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CHRIST’S AGONY IN GETHSEMANE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, March 19, 2017

“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).


Some time ago I preached on “The Tears of Jesus.” Click here to read it. The last point of that sermon was, “Jesus wept in the Garden of Gethsemane.” I said, “In the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before He was nailed to the Cross, Jesus suffered and prayed alone. There in the darkness of Gethsemane the Saviour poured out His soul in prayer to God. According to Hebrews 5:7 He prayed ‘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). What did He fear? Jesus feared that He would die there in the Garden, before He could go to the Cross to atone for our sins.”

Dr. John R. Rice said, “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.” The theologian Dr. J. Oliver Buswell also said that Jesus “prayed for deliverance from death in the garden, in order that He might accomplish His purpose on the cross.” Dr. J. Vernon McGee said the same thing: “My friend, He was heard; He did not die in the Garden of Gethsemane.” Jesus was in great agony as our sins were placed on Him by God.

Someone who read that sermon asked me why Jesus needed to go to the Cross. Why couldn’t He have died for our sins there in the Garden? I answered him by saying that this was not possible. The Bible says,

“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3).

Christ had to die “according to the Scriptures” – kata tas graphas. If He had died in the Garden of Gethsemane He would not have been the Saviour prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures. He would have been an impostor, not the prophesied Saviour! He had to die kata tas graphas, “according to the Scriptures.” “The Scriptures” refers to the Old Testament, for the New Testament had not yet been written. Just before Jesus entered Gethsemane He said, “This that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors” (Luke 22:37). He quoted Isaiah 53:12, saying that He must fulfill that verse by being crucified between two thieves. If He had died in Gethsemane He would not have fulfilled Isaiah 53:12; He would not have died kata tas graphas, “according to the Scriptures,” He would not have been the Saviour prophesied by Isaiah!

Isaiah chapter 53 gives the fullest prophecy in the Old Testament of the crucifixion of Christ. Actually that passage begins with Isaiah 52:13 and goes on for 15 verses in the English Bible. It gives one prophecy after another concerning Christ’s crucifixion. Very few of those prophecies of His crucifixion would have been fulfilled if Jesus had died in Gethsemane. Isaiah 50:6, which told of His scourging, the shame and spitting, would not have been fulfilled. Psalm 22:16, which prophesied the piercing of His hands and feet, would not have been fulfilled, nor would Zechariah 12:10, “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” Psalm 22 also gives one prophecy after another that would not have been fulfilled if Jesus had died in Gethsemane. And many other Scriptures in the Old Testament would have gone unfulfilled if Jesus had died in the Garden. No wonder that Jesus prayed in Gethsemane “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). He feared that He would die there in the Garden, and not make it to the Cross the next day! He had to die kata tas graphas, “according to the Scriptures.” Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies in minute detail when He was crucified. If He had died in Gethsemane none of these prophecies would have been fulfilled – and Christ would have been an impostor, not the Saviour of mankind foretold in the Scriptures. Christ would not have “died for our sins according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3). No wonder He prayed in Gethsemane, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me” (Luke 22:42).

“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).

The Greek word translated “agony” is “agonia.” It speaks of “severe emotional strain and anguish” (Vine). Jesus experienced extreme suffering, torment and writhing pain there in the darkness. Let us think about His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane for a few minutes tonight.

I. First, His agony described.

Jesus ate the Passover meal with His Disciples. There He celebrated the Lord’s Supper with them. Judas left the group and went to the chief priests to betray Him. Those who remained sang a hymn and then went out across the Brook Kedron, up the side of the Mount of Olives, into the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane. At the edge of the Garden Jesus left eight of the Disciples, saying to them, “Sit ye here, while I shall pray” (Mark 14:32). He then took Peter, James and John with Him deeper into the Garden where He “began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch” (Mark 14:33-34). Joseph Hart said,

Many woes He had endured,
   Many sore temptations met,
Patient, and to pains inured:
   But the sorest trial yet
Was to be sustained in thee,
   Gloomy, sad Gethsemane!
Was to be sustained in thee,
   Gloomy, sad Gethsemane!
(“Many Woes He Had Endured” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768;
       to the tune of “Come, Ye Sinners”).

Matthew says that He “began to be sorrowful and very heavy” (Matthew 26:37). Concerning the Greek word translated “very heavy,” Goodwin says that there was a disturbance or distraction in Jesus’ agony, since the word means “separation from the people – men in distraction, being separated from mankind.” What a thought! Jesus was driven to the edge of distraction, to the point of nearly going mad, by the intensity of His agony. Matthew quotes the Saviour as saying, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matthew 26:38). The Greek word translated “exceeding sorrowful” means “grieved all around, intensely sorrowful” (Strong), overwhelmed with grief. “He was plunged head and ears in sorrow and had no breathing hole,” said Goodwin. Rienecker said He was “Surrounded by sorrow, overwhelmed by distress.” Jesus was submerged in deep grief and sorrow. Mark tells us that He “began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy” (Mark 14:33). The Greek word translated “sore amazed” means “utterly astonished” (Strong), “being in the grip of a shuddering horror” (Rienecker), “greatly distressed, thrown into...terror, alarmed thoroughly, terrified, struck with horror” (Wuest). Joseph Hart said,

Come, all ye chosen saints of God,
   Who long to feel the cleansing blood,
In thoughtfulness now join with me,
   To sing of sad Gethsemane.

