The Agony of Christ

The Dreadful Hour

Did you know that the Lord Jesus once cried out to be saved? In John 12:27 Jesus said, "Father, _____________ Me ___________ this ___________." On the evening before His death on Calvary’s cross, Jesus went to a place called ____________________ to pray (Mark 14:32). It was there that Jesus became deeply troubled, and He fell on the ground and prayed that if it were __________________, the ____________ might __________ from Him (Mark 14:35). Jesus, in His perfect humanity, did not want to face this dreadful hour. Jesus had anticipated this hour (He had seen it and known about it in advance), but now when the hour was very, very near (see Matthew 26:45: "the ____________ is ____    __________), as a real Man, He naturally shrank from it. What was this hour that the Lord spoke of?

To determine the exact meaning, of "the hour," please study the following passages: John 7:30; 8:20 (compare Mark 14:41,43,46 where the Lord allows His captors to lay their hands on Him); John 12:23-24 (How is "the hour" defined by these two verses?); John 12:27 (compare verses 32-33 which speak about His _______________); John 13:1; 17:1.

Though the Lord’s desire was to be saved from this terrible death, He knew that it was for this very purpose that He had come into the world (John 12:27–"Save me...but for this cause I came").  Why did the Lord Jesus come into this world?  Please do the following MATCHING problem:

Jesus came...
1.________to save sinners.

A. Luke 19:10

B. Mark 10:45

C. 1 Timothy 1:15

D. John 10:10-11

E. Matthew 1:21

F. John 3:17; 12:47

2.________ not to condemn (judge) the world but to provide salvation for it.
3.________to save His people from their sins.
4.________to seek and to save the lost ones.
5. ________ to give us life through His death.
6. ________ to give His life a ransom for many.

Jesus wanted to be saved from this hour only "if it were ________________" (Mark 14:35), but the Father knew that if Jesus were to be saved, then it would be impossible for sinful men to be saved.  God did not save Jesus from that hour so that we could be saved from sin. He died and tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9) so that we would never taste death (John 8:51-52; 11:25-26).  Later at the foot of the cross, men cried out to Jesus saying, "_________    _______________and _________      _________ from the ___________" (Mark 15:30). But it was for this very purpose that He had come into the world! If Christ had come down from the cross, salvation for sinners would have been impossible! In Luke 23:35 the rulers derided Christ by saying, "He _____________ others; let Him _____________   ______________." But our Lord knew that if He should save Himself, it would be impossible for others to be saved. Our Saviour loved us so much He was willing to pass through that terrible hour of death!

In John 12:27-28, Jesus presented two prayer requests before the Father. His minor (comparatively unimportant) prayer request was given in verse 27:  "Father, ___________    _______ from this hour." His major (extremely important) prayer request was given in verse 28: "Father, ______________ thy name." Which prayer request did the Father answer (verse 28 and compare John 17:1)? ____________________________________________________ Jesus wanted to be saved from that dreadful hour, but there was something He wanted even more! What is it that you want more than anything else? What are your major prayer requests?  To do well in school?  To be free from sickness?  To have the right kind of relationships with friends, parents, etc.? Is there something more major and more important than all of these things?

The Terrifying Cup

Not only did Jesus pray that the hour might pass from Him (Mark 14:35), but He also made the following similar request (Mark 14:36):  "___________ away this __________ from me." Compare Matthew 26:39. From these verses, it is evident that there was something in view which the blessed Lord had never encountered before--there was a "cup" being prepared for Him of which He had not yet drunk. In His sinless humanity, Jesus shrank from the awful prospect of drinking from this cup.

What was this "cup" and what was it filled with?  The contents of a cup can either be good or bad: a blessing or a curse. Because of our Lord’s strong aversion to this cup, it obviously contained something terrible. Study the following verses which may help to shed light on what was contained in this cup: Psalm 11:6 (Who is this cup for? _____________________); Psalm 75:8 (Who shall drink from this cup? ______________________);  Isaiah 51:17,22; compare Revelation 14:10; 16:19.

According to John 18:11, who gave this cup to Jesus to drink?

  1. the devil
  2. the Father
  3. wicked men
  4. the Jewish leaders
  5. Judas

Why would God the Father give His beloved Son something terrible to drink? Why did the Father give to Jesus that cup which the wicked should drink? The answer to these questions is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21. When Christ died on the cross He was made _______ for us. Galatians 3:13 says that when Christ hung on the cross He was made a _____________ for us.

How does God deal with sin?

How does God deal with the believing sinner?

God deals with the believer in grace.  God pours out upon the believer His mercy and love and kindness which the believer does not deserve at all.

