Gethsemane #2 Significance And Result
GETHSEMANE—SIGNIFICANCE AND RESULT (KJV)
By James L. Thornton
Psalms 18:4. “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
5. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.”
I confess that when I begin to think of the sacred mysteries of Gethsemane, I cannot do so without a certain degree of awe. I feel as if there stood at the gate of the garden a Cherub, who, if not with a flaming sword, yet with a repelling gesture refused admittance and emphatically repeated our Lord’s injunction to tarry outside, while He retires to pray.
It is as though a feeling always comes over me, as if it were unbecoming to act as a spy on the Son of the Living God in His most secret transactions with His Heavenly Father. And the sinful eye ventures too much in daring to look upon a scene in which the Lord appears in such a state of weakness and abandonment that places Him on the same footing with the most miserable among men.
As a teacher I know I am expected to take the reader into depths which makes the head dizzy to look down upon—to answer questions, the complete deciphering of which I must give up on this side of eternity—to explain mysteries, for the unsealing of which my own soul vainly languishes;--and to draw aside veils which, as often as I attempt it, seem the more to thicken.
But the Gospel brings the mysterious narrative before us for consideration, and therefore it is necessary for us to enter into its sacred gloom, and seek to comprehend as much of it as human apprehension is capable of. The events in the garden, with their scenes of horror, have been discussed in another study of ours, “Gethsemane—Conflict and Victory.”
If we do not regard the position in which we find the Savior there as altogether extraordinary, superhuman, and singular, we would do well to close the gate of the enclosure, and withdraw the Holy One of Israel from the eyes of the world, if we wish to save His honor, and that of His Father.
I feel to understand the battle in Gethsemane we must Look Beyond The Physical Aspects we described in “Gethsemane—Conflict and Victory”—the things that could be seen and heard—the Savior prostrate on the ground—the great drops of blood that dropped from his face—the sound of His voice crying out to His Father—the angel descending to strengthen Him—His pleading voice to His disciples to watch with Him.
These physical aspects of Gethsemane have been equaled and even surpassed by thousands of His followers who went to their deaths with unflinching fortitude.
We must, therefore, have to do in Gethsemane with something essentially different from what I just mentioned, or Gethsemane becomes the grave of the Lord’s glory—Heaven must fall, the order of divine government be annihilated, and Christianity be forever destroyed, if the Holy Scriptures compel us to regard the cup which Jesus drank, as essentially the same as that of which Job, Jeremiah, Paul, and many others partook. Jesus’ cup contained something far more dreadful.
Know, however, that the Savior, in Gethsemane, loses nothing in our esteem by His being “sore amazed and very heavy” (Mark 14:33b). We do not stumble at seeing Him tear Himself loose from His disciples, and then prostrate in the dust, hear Him exclaim, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death” (Mark 14:34).
All the physical aspects of Gethsemane, however deeply it may horrify us—it does not make us take offence, nor cause our faith to suffer shipwreck.
THE KEY TO THE MYSTERY:
I feel there is a key that unlocks all the mysteries of the scriptures if one will only look deep enough. The key that unlocks the mystery of Gethsemane is found in
2 Corinthians 5:21 “God hath made Him (Jesus) to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God.”
As long as Christ’s position as mediator is not acknowledged, the events in Gethsemane will continue a sealed mystery. Every attempt to explain them otherwise than by the fundamental views of His vicarious (felt or undergone as if one were taking part in the experience or feelings of another) mediation, will forever be to no avail. Only through this light is everything made clear and intelligible concerning the appalling scenes in Gethsemane.
CHRIST’S RELATION TO SINNERS:
The Divine sufferer in Gethsemane must be regarded as to His mysterious relation to sinners. He here (in Gethsemane) appears as “The Second Adam” (Romans 5:12-21), as the mediator (one that reconciles differences between disputants) of a fallen world, as the surety (one who has contracted to be responsible for another) (Hebrews 7:22) on whom the Lord “laid the iniquities of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
Three causes lay at the basis of Jesus’ mental sufferings—one following upon the other and each more awful than the one that proceeded it.