‘Twas there the Lord of life appeared,
   And sighed, and groaned, and prayed and feared,
Bore all incarnate God could bear,
   With strength enough, and none to spare.
(“Gethsemane, The Olive-Press!” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768;
       to the tune of “‘Tis Midnight, and on Olive’s Brow”).

“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).

II. Second, the cause of His agony.

What caused Christ’s grief there in the Garden? I used to think that His agony came from an attack by Satan. But I don’t believe that now. The Devil is not mentioned in any of the accounts of His agony in Gethsemane. At the very beginning of His ministry He was severely tempted by the Devil. Three times in the wilderness “the tempter came to him” (Matthew 4:3). But we never read that Jesus was “sore amazed and very heavy” during that time of temptation. There is no mention of anything like His bloody sweat in Gethsemane. During His temptation in the wilderness Jesus overcame the Devil with comparative easiness by quoting the Word of God. But in Gethsemane His agony was so great that it brought Him to the edge of death. Dr. McGee said, “When He prayed in the Garden, ‘Let this cup pass from me’ (Luke 22:42), the ‘cup’ was death. He did not want to die in the Garden of Gethsemane” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, volume V, p. 540; note on Hebrews 5:7).

The bitter agony in Gethsemane came from God the Father. I believe that, in the Garden,

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

Spurgeon said, that in Gethsemane, God the Father “made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (II Corinthians 5:21). “He was now...to bear the curse which was due to sinners, because he stood in the sinner’s place and must suffer in the sinner’s stead...He now realized, perhaps for the first time, what it was to be a sin bearer...for it was all laid on him” (C. H. Spurgeon, “The Agony in Gethsemane,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1971, volume XX, p. 593).

There were two goats used by Aaron on the Day of Atonement. Christ in the Garden is pictured by the second goat. The second goat experienced great agony when it was made an offering for sin. The fear and pain that this animal felt is only a small picture or type of the agony of Christ. Jesus’ agony in the Garden is the antitype, the fulfillment.

“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).

The prophet Isaiah said,

“Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief [The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief, NASV]: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin...” (Isaiah 53:10).

Surely that began in the Garden of Gethsemane!

‘Tis midnight; and for others’ guilt,
   The Man of Sorrows weeps in blood;
Yet He that hath in anguish knelt
   Is not forsaken by His God.
(“‘Tis Midnight, and on Olive’s Brow” by William B. Tappan, 1794-1849).

“‘Tis midnight; and for others’ guilt, the Man of Sorrows weeps in blood.” Dr. John Gill 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...he began 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...he was ready to swoon away, sink and die...he was brought to the dust of death; nor would his sorrows leave him...until his soul and body were separated from each other” on the Cross (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume I, p. 334).

It was in Gethsemane that “the Lord...laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Joseph Hart said,

There [God’s Son] bore all my guilt,
   This through grace can be believed;
But the horrors which He felt
   Are too vast to be conceived.
None can penetrate through thee,
   Gloomy, dark Gethsemane!
None can penetrate through thee,
   Gloomy, dark Gethsemane!
(“Many Woes He Had Endured” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768;
       to the tune of “Come, Ye Sinners”).

“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 [grace] divine,
   Jesus, what a love was Thine!
(“Thine Unknown Sufferings” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768;
       to the tune of “‘Tis Midnight, and on Olive’s Brow”).

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

Christ took our sins upon Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He bore our sins “in His own body” to the Cross, where He died the next day. Our sin is what crushed Him until He sweat blood!

“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).

Yes, He bore your sins in His body to the Cross.

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

Go to the Garden of Gethsemane and see what Jesus has done for you and me. You should have gone to Hell for your sins. But Jesus took those sins upon Himself, and went through a living hell in the Garden and on the Cross, to pay the full penalty for your iniquities.

Every Christian should often meditate on Gethsemane and the Cross. Gethsemane and the Cross are inseparable. “Unto us which are saved [the Cross] is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18). We are empowered to live for God by Christ’s work in Gethsemane and on the Cross! We are inspired to live for Christ by thinking of His agony! When the trials of life make us depressed, true Christians will find peace and remember Jesus paid the full penalty for our sins in Gethsemane and on the Cross! We find peace when we remember that Jesus triumphed over death when He rose from the dead!

Near the cross, O Lamb of God,
   Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
   With its shadows o’er me.
In the cross, in the cross,
   Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
   Rest beyond the river.
(“Near the Cross” by Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915).

And to you who are not yet saved I say, How can you think of Him in torment and blood, there in the darkness of Gethsemane, suffering for you, and yet you turn away from Him? He is suffering for your sins! How can you deny Him, and reject such love as this?

“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 [grace] divine,
   Jesus, what a love was Thine!

Jesus took your sins upon Himself in Gethsemane because He loves you! He paid the penalty for your sin on the Cross because He loves you!

Will you trust Him tonight? Will you come to Him who loves you with an everlasting love? Believe in the agonizing Saviour! Trust Him now! Thy sins will be pardoned by Him, and thou shalt have eternal life! Amen.


WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 14:32-41.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
        “‘Many Woes He Had Endured” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768;
to the tune of “Come, Ye Sinners”).


THE OUTLINE OF

CHRIST’S AGONY IN GETHSEMANE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“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).

(Hebrews 5:7; I Corinthians 15:3; Luke 22:37;
Isaiah 53:12; Isaiah 50:6; Psalm 22:16;
Zechariah 12:10; Luke 22:42)

I.    First, His agony described, Mark 14:32, 33-34;
Matthew 26:37-38.

II.   Second, the cause of His agony, Matthew 4:3;
Isaiah 53:6, II Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:10;
I Peter 2:24; I Corinthians 1:18.