How does God deal with the person who refuses to come to Christ for salvation (see Romans 2:8-9; Ephesians 5:5-6; Colossians 3:5-6)?  _______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Our Saviour drank a cup of wrath without mercy, that we might drink a cup of mercy without wrath!

In the garden, the Lord was anticipating the cross. In John 18:4 we learn that Jesus knew "_____     _______________  that should come upon him."    He knew what was ahead. He saw the tidal wave of God’s wrath coming because of our sin. C. H. Mackintosh in his Notes on Leviticus (page 65) says it this way:

In Gethsemane, He was anticipating the cross; at Calvary, He was actually enduring it. In Gethsemane, "there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven strengthening Him (Luke 22:43);" at Calvary, He was forsaken of all. There was no angelic ministry there. In Gethsemane He addresses God as "Father," (Luke 22:42) thus enjoying the full communion of that ineffable relationship; but at Calvary, He cries, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46). Here the Sin-bearer looks up and beholds the throne of Eternal Justice enveloped in dark clouds, and the countenance of Inflexible Holiness averted from Him, because He was being made sin for us" (2 Cor. 5:21).

In the garden, Jesus had two prayer requests. His minor prayer request was this: "Take away _________     ________ from me" (Mark 14:36). His major prayer request was this: "Thy _________ be ___________ " (Matthew 26:42).  The Father did not answer the minor prayer request, but He did answer the major prayer request. After His thrice repeated prayer in the garden, Jesus knew that it was the Father’s will for Him to _______________ the cup (John 18:11). Jesus wanted the cup to pass from Him (Matthew 26:39), but what did He want even more (compare John 4:34)? _______________________________________ Our Saviour was submissive and obedient to the Father's will, even unto death (Philippians 2:8)!  Amazing love!

The Sorrowful Saviour

It is very difficult for us to really understand the agony that the Lord experienced there in the garden as He anticipated His death for sinners. Here is profound mystery, and there is much we cannot comprehend. Let us prayerfully and carefully consider some of the things the Bible says about our Lord’s difficult experience in Gethsemane.

Sudden Amazement

In Mark 14:33, we discover that Jesus "began to be greatly (sore) ________________." He was filled with astonishment. As the Saviour saw the ingredients of the terrible cup that was being mixed for Him, He was struck with terror and overwhelmed. As D. Edmond Hiebert has commented, “Jesus had long foreseen His coming death, but now that the shadow of the actual cross fell upon Him, He felt the shuddering horror of the terrible ordeal. It came with stunning effect” (Mark, p. 358).

Extreme Sorrow

We read in Matthew 26:37 that Jesus began to be S____________________.  This word means “to become grieved, sad, sorrowful; to be in pain.” It is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 with regard to the Thessalonian Christians who were sorrowful because they were separated from their loved ones who had died. Jesus would soon be separated from His loved One.  The wonderful love relationship and intimate fellowship between the Lord Jesus and the Father would soon be broken (compare Matthew 27:46). Every believer knows how terrible it is to be out of fellowship with the Father because of sin. How much more terrible it must have been for the sinless Saviour to be abandoned by the Father because of our sins. No wonder Jesus said, "My soul is exceedingly ________________________, even unto ________________" (Matthew 26:38).

Deep Trouble

Not only was Jesus overwhelmed with amazement and sorrow, but Matthew 26:37 also says He became very _____________________. This word means He became very troubled and distressed as the hour of His death drew near. On another occasion Jesus was moved in a similar way as He anticipated the cross: “Now is my soul __________________________" (John 12:27). This is a different word but similar in meaning. It carries the idea of being deeply disturbed or even terrified. Such verses remind us that the cross was the most difficult thing Jesus ever had to face. With great ease Christ created the universe (Colossians 1:16); with great difficulty Christ redeemed sinful men. You will never face a problem or difficulty as great as the one Jesus faced. It is therefore of great encouragement to know that our Saviour knows what we go through. He has been through it already, and He has been through far, far more (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15-16)!

Awful Agony

Luke tells us that Jesus prayed, being in A______________ (Luke 22:44). This is a word that is used of athletes, such as runners or wrestlers, who would be struggling in the midst of a great conflict or athletic contest. “As the powers of darkness closed in on Him and the imminence of the cross pressed upon Him, He found Himself in a conflict the like of which He had never before experienced” (J. Oswald Sanders). The mental and emotional agony of this experience was so great that it even affected the Lord physically. Luke, the physician, describes it as follows:  "His sweat was, as it were, great  ___________ of _____________ falling down to the _______________" (Luke 22:44). According to medical authorities, it is apparently possible under conditions of great strain for certain capillaries to dilate (enlarge and expand) to such an extent that they will burst. When this happens in the vicinity of sweat glands, blood and sweat will be exuded (oozed out) together. In such a case the drops of sweat would be colored with blood. This was but a small outward evidence of the great inner agony that the Son of man was experiencing as the shadow of the cross drew nigh. Hebrews 5:7 also gives us a description of Christ in Gethsemane.

