Jesus in the Garden: The Weight of the World
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Luke 22:39-46
March 20, 2019

The last supper of Jesus with his disciples has ended.

As was His custom, Jesus goes out of the City to the Mount of Olives. He goes to the familiar garden there, the garden of Gethsemane. He takes Peter, James and John.

It is the night on which He is betrayed. The next day, He will suffer the things He has known were coming.

Distress is coming upon Him. Great sorrow is overwhelming Him. He falls on His knees. He prays: “Father, if it is possible, let this ‘cup’ pass from Me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42 ESV).

He is in agony. How else to describe it but for Luke to say that His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44).

I suppose in some way, we could say that we have felt something like this. We have felt the fear, the anxiety, and the dread in having to face a dreadful day that we may want to be able to avoid but cannot. Jesus is feeling this sort of thing.

On the other hand, Jesus is also experiencing something that we could never comprehend. He is a true human being, for sure. But He is also God’s Son. We cannot separate His person, as if to isolate the distress He is experiencing from the divine nature.

He is innocent of sin before the Father. He has done no wrong. He justly has no guilt. He does not deserve any of what He is about to suffer.

But what does He begin to experience? It is the beginning of the agony that will find its last expression on the cross with the words “My God, My God. Why have you forsaken Me?” (Mat. 27:46 ESV). It is the dread and sorrow, fear and anxiety of One who knew no sin but has now been made sin by the Father (2 Cor. 5:21). And this not for His own sin, or for the sin of one human being. He is bearing the sin of every human being. Everyone. Jesus is quite literally bearing the weight of the world. Its destiny is on His shoulders. He begins to feel the weight of the cup.

What cup is this? It is a combination of things.

In the Scripture, a cup can mean a destiny. We can see this in Psalm 16:5 (ESV), “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.”

It can also be a reference to God’s wrath. An example is Jeremiah 25:15-16 (ESV), “Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.’”

Jesus is in agony because His destiny is to drink this cup. This reality is coming upon Him. The cup is the just wrath of God against all human sin and rebellion. It is a wrath that makes people stagger and crazed at the fear it brings. So, His heart is like wax. It is melted within Him (Psalm 22:14b).

The agony is that God the Father is about to turn to Jesus, God’s Son, the face of wrath. Isaiah speaks of this, “We, like sheep, have gone astray. We have turned—everyone—to his own way. And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 ESV). In this way, the Father’s fierce wrath is turned away from us.

Friends, we are on very holy ground when we enter with Jesus into the garden. On this ground the unfathomable is beginning to take place. What is incomprehensible is about to occur. It is the wonder of all wonders. It is the greatest miracle of all, if miracles are things that happen in a way that appear to go against reason and nature.

Here, Jesus, God the Son, knows that God the Father is about to pour out the full fury of His wrath on Him. Jesus is experiencing something that could never be something natural to Him. He is experiencing how the Father’s face is turning against Him in fierce, just punishment for sin.

This is agony indeed. It is Jesus’s agony. It is an agony He bears alone.

I wonder, is the agony of the Son a mirror agony of the Father? What is the Father experiencing since Jesus is His own beloved Son, as He twice testified about Jesus?

Nevertheless, theistic philosophers and theologians, in the best tradition of reason, may now want to protest. In terms of the nature of God and logical consistency, it is impossible for God to suffer anything like the agony we are talking about this evening.

Yet, here we are with Jesus in the garden. If Jesus is truly God the Son, then we cannot escape a reality being displayed to us. God is suffering an agony we cannot comprehend. If the best of human reasoning cannot understand it, so be it. We can only worship, adore, and give thanks in deep reverence; . . . with deep reverent joy, because God is lifting the weight of our sin off our shoulders.

Reason has no authority on this ground. We enter with Jesus into the garden on this most holy ground in the authority of faith and the testimony of God’s Word.

But still we ask why? Why is the Son suffering so?

Because of love. God so loved the world, so loved you and me, that He gave His only Son.

Jesus is so much the friend of sinners, of us, that He is taking upon Himself the Father’s just punishment of sin, though He has not otherwise personally offended the Father.

No law, no reason, no sense of justice can comprehend this love and what the Father and Son are doing.

Yet, it is love here in action for you and me. In eternal and abiding care for us, God is abandoning all self-interest for the good of the other, for your good. God the Father and God the Son are doing all this willingly to give us a way out of the trap our sin puts us in. This way, on the third day, when the agony of Jesus is reversed and turned to joy in resurrection, the Father and the Son can say to you: “Your sins are completely forgiven. God’s just wrath against sin is satisfied. Jesus has satisfied it in your place. He has lifted the burden of your sin off your shoulders. Be at peace. Have the joy of sins forgiven and forgotten. Have the promise of eternal life.”

Amen.