“I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20)
The idea that God is the author of life-plans that lead to situations and circumstances requiring complete dependence upon God, with successful resolutions generating the broadest possible spiritual benefits, is a theme that runs throughout the Bible.
The life-plan of Jesus Christ the Son of God which culminates in the crucifixion and the resurrection is the perfect example of this concept.
Hebrews 5:8-9 reads “Though he were a son, yet learnedhe obedience by the things that he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.”
The lessons that Jesus (the second Person of the Trinity) needed to experience first-hand for Himself through a life lived in a human body here on earth, in order to become the qualified leader able to help us to repent, trust, and surrender our lives to Him, came to a focal point at the events surrounding the crucifixion.
We discover in God’s own plan scripted for His Son Jesus at the cross, that circumstances were so challenging that Jesus had to exercise perfect faith, trust, dependence, and reliance in God the Father, approaching the limits of His own divine capacity, to achieve a successful outcome.
The fact that the scripture quoted above says that Jesus learned obedience by the things that He suffered, tells us that Jesus went through the experience of dependence and reliance upon God the Father, just like we do as Christians today.
Even the Son of God, when living within the limitations of a human body, must confront and deal with the same issues we do (Heb. 4:15).
Humans cannot fathom the depths of God’s divine love. The agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is partially a mystery (Mk. 14:34).
But God included in the New Testament gospels this record of the struggle of Jesus in Gethsemane, with honesty and candor for a reason.
This author does not claim to fully understand the duality of the divinity of Jesus Christ and His human nature, which forms the bond between His earthly experience and our personal walk of faith, for all eternity.
I do not claim to understand the dynamics of the Trinity, in which God is one, yet three distinct Persons enjoying loving friendship in unity from eternity past.
Jesus Christ the Son of God cries out from the cross “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” More painful than the crucifixion was the momentary separation of Jesus from the Father, possibly experiencing the oblivion of total spiritual darkness as a result of absorbing within Himself as the Passover Lamb of God…the sins of the world.
Hebrews 2:9 tells us that Jesus tasted the bitterness of death for every man, so that we would never have to experience this intense agony of separation from God.
Jesus tells His followers that He will never leave nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Because of the sacrifice of Jesus in Gethsemane and at Calvary, born-again Christians will never have to say, over the long expanse of eternity, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Yet however we try to reach a balanced comprehension of the divinity and humanness of Jesus, this account of the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane tells us that Jesus approached the Father for strength just as He did on several occasions, retiring alone sometimes all night to pray (Mt. 14:23; Lk. 6:12).
God is telling us in this Gethsemane account that Jesus did not attempt to go it alone in self-reliance in facing the upcoming ordeal of the cross. God is telling us with tender, frank, and forthcoming honesty about the depths of His own struggle in this balanced-on-a-razor’s edge, monumentally volatile plan of salvation through the cross and the resurrection, designed for our redemption.
We therefore find that in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night before the trial and crucifixion, that Jesus experiences difficulty with the completion of His calling and must rely upon the Father for the strength and endurance to be the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Even though Jesus knows from childhood that this is the future destiny of His earthly life, when the moment finally approaches, the highest features of divine character are pushed to the limits (if that is possible with God in a human body) of Jesus’ own endurance in offering Himself for the sins and transgressions of mankind.
This is one explanation for why Jesus said with relief and triumph just before He died on the cross: “It is finished.”
In the Garden of Gethsemane, God reveals to us openly and candidly that His plan devised to transfer to the second Person of the Trinity the weight of the sins of mankind through the Son of God’s atonement on the cross, was not all that easy even for Jesus.
Otherwise, Jesus would have breezed through the Garden of Gethsemane without saying his soul was heavy unto death, or having to pray “more earnestly”, or asking the Father to remove this cup of suffering from Him, or sweating drops of blood while praying, or having one of the great angels from heaven (possibly Gabriel), visit Him for comfort and support.
In this life-script that God crafted for Himself, we see a level of moral character that instructs us as to the heights of what we can expect in our own spiritual journey.
God does not ask us from a comfortably safe distance to step into the risk and adventure of the Christian life.
God will not challenge us to the core of our being in terms of character, faith, trust, and reliance upon God, and in times of persecution may even cost the Christian his or her life, without Himself having also shared this similar experience.
God composed and orchestrated His own life here on earth in such a way that, in regard to all of life’s critical issues, He challenged Himself through the life-long experience of the cross.
This sets the example for us to have a foreglimpse of what is involved in a walk of faith with God.
Because Christ lives within the believer’s heart, we have the one and only Person helping us “from the inside” who has successfully been through the cross and resurrection experience ahead of us.
Whichever way we interpret the many sides of the agony of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, in trying to understand the limitlessness of the divine love of God, one important lesson stands out. If God is going to ask me to give my all, and He is offering His help in this regard, then I must have confidence that He has actually been there Himself ahead of me.
I must have absolute confidence that my Guide through this adventure of faith truly knows the best possible route to take.
In some way that we can only begin to discover through our own God-composed biblical walk of faith, both the human and the divine sides of Jesus Christ gave His all in Gethsemane and at Calvary, in exhibiting unselfish love and pure righteousness in the face of enormous opposition in order to pre-qualify Himself to be the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6).
One of the accounts of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is recorded in Luke 22:39-46:
39 And he came out, and went, as he was accustomed, to the Mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
41 And he was withdrawn from them a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven strengthening him.
44 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.
45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow.
46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
Luke 22:44 says that Jesus prayed “more earnestly.”
This is a remarkable statement.
We would naturally think that the initial earnest prayer of Jesus regarding any issue would always be entirely adequate the first time, seeing that He is the eternal, perfect Son of God.
The fact that Jesus (the Son of God) had to go back a second time and pray more earnestly tells us just how difficult it was to absorb within Himself the huge mass of the sins and transgressions of mankind.
We see in the divine approach that Jesus takes in the Garden of Gethsemane toward this great challenge, a pattern for how we are to confront the difficulties and challenges in our own lives.
Jesus was spiritually battling and overcoming the world’s sin, which is based upon rebellion and self-autonomy in mankind, by using the opposite, counter-balancing weapons of surrender, dependence, and reliance upon God the Father’s way instead of His own way (Lk. 22:42).
It took the direct opposite attitude of living for oneself, of putting one’s own interests first, of side-stepping a difficult situation, of saving one’s own skin, and of running away from a challenge…for Jesus to cancel-out the sum total of mankind’s sin and to fulfill His role as the Lamb of God sacrifice for sin.
This is the part of the first-advent, messianic scenario that the self-absorbed Satan totally miscalculated.
This is how God used the short-sighted blindness of evil, rooted in self-centeredness, to turn the lowliness of the cross into the exalted glory of the resurrection for our benefit.
This is precisely why the cross of Christ, for man, is the way back to God (Isa. 53:6).
The way back to God is not through self-autonomy or self-direction, using our God-given natural gifts and abilities independently apart from God. These are the fallen tendencies of “self-realization” that got us into trouble to begin with in the Garden of Eden, that actually separated us from a relationship with God and that Jesus is redeeming us from on the cross.
In Isaiah 14:13-14, it is the “I will” portions of Lucifer’s statements “I will ascend into heaven” and “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God,” that is the official start of sin in the universe.