If the mere anticipation of Calvary produced such an agonizing experience, what must the experience of the cross itself have been like? Yet our Saviour was fully prepared to face all that was ahead (see Mark 14:41-42)! It was His supreme desire for the Father's glory and will, and His amazing love for those He came to save that made Him go to Calvary's cross!

His life had also its sorrow sore,
For aloes had a part;
And when I think of the cross He bore,
My eyes with teardrops start.

Out of the ivory palaces,
Into a world of woe,
Only His great, eternal love
Made my Saviour go.

                    --Henry Barraclough



The following is supplemental material:

Did Christ Pay the Penalty for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane?

"Who His own self bore our sins in His own body ON THE TREE"
                    (1 Peter 2:24).

A common teaching of Reformed men is that the Lord's death on the cross was not the only place where sin's penalty was paid. They also connect the payment of this penalty with our Lord's sufferings apart from and prior to Calvary's cross. They often point to the Lord's sufferings in the Garden of Gethsemane as being a time when the Lord Jesus was suffering as the Divine Substitute for man's sins. 

In light of the Reformed doctrine of "vicarious law-keeping," such a view is not surprising.  If Christ's righteous acts were substitutionary, and if His law-keeping righteousness was imputed to the believer's account, then it would follow that our Lord's non-cross sufferings should also be substitutionary and expiatory.  Reformed men teach that His sufferings throughout life were expiatory, but the Bible teaches no such thing.  See Vicarious Law-Keeping (Christ's Active Righteousness).

Here are some quotes by Reformed men who share this view:

John R. W. Stott, Rector of All Soul Church, London, (British Evangelical) explains that the sufferings of Christ in the Garden of  Gethsemane are of such magnitude that they are equivalent to hell:  “We may even dare to say that our sins sent Christ to "hell," not to the "hell" (hades, the abode of the dead) to which the Creed says he  "descended" after death, but to the "hell" (gehenna, the place of  punishment) to which our sins condemned him before his body died...God in Christ endured it in our place. (The Cross of Christ, p. 79, 161)

C. H. Spurgeon - “I do not know whether what Adam Smith supposes is correct, that in the garden of Gethsemane Christ did pay more of a price (for our sins) than he did even on the cross; but I am quite convinced that they are very foolish who get to such refinement that they think the atonement was made on the cross and nowhere else at all” (A Treasury of Spurgeon on the Life and Work of our Lord,  Grand  Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979, p.119)

C. H. Spurgeon - "I feel myself only fit to be cast into the lowest hell; but I go to Gethsemane, and I peer under those gnarled olive trees, and I see my Saviour. Yes, I see him wallowing on the ground in anguish, and I hear such groans come from him as never came from human breast before. I look upon the earth and I see it red with his blood and, while his face is smeared with gory sweat, and I say to myself, 'My God, my Saviour what aileth thee?' I hear him reply, 'I am suffering for thy sin.'" (A Treasury of Spurgeon on the Life and Work of our Lord,  Grand  Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979,  p.131)

Matthew Henry - (speaking of Christ's sufferings in the Garden) "He was now bearing the iniquities which the Father laid upon him, and, by his sorrow and amazement, he accommodated himself to his undertaking. The sufferings he was entering upon were for our sins, and they were all to meet upon him and he knew it." (Commentary on the Whole Bible, Matthew to John, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991, p. 320)

F. W. Krummacher is one of the worst offenders in this regard. His chapters in The Suffering Saviour pertaining to the Garden of Gethsemane are too long to be included here.

There are at least two key reasons why we know that our Lord was not bearing our sins in His own body in the Garden of Gethsemane.  1) In His prayers in the Garden, the Lord always addressed God as "Father" (see Matthew 26:39,42,44; etc.).  It is unthinkable that the Lord Jesus would have addressed God as "Father" at a time when God was acting as the Holy Judge, pouring out His terrible wrath upon the Substitute of sinners.  There could be no enjoyment of the Father/Son relationship at such a time (compare Matthew 27:46).  If He were forsaken by God in the Garden, then how could He address Him as "Father"?  2) Immediately following His time in the Garden, the Lord Jesus said, "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11).  Notice that the drinking of the cup of God's wrath was yet FUTURE.  He had not yet partaken of that cup.  He would drink of that cup on the tree (1 Pet. 2:24). 

