The Act of Inexplicable Love
The Act of Complete Love
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
In reading the gospels, we naturally focus on the deity of Christ. Jesus was fully God come in the flesh. Yet in Philippians 2 we discover that Jesus was not only fully God, but he was also fully human. The wonder and inexplicable reality was that Jesus not only was fully God, but he fully embraced our human nature. He was fully God and fully man. Yet, during his time on earth, he voluntarily limited the divine exercise of his character and rights as God. We see his humanity and voluntary limitations when he becomes hungry and thirsty. We see his humanity in the humble birth in a lowly stable. Yet, in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see the fullness of his humanity. Confronted with the horror of the cross, we see Jesus distressed.
The Garden event begins with Jesus going to be alone in prayer. Yet he was not alone, for he took Peter, James, and John with him as he went aside to pray. Asking them to pray with him, he left them and went a little further to be alone. In the words of A.T. Robertson, “the three would be able to share the agony of soul already upon Jesus so as at least to give him some human sympathy which he craved as he sought help from the Father in prayer.” In this time of turmoil, Jesus needed the fellowship of others and the strengthening of his heavenly Father. If Jesus needed human fellowship and divine empowerment, how much more do we in our times of difficulty?
In verse 37, we see the depth of his distress as he approaches the reality of the cross. The words used are both graphic and intense. It states that he was grieved and distressed. The word grieved refers to severe discomfort. The word distressed is the strongest word in the New Testament for depression. So intense was his emotional and psychological turmoil that Luke recorded that Jesus sweat blood, which is medically defined as hematohidrosis. In history, there are only a few reported cases of this event. Of the reported cases, the primary cause is acute fear and intense mental anxiety.
The cause of Jesus' anxiety was not the prospect of his physical death on the cross. It is estimated that in the 500 years that the Romans practiced this form of execution, more than 100,000 were crucified. Many of them went to their death stoically and bravely. So what caused Jesus so much anxiety? It indeed was not just the physical death of the cross. The answer lies in his statement in verse 39, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” In the Old Testament (see Psa. 11:6 and Is. 57:6). The term “cup” symbolized divine judgment. What caused such anxiety within his humanity was the realization that on the cross, he would face the infinite wrath of God. Jesus had to be human because only a human could pay the penalty of sin. However, he also had to be divine, for only God himself could endure the full extent of the wrath of God upon sin and endure it to its fullest extent and survive. But in the face of such a terrible judgment, the humanity of Jesus covered his eyes in horror. We will never fully understand the whole reality of the suffering of the cross. The extent of this suffering is one of the inexplicable mysteries of the Gospel.
As Jesus was confronted with the horror of the cross, he chose to remain faithful in his obedience to the Father instead of abandoning us. In response, he resolutely reaffirmed his complete surrender to the Father.
This narrative proves beyond doubt the depth of God’s love for us. This is a love that is beyond our comprehension. When we question the love of God, all we have to do is look to the cross, for therein lies our proof. We may struggle with why God allows us to suffer, but we should never doubt that everything he does and everything he allows to happen in our lives is ultimately governed by his infinite love for us. The proof is given at the cross. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16).