Guest contributor: Ed Trego
“And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch.’ And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove this chalice from me; yet not what I will, but what you will.'” (Mark 14:33-37)
When I read this scripture, and the accounts of Jesus’ agony in the other gospels, I am overwhelmed with sadness, and in some ways, anger. Sadness that our Lord had to suffer as He did and anger that it is our failings that made it necessary. We must recognize that the sins we commit today are just as responsible for his death as were the sins of the people of his day and before. God is omnipresent, a difficult concept for humans to grasp. He is yesterday, today and tomorrow without separation. We are subject to time, we see things as a continuation of events. However, God isn’t bound by time. He sees the entirety of existence at once. He saw, at the time Jesus was praying in the garden, that our sins would add to the debt owed by humanity. We are no less guilty than those who physically betrayed Him and killed Him by nailing Him to a cross. We, no less than they, need the sacrifice of Jesus in order to gain eternal life.
Was Satan waiting for Him as Jesus entered the garden? The gospels do not say, however, I can’t help but think that he was perhaps waiting for Jesus to make one more attempt to turn Him from His mission. Just as he tempted Jesus at the beginning of His ministry, it would seem reasonable that he would take the opportunity to try again to sway Jesus from his mission.
I have found that prayerfully considering the events underlying the scripture, even placing myself in the scripture as an observer, is helpful in bible study. It provides a depth that I don’t find in just reading the scripture and moving on. In contemplating his agony in the garden I can picture how the interaction between Jesus and the Devil may have occurred.
— As Jesus went a little ways further into the garden and knelt in prayer to seek the support of his father in heaven, the evil one walked beside Him, tempting Him to give up on humanity.
“Hey Jesus” he cried, “you know these miserable creatures aren’t worth your time. For centuries they have turned from you. You know they have killed prophets and ignored your messengers throughout time. Now they are preparing to kill you as well.”
“Father, all things are possible to you; remove this chalice from me.” Jesus prayed, ignoring the taunts and temptations of Satan.
“Jesus, I can take this chalice from you,” replied Satan. “Just give up on these fools and accept the gifts I am prepared to offer. You have seen the glorious things that can be yours; take them. Man will be no worse off than they already are. Many of them have already made the choice to follow me. They are rich, they are honored by others and exercise great power. But you, you will be the greatest of all. Every man will prostrate themselves before you and you will rule the world. I can promise you this if you will worship me. All you need do is say yes and I will take you away from here and place you in ease and glory. The Romans, the Jews, the Gentiles, all will bow down before you. Caesar himself will pay homage to you. Just say the word Son of Man, and it will be so.”
His heart heavy with grief, and understanding what Satan said could be done, Jesus faced trails such as men had never faced before. For just as He was truly God, He was also truly man. And as man, He was subject to temptations just as any other man. Who of us could face the agony and death that was waiting for Him when just a simple “yes” would not only end the suffering but would leave Him in luxury forever. To deny that His temptations were lessened because of His divinity would have meant He was not fully human. The man Jesus could not have been more frightened than at that time when He knew his end was near.
Imagine knowing that tomorrow would be the day of your death. Then imagine that death would come by the most horrible means known and that even before death, you would be tortured near to the point of death, only to be saved long enough to be nailed to a cross. If someone offered you an out, would you take it? Not only a way out, but a way into the lap of luxury such that no human had ever known. Money, fame, possessions of all kinds at your disposal. The respect and fear of all persons. All readily available, just by saying yes.
Jesus, knowing all these things, chose the sacrifice for which He had come, “Father, not my will but yours be done.” He proclaimed
Finally, Satan realized that he had lost another battle. But he wouldn’t give up. After all, still to come was the trial, scourging, and carrying the cross that Jesus would be nailed upon, and finally, the horrible death of crucifixion. Yes, there would be plenty of opportunities to continue to tempt the Son of God into refusing this punishment and abandoning mankind.p>
Even as Jesus was preparing Himself for His passion and death, His disciples were sleeping. Not once but three times, Jesus asked them to watch and pray with Him. “Then He said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’ And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’ And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words, Then he came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26:38-46)
As He prepared to give humankind the greatest gift of all time, his disciples couldn’t even keep their eyes open. His agony in the garden would include betrayal and denial by those He had chosen to be his first messengers. That night, one would betray Him. One would deny even knowing Him three times. Nine of the others would abandon Him. Of the twelve, only John would remain with Him throughout his passion.
I’ve often wondered about his prayer in the garden. “My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39). If there was another way, why did Jesus have to die? Was there another way that would have spared Jesus this torture and death? If we acknowledge that God is all powerful and able to do all things, we have to assume He could have resolved the issue of salvation without the death of Jesus. So why did He chose this way of opening the gates of heaven to those who would believe”
If Jesus was to pay the debt owed for sin, death was that debt. “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19). We were not created to die, death came to us as punishment for our sins. Death was the price of our sins and to absolve that debt, death was the best way to repay it. The love of God is so incredibly great that He was willing to sacrifice his own Son to pay our debt. We are totally unworthy of the gift of Jesus’ salvation. Yet, all we need do to receive it is ask. He willingly died for us, He will joyously take us into his heavenly family and give us life eternal.
The choice is yours and mine.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)