Jesus, Gethsemane, and the Wrath of God

As a man on earth, the Lord Jesus is the picture of understated calm. When people try to kill Him before His hour, He passes through their midst (Luke 4:30).

When the disciples fear they will drown in the storm on the Sea of Galilee, He is asleep in the boat (Mark 4:38).

He is not lacking in emotion, however. Zeal for the Lord’s house consumes Him, and He clears the temple, twice (Matthew 21:12-13, John 2:13-17). He feels compassion for the people because they are “distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). When He sees Mary and the Jews with her weeping over the death of Lazarus, He is “deeply moved in spirit” and “troubled” (John 11:33). He even weeps with them (John 11:35). And, He weeps over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41).

Nonetheless, He is not overwhelmed (even by emotions and circumstances that overwhelm us, and that overwhelmed the disciples). This, of course, is to be expected — He is the Lord.

His Perfect Submission

And yet, there is a time when the Lord Jesus will experience overwhelming distress. He anticipates this moment in Luke 12:50, when He says: “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!

The Lord Jesus fears no man, but He knows exactly what it will mean for Him to “bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28). It is for this reason He has come to earth: “…He appeared in order to take away sins…” (1 John 3:5).

Eventually, the time of His “baptism” arrives. Directly prior to the cross, the Lord goes to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He spends time in prayer to God the Father.

No person sees His agony that night (the disciples He chooses to accompany Him are asleep), but through the gospel texts we are able to witness it.

In the Garden, Matthew says the Lord Jesus “began to be grieved and distressed” (Matthew 26:37). Mark says He “began to be very distressed and troubled” (Mark 14:33). Both Matthew and Mark record His words at that moment as being: “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38, Mark 14:34). And Luke tells us, “Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:43-44).

In the Lord’s distress, He is still perfectly submissive to God the Father. He prays the first time, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). And then the second time, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done” (Matthew 26:42). And finally, He prays “a third time, saying the same thing once more” (Matthew 26:44).

His Perfect Sacrifice

But the “cup” of God’s wrath does not pass from Him. Our Lord goes willingly to the cross. He bears the wrath of God, suffers, and dies to reconcile His people to God. It is an exchange: “the just for the unjust, so that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

Our Lord’s interaction with God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane sounds the death knell for the widely-held belief that man may somehow earn salvation by his own works or efforts.

Are we to imagine that God the Father, Who is perfect in all His attributes — one of them being love — would hear the prayers of His Beloved Son, Who asks if the cup might pass from Him, and would still allow Him to go to the cross if there were actually another way for His people to be saved? It is not possible!

As the Apostle Paul writes in Galatians, “if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (Galatians 2:21).

But righteousness does not come through the law. And the Lord Jesus did not die needlessly! On the cross, our Lord did something that no human being could ever do: He bore the wrath of God for all of the sins of all of His people throughout all the ages — the wrath that we all deserve.

His Perfectly Completed Work

However, the gospel story does not end with the Lord Jesus’ death on the cross. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus take His body, bind it in linen wrappings with spices, and lay Him in the garden in a new tomb. Then, on the third day, the women go to the tomb, but the Lord’s body is no longer there. Instead, an angel appears and gives them the amazing news: “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying” (Matthew 28:6). The women bring this news to the apostles “But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them” (Luke 24:11).

The apostles do not believe the women, but they do believe the risen Lord Who (over a period of forty days) appears to them as well, and then to over 500 brethren at one time.

After this, the Lord Jesus is taken up into heaven, where He is seated at the right hand of God and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. One day He, who was offered once to bear the sins of many, “will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Hebrews 9:28).

Scripture is abundantly clear that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. If you have not repented of your sins and trusted Christ alone for salvation, I urge you to do so now.

You see how the Lord Jesus, God the Son, suffered at the prospect of facing God’s wrath. All those who die in their sins will face God’s wrath for all eternity.

“Today if you hear His voice,

Do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7).

The Glory of God changes everything


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