1. THE HORROR OF SIN:
His agony was caused, first by His horror of sin, by amazement at the abominations of our misdeeds. The transgressions which were Divinely imputed (charged) to Him (Isaiah 53:6b), that He might suffer for them as the representative of sinners, crowd into the realm of His vision in the most glaring light.
Jesus beheld them (transgressions) very differently to the view taken of them by man in his fallen state. They present themselves, to His Holy Eyes in their unutterably abominable nature, and in their soul-destroying power.
In sin, He sees apostasy from the Almighty, daring rebellion against the Eternal Majesty, and base revolt against the will of God—and surveys, at one view, all the horrible fruits and results of sin, and the curse, death, and endless perdition.
How was it possible that the pure and holy soul of Jesus, at the sight of such horrors, should not tremble and shudder, and be seized with a nameless abhorrence, of which we, who are so deeply infected by sin have no conception?
I’m concerned that we get so “used to sin,” in other words we do not let it bother us or affect us, and before long we just live with it. We call it “small sins,” but in God’s sight there is no “small sin,” only sin.
Now imagine personified holiness placed in the midst of the pool of the world’s corruption! May it not be supposed how a sinless messenger, sent to him from the Father, needed only to enter into such a horrible sphere of vision in order, by his mere appearance, greatly to comfort and refresh the Savior.
HE MUST EXPERIENCE GUILT:
But let us look a little deeper—the sore amazement and heaviness, which the Savior experienced in Gethsemane, would still remain an inexplicable mystery, were we not permitted to conceive of Him as standing in a still nearer relation to our sins than that of merely beholding them.
The redeemer as mediator (one that reconciles differences between disputants) would have to be able to suffer the punishment due to our sins only by having a consciousness of them (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The personal feeling of guilt--that worm in the marrow of life—certainly renders punishment what it is, and forms its peculiar essence (the inherent idea imparted or expressed) and focus (the center of attention). In Gethsemane Jesus had placed upon Him the deep feeling of guilt which the vilest of sinner faces when he comes into the presence of God. Adam was the first to have the feeling of guilt when he disobeyed the commandment of God. Simon Peter felt this when Jesus came to where he was washing his nets (Luke 5:8).
The feeling of guilt can come only to the person who is acquainted with the Laws of God. The Apostle Paul explains it, “Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law:” (Romans 7:7). The only way we can experience guilt is to transgress the known Law of God. A person who does not know (has never been exposed to) the Law of God as it is written in the Bible can not experience guilt in breaking it. The scripture tells us He (Jesus) was numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).
JESUS IS MADE TO FEEL LIKE A SINNER:
But if the doctrine of the satisfaction rendered by Christ is opposed on the ground that He was Holy, and that therefore, it was a contradiction and an impossibility for Him to have inwardly felt the condemning sentence of the Law like a criminal—those who do so would become guilty of a very hasty and presumptuous procedure.
They would be overlooking the supernatural and mysterious union, into which the God-Man, as second Adam, entered with us, as our head, and by which He received into Himself—not our sinfulness, for He remained Immaculate (having no stain, blemish, or impurity) (Hebrews 9:14) as before--but our consciousness of guilt, together with its terrors.
When we remember the energy of love and sympathy with which Jesus regarded us in our guilty state, and the further fact that He became actually identified with our race, the doctrine that He was made intimately conscious of our guilt is not unreasonable.
The Psalmist exclaimed concerning the Messiah, “Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head” (Psalms 40:12).
When we realize the guilt He felt on that night in Gethsemane—we no longer wonder at Jesus’ behavior. The mystery of His horror, amazement, and dismay is solved. He had the guilt of Adam placed upon Him. This feeling of guilt could only come to Him in a supernatural way—“The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6b).
2. JESUS EXPERIENCED THE CURSE OF SIN:
Besides the abominable nature of sin (Guilt), the Lord experienced its curse, which is separation from God. In this we perceive the second explanation of the cause of the terrors of Gethsemane.
