Then Jesus went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to them,“Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with Him, and He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:36+
During this past Holy Week as we were physically walking through the Gospels and Jesus’ last hours before His death, a question was raised about Jesus’ prayer in the garden and what He was feeling. Was it fear?
In 1 John 4:8 we read, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not make perfect in love.”
Knowing that Jesus is both perfect and love, He would not have been experiencing fear. So what was He experiencing and why did He ask the Father three times the same question? Jesus was perfectly obedient, even to death (Philippians 2:8), so if His Father told Him the way it had to be He would have accepted it the first time.
Now nowhere in the Bible does it say exactly when the weight of the sin of the entire world came upon Jesus. We know that this was the burden He carried on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), but when did it begin? Perhaps it was in the garden that the sin that separates us from God began to fall upon Jesus.
“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
And since it is sin that separates us from God, for the first time in His existence Jesus began to experience separation from the Father.
“And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
Three times Jesus asked the Father if this cup could pass Him by and three times He received no response. Jesus, who taught on the persistence of prayer (“Keep asking…keep knocking…”) was barricaded alone in the silence, away from the Father, by the same sin that separates us.
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)
As horrendous as His physical suffering was, it was the separation from God caused by our sin that resulted in the extent of Jesus’ sorrow and anguish – even before He was arrested. Jesus carried both the burden of our sin and our separation from God through the trial, through His scourging, and onto the cross; bearing the weight alone.
While we were created for communion with God, we have sadly become too familiar with sin and separation from God. But Jesus, being perfectly God and man, knew no sin until ours came upon Him. He experienced separation from God right down to the very fiber of His existence. He was completely broken.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
And His anguish became our healing.
As I sit here and smell the fragrance of the Easter lily beside me, I think with joy of Jesus’ resurrection borne out of His separation, suffering, and death for our sin; and I am grateful.