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Youth Messenger Online Edition

April-June

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Gethsemane
Paul M. Balbach

Prior to going to the cross, Jesus had to go through an experience that was so difficult that it almost killed Him. Yet, it was this experience that strengthened Him to die the death He must die in order to pay the penalty for the whole world. Gethsemane strengthened and prepared Him for the events leading to His crucifixion and for the agony of the cross. The battle that Christ went through at Gethsemane was a physical, mental, and spiritual battle. It was here that in His great agony, Christ actually sweat great drops of blood for you and me.

“As they approached the garden, the disciples had marked the change that came over their Master. Never before had they seen Him so utterly sad and silent. As He proceeded, this strange sadness deepened; yet they dared not question Him as to the cause. His form swayed as if He were about to fall. . . . Every step that He now took was with labored effort. He groaned aloud, as if suffering under the pressure of a terrible burden. Twice His companions supported Him, or He would have fallen to the earth.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 685.

Why was this battle so difficult? In Matthew 26:36–38 it says “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” The Bible is telling us that Jesus here went into depression, He became severely depressed. How do we know? If someone comes up to a physician and tells them that they are “exceeding sorrowful” (very sad), even unto death, what diagnosis is that physician going to give? Depression, severe depression. Why was Jesus so depressed now? Why was He sorrowful unto death? Well, not only was He faced with the guilt of the world upon His shoulders, but “Christ felt His unity with the Father broken up” (Ibid., p. 686). Throughout Christ’s earthly ministry, He had been connected with His Father, but now He could feel the breaking of that connection.

When Jesus went into the garden of Gethsemane, He took some of His closest disciples with Him—Peter, James, and John. Peter had promised that if he had to die with Christ, he would not forsake Him. But how about now? Matthew 26:37 says Jesus “began to be sorrowful and very heavy,” yet none of His disciples asked Him why He felt like this. None of them asked if they could do anything to make Him feel better or to help Him. Jesus then tells Peter, James, and John “tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed. . . . And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep” (Matthew 26:38–40). Even when Jesus Himself asked His disciples to watch, they fell asleep. If Peter was willing to die with Christ, why couldn’t he watch and comfort Jesus during this time? Jesus had said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death”—yet where was brave Peter now? Fast asleep. How about James and John? They asked to be closest to Him in the kingdom, but now they could not stay awake and comfort Christ in His sorrow. How do you think Jesus felt when He realized He was coming to the point of death, the point where He would die for the world—for you and me, for His disciples? Would it be worth it? Now in His dark trial, His closest friends did not even seem to care about Him and His sufferings. Would anyone care? Would His great sacrifice be worth it?

At this time, Jesus not only felt forsaken and forgotten by His closest disciples, He also felt forsaken and forgotten by God. “Now He seemed to be shut out from the light of God’s sustaining presence. Now He was numbered with the transgressors. The guilt of fallen humanity He must bear. Upon Him who knew no sin must be laid the iniquity of us all. So dreadful does sin appear to Him, so great is the weight of guilt which He must bear, that He is tempted to fear it will shut Him out forever from His Father’s love.” (Ibid., p. 685).

Christ then went a little distance from His disciples and prayed, “ ‘O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.’ Yet even now He adds, ‘Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt’ . . . If He could only know that His disciples understood and appreciated [the sacrifice Christ was making for mankind], He would be strengthened.” (Ibid., pp. 687, 688). Feeling forsaken and forgotten, “He staggered to the place where He had left His companions. But He ‘findeth them asleep.’ Had He found them praying, He would have been relieved. Had they been seeking refuge in God, that satanic agencies might not prevail over them, He would have been comforted by their steadfast faith. But they had not heeded the repeated warning, ‘Watch and pray.’ ” (Ibid.).

“Again the Son of God was seized with superhuman agony, and fainting and exhausted, He staggered back to the place of His former struggle. His suffering was even greater than before.” (Ibid., p. 689). Luke 22:44 says “and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Is it possible to actually have bloody sweat, to sweat drops of blood? Yes, although this phenomenon is rare, it has been recorded in history and even recently seen in the medical world.