He feels Himself as a culprit (one guilty of a fault or crime) before God. All that is implied in being separated from God, deprived of God’s favor, estranged from His affection, and “a child of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). He feels as deeply, inwardly, and vitally, as if He Himself were in that situation.
Jesus decends to the depths of such feelings and into those infernal horrors where the prophetic lamentations in Psalms 22 find their fulfillment. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me” (v. 1), “O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not (v. 2); “Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help” (v. 11); “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death” (v. 15); “But be not thou far from me, O LORD” (v. 19):
In Gethsemane Jesus’ soul is unconscious of God’s gracious presence, and tastes only the pain and distress of abandonment. Instead of intimate nearness, He experiences only a feeling of distance on the part of God. But He is not to be spared theses bitterest drops in the cup. Even the Heavenly peace of God’s presence were part of the things which was necessary for Him to sacrifice as the ransom for our souls.
Can we therefore, feel surprised that when His sufferings came to this state of inward abandonment, that the cry arose about the possibility of the cup being removed should, with stronger effort (Luke 22:44a), be asked?
3. SATAN CAME INTO GETHSEMANE:
The third cause of our Lord’s distress in Gethsemane is to be sought in the world of fallen spirits. It is beyond doubt that Satan essentially contributed to the horrors of that night in Gesemane.
The Lord Himself intimates as much in the words, “The Prince of this world cometh” (John 14:30), and, “This is your hour and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53).
His repeated call to His disciples, when they were overcome by gloomy slumber, to watch and pray, lest they enter into temptation, places it beyond question in what kind of atmosphere they were in at that moment.
When God withdraws, Satan comes. The infernal powers have been let loose upon the Divine Redeemer. They are permitted to array against Him all their cunning, might, and, malice. They were at liberty to drive the soul of The Holy One to despair if possible.
It is certain they assailed Him in the most fearful manner, and strove to induce Him to suspect the conduct of His Father towards Him, and tortured Him with insidious dissuasions from the work of human redemption. Consider it sufficient to say that our Lord’s faith, as well as His patience, fidelity and perseverance in the work He had undertaken, were never put to a fiercer ordeal than under the “fiery darts of the wicked one” which He endured in Gethsemane.
In His human nature He “was in all points tempted like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15b). Here the complaints of Psalms 18:4-5 were realized: “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented (frustrated) me.”
GETHSEMANE AND EDEN:
The connection between that scene of horrors in Gethsemane and the Garden of Eden, of which it is the awful antitype, is unmistakable.
While in Paradise the first Adam reposed in the lap of Divine Love, and like a child at home, held peaceful discourse with Jehovah and His angels. We see in the Garden of Gethsemane the second Adam sinking in agony to the ground, under the oppressive burden of guilt, languishing, forsaken, and horrified in the company of dark and infernal spirits.
How evident it is from this contrast, that what was transgressed and violated in Eden was suffered and compensated for in Gethsemane. And how loudly does the narrative itself testify to the truth that Christ suffered in the character of a satisfying surety, and an atoning representative.
THE RESULTS OF GETHSEMANE:
Having discussed the mystery of both the causes and the nature of Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane, let us now turn our attention to the blessed results which were a gain to us from them.
For this purpose it is necessary that we should understand the struggle in Gethsemane, not in summary, but in its inseparable connection with the whole of Jesus’ mediatorial sufferings. We see in every single stage of our Savior’s passion, some particular part of the salvation He accomplished brought before us in a clear and obvious light.
OUR OWN GETHSEMANE:
Let us hasten to Gethsemane, therefore when we feel oppressed in a world where selfishness reigns paramount, and what still remains of the charity of the Gospel threatens to expire and self-seeking and self-love abounds. The loving Savior, whom we behold struggling for us in Gethsemane, continues to encourage us in our own struggle—and how faithfully and with what great interest is He attached to us.
What a price did it cost Him to elevate such unworthy creatures as we are from our misery, and to procure eternal salvation for us.
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By James L. Thornton