God saved Him from death. Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, a well known theologian, said,

Extreme profuse perspiration such as Luke described [in the Garden of Gethsemane] 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 (J. Oliver Buswell, Ph.D., Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, Zondervan Publishing House, 1971, part III, p. 62).

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

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 (John R. Rice, D.D., The Gospel According to Matthew, Sword of the Lord, 1980, p. 441).

Dr. Buswell said,

This interpretation would harmonize with Hebrews 5:7, and it seems to me the only interpretation which will thus harmonize (ibid.).

Dr. Rice said,

This is made clear 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 (ibid.).

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

But we still must explain why Jesus suffered so much that night. Here is what I believe happened to Jesus in that Garden. I believe it was there that

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

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows”
      (Isaiah 53:4).

But when did He bear them? He bore them in Gethsemane, and carried them to the Cross the next morning.

“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree”
       (I Peter 2:24).

But our sins were placed “in his own body” the night before, in the Garden of Gethsemane. He bore our sins from Gethsemane to the Cross!

It was alone the Saviour prayed In dark Gethsemane;
   Alone He drained the bitter cup, And suffered there for me;
Alone, alone, He bore it all alone;
   He gave Himself to save His own;
He suffered, bled and died, Alone, alone.
   (“Alone” by Ben H. Price, 1914).

The great Dr. John Gill (1697-1771) said,

Now he is bruised, and put to grief by his father: his sorrows now begin, for they did not end here, but on the cross,...and to be very heavy; with the weight of the sins of his people, and the sense of divine wrath, with which he was so pressed and overwhelmed, that his spirits were almost quite gone; he was ready to swoon away, sink and die; his heart failed him...his soul was beset all around with the sins of his people; these took hold on him, and encompassed him...the sorrows of death and hell surrounded him on every side, insomuch that the least degree of comfort was not let in to him...so that his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow; his great heart was ready to break; he was brought even, as it were, to the dust of death; nor would his sorrows leave him, he was persuaded, until his soul and body were separated from each other (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, volume I, p. 334).

Thus we see what Jesus did to save us from the wrath of God, from judgment for our sins, and eternal punishment in Hell. He suffered in your place, as your substitute. His vicarious suffering, in your place, began in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He received our sins and took them to the Cross the next morning.

My friends, we are approaching Easter Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the grave. But His resurrection from the dead will not mean anything to you unless you realize that He suffered horribly in Gethsemane and on the Cross to save you from being punished for your sins. What must you do for Jesus to be your substitute? You must fall at His feet and trust Him with your life!

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
   Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
   Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
(“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Isaac Watts, D.D., 1674-1748).

If you would like to speak with us about trusting Jesus, please leave your seat and walk to the back of the auditorium. Dr. Cagan will take you to another room where we can pray and talk. Please go now. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will trust Jesus this morning and be saved. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Mark 14:32-38.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“‘Tis Midnight, and on Olive’s Brow” (by William B. Tappan, 1794-1849).