They sang a hymn. They walked through the streets under the night light of a full moon. We know, because it was Passover. It was, most likely, quiet. Exhausted pilgrims were coming from all over the empire; sleep was heavy for everyone. The disciples crossed a valley and climbed small foothills called the “Oil Press” Olive Orchard, pronounced geth-say-ma-ni. Jesus had taught there many times before, but this night Peter, James, and John noticed His silence.
“And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:41, 42).
Socrates, with a philosopher’s dignity, drank the poisonous cup of hemlock; martyrs rejoiced in song while dying; soldiers envisioned glorious deaths in the midst of battle; mystics embraced pain and suffering.
Why, though, did Jesus desire to avoid this cup?
Furthermore, the word agonia paints a mental struggle, anguish, a wrestling match; so much so that hematohidrosis—the blood of His capillaries bursting into His sweat pores—occurred (verse 44).
The wrath of God was seated in this cup (Job 21:20; Isa. 51:17, 22; Jer. 25:15; Eze. 23:28-34; Hab. 2:16; John 18:10, 11; Rev. 14:9, 10; 16:19). Is the God of love even capable of wrath? Of course, God’s wrath is not human wrath. We must not abuse our picture of God by imposing the worst human temper tantrum upon Him. He is not a cruel emperor or an abusive parent. Rather, perfect love necessitates perfect devotion to righteousness, as well as perfect hatred against unrighteousness. Wrath is merely another word for perfect justice. A perfect emperor or parent must hate any threat that endangers his/her subjects or children, respectively. To love that threat would signal perversity.
To save humanity, Jesus was alienated from the Father and took upon Him the consequences of sin: full separation from God. Yet Jesus could not bear the thought of this type of grief, suffering, and absence (Isa. 53:4-6). If it is possible, Lord, remove this from me! How many of us have prayed this prayer? We look for sympathy when going through some difficult times. But Jesus had none to look to—His own disciples were blissfully snoring and dreaming.
Christ’s agony is apexed at the cross when He cried out the first verse of Psalm 22: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Crying in despair and loneliness, Jesus was met only with more silence from heaven: no dove, no voice, no light. He had only the words of the psalm to meditate through—assurance that God had led in the past (verses 3-5); empathy through the prophecy of His shame, rejection, and ridicule (verses 6-8); awe of how the cross experience was foreshadowed (verses 14, 17, 18); help in the form of intercessory prayers (verses 11, 19-21); and the comfort of seeing the results of His sacrifice by faith (verses 24-31). Amazingly, the last phrase of Psalm 22:31 can also be translated from Hebrew as “it is finished” (John 19:30). When there was no hope, it was the Written Word that dwelled in the mind of the Living Word. Love sent Christ to die and become sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). Love kept Him on the cross to experience the separation of sin, wrath, and justice of God. Love caused Christ to see beyond His suffering, His death, the Resurrection, to the hope of seeing His friends, God’s children, the church, Christ’s disciples, His people—all saved.