History relates an incident where a person sweat drops of blood. An experience of King Charles IX of France is recorded in A Treatise on the Physical Cause of the Death of Christ, and its Relation to the Principles and Practice of Christianity by William Stroud, M.D., published by Hamilton and Adams in London, 1847. We find on page 113: “ ‘The disease that carried him off—says [historian] Voltaire—is very uncommon; his blood flowed from all his pores. This malady, of which there are some examples, is the result either of excessive fear, furious passion, or of a violent and melancholic temperament.’ ” On the following page of the same treatise, De Mezeray, a French historian, also makes reference to this event which evidently occurred at the castle of Vincennes in May 1574, stating that the king’s “blood gushed from all outlets of his body, even from the pores of his skin, so that on one occasion he was found bathed in a bloody sweat.”

A recent experience of someone sweating drops of blood is told by Dr. Tim Riesenberger on December 20, 2007 as follows.

“There was a woman who was in labor, and a friend of mine was attending the birth, and he shared this story with me. He was a resident, like myself. Now unfortunately, the baby was not progressing forward, it was stuck. Now sadly, if the baby gets stuck, there can be forces that compress certain parts. And if you compress the umbilical cord, what do you think happens? You are cutting off the circulation. And the baby’s heart rate began to drop, lower and lower. The signs of life began to slip away. And the nurses told this woman, ‘you need to push like you have never pushed before!’ And she just screamed ‘AHHHHHHHH!’ And she pushed and out came the baby. And she’s just trying to recover, and she just wipes her face, and she sees a handful of blood. And she screams, and she’s like ‘What’s going on?’ She turns to the nurses, and they say, ‘it means you pushed really good.’ Because under times of extreme stress, the capillaries, underneath the surface of your skin will actually rupture, and you will sweat blood.”

“Again [Jesus] had felt a longing for companionship, for some words from His disciples which would bring relief, and break the spell of darkness that well-nigh overpowered Him. But their eyes were heavy; ‘neither wist they what to answer Him.’ His presence aroused them. They saw His face marked with the bloody sweat of agony, and they were filled with fear. His anguish of mind they could not understand. . . .

“Turning away, Jesus sought again His retreat, and fell prostrate, overcome by the horror of a great darkness. The humanity of the Son of God, trembled in that trying hour. He prayed not now for His disciples that their faith might not fail, but for His own tempted, agonized soul. The awful moment had come—that moment which was to decide the destiny of the world. The fate of humanity trembled in the balance. Christ might even now refuse to drink the cup apportioned to guilty man.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 690.

Christ prayed three times, “O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.” Why did Christ go through all that suffering in Gethsemane? The sufferings of Christ in Gethsemane were not only for those who have already sinned, nor were they only for those who are currently sinning. Christ bore the sins and the guilt of those in the past, present, and future.

Why did Christ have to go through all this suffering, depression, and agony? Why was this guilt and agony so strong? Why did it make Jesus “sorrowful, even unto death”? Have you ever felt bad about something that you did, and became extremely guilty, sad, or depressed? Maybe this guilt even brought you to tears. Or your guilt and remorse was on your mind for days or even weeks. Was it committing a sin that you know was wrong? Was it unkind, hurtful words that you spoke to someone? Maybe it was a secret habit or a repeated behavior. Maybe it was a once in a lifetime opportunity that you missed to witness and tell someone about Jesus. Now, imagine feeling all that guilt, plus all the guilt from the rest of the sins you have committed during your life until now, plus all the guilt of the future sins that you will commit. Then add this to all the guilt of all the other sins, ever committed (or that will ever be committed) by anyone who has lived or ever will live on this earth! This includes the guilt of Hitler, Stalin, Nero. It includes the guilt of Herod, who allowed John the Baptist to be beheaded, the guilt of Pilate and the Jews who crucified Jesus. It includes the guilt of the soldiers who nailed Him to the cross, and even the guilt of Judas. Our finite, human minds cannot even scratch the surface in comprehending this.

“The conflict was terrible. Its measure was the guilt of His nation, of His accusers and betrayer, the guilt of a world lying in wickedness. The sins of men weighed heavily upon Christ, and the sense of God’s wrath against sin was crushing out His life”—Ibid., p. 687.

Christ went through all these feelings of guilt, suffering, agony, even to the point of profusely sweating blood for you. Will you make His effort worthwhile today? Will you give Him your heart? Consecrate your life to Him right now and ask Jesus to come into your heart, mind, and life.