The Lord's anguish in the Garden was anticipatory of Calvary's cross.  It did not involve His suffering for our sins, but it anticipated this awesome event.  C. H. Mackintosh explained:

It is evident there was something in prospect which the blessed Lord had never encountered before,--there was a "cup" being filled out for Him of which He had not yet drunk.  If He had been a sin-bearer all His life, then why this intense "agony" at the thought of coming in contact with sin and enduring the wrath of God on account of sin?  What was the difference between Christ in Gethsemane and Christ at Calvary if He were a sin-bearer all His life? There was a material difference; but it is because He was not a sin-bearer all His life.  What is the difference?  In Gethsemane, He was anticipating the cross; at Calvary, He was actually enduring it.  In Gethsemane, "there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him"; at Calvary, He was forsaken of all.  There was no angelic ministry there.  In Gethsemane, He addresses God as "Father," thus enjoying the full communion of that ineffable relationship; but at Calvary, He cries, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"  Here the Sin-bearer looks up and beholds the throne of Eternal Justice enveloped in dark clouds, and the countenance of inflexible Holiness averted from Him, because He was being "made sin for us."  [Cited by Chafer, Volume III of the Eight Volume set of Systematic Theology, p. 40]

For a fuller discussion of these important points, see L. S. Chafer, Volume III of the Eight Volume set of Systematic Theology, page 36 and following (the section is entitled "Sufferings in Life").

William Kelly, in his notes on 1 Peter 2:24 [Two Nineteenth Century Versions of the N.T., Present Truth Publishers, NJ, pages 647-648], answers the unbiblical theory and utterly false doctrine that Christ bore our sins throughout His earthly life:

The hypothesis is incompatible, not merely with the word used by the Holy Spirit here and everywhere else, but with the broadest and most solemn facts which the most unlettered of believers, taught of God, receive with awe and adoring gratitude. What meant that supernatural darkness which in the hours of broad daylight wrapt up the cross from a certain point?  What the cry of Him who had ever, in the fullest enjoyment of love, said "Father," but now "My God, my God, why didst thou forsake me?"...If He had been all His life bearing our sins, He must all His life have been abandoned by God who cannot look on sin with the least allowance.  But no: Isa. 53:6 attests that Jehovah laid our iniquity on His Anointed when He hung on the tree....How unfounded is the idea that our Lord was bearing sins all His life! 

The following are just some of the passages which teach that our Lord's expiatory work of bearing our sins in His own body, took place in connection with His death on the cross, and did not include the many sufferings of His life on earth prior to the cross.

"And, having made peace through the blood of his cross" (Col. 1:20).

"Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor. 15:3).

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).  Please notice that this passage is quoted in 1 Peter 2:24-25 where it is made clear that Christ's work of bearing the iniquity of us all took place "on the tree."

As the animal sacrifices took place on the altar [the type], so the Lord's sacrifice took place on the altar of Calvary's cross [the antitype]

The strong implication from Matthew 27:45-46 is that the three hours of darkness were the hours when Jesus was forsaken by His Father because it was then that our sins were laid upon Him.   So the hymn, "So might the sun in darkness hide, and shut His glories in, when Christ the mighty Maker died, for man the creature's sin."

"Who was delivered for our offenses" (Rom. 4:24).  Compare Romans 8:32.

"We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (Rom. 5:10; see verse 9, "by His blood").

"For He (the Father) hath made Him (Christ) to be sin for us, Who (Christ) knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21).  Though Christ was not a sinner, He was treated as a sinner when He was made a curse for us.  Though we are not righteous, we are treated as righteous because God sees the believing sinner in His righteous Son.

Paul begins Galatians with this statement: "Who gave Himself for our sins" (Gal. 1:4) and he ends the book with this statement:  "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."  The two statements are intimately and vitally connected.

Christ became a curse for us when God poured out His wrath on our Substitute. When did He become a curse for us?  "On a tree" (see Gal. 3:13).

Because of our SIN-BEARER we are made nigh (near) and we have been reconciled to God.  How and where did this take place?  "By the blood of the cross" (see Eph. 2:13,16).

We were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

"Who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree" (1 Pet. 2:24).

"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit" (1 Pet. 3:18).  Two points to notice about this passage:  1) The phrase "once suffered for sins" clearly limits His bearing of sins to a specific time.  It was a one time act of redeeming love.  The phrase is not at all consistent with a lifetime of suffering for our sins;  2) Christ once suffered for our sins, and this is equated with His being "put to death."  Thus, it is His death sufferings that are involved, not His sufferings throughout His incarnate life.

"Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood" (Rev. 1:5).

Paul did not glory in Gethsemane; He gloried in the cross (Gal. 6:14).  He did not preach the Garden; He preached the cross (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:2).  Peter did not teach that Christ bore our sins in His own body in the Garden, but on the tree (1 Pet. 2:24).  

                                                                                    --George Zeller (Nov. 2003)