The Garden, a treasured locale, full of pleasant memories of sweet communion both with His closest friends and loving Father, boasted the delicate fragrance of olive blossoms. On a night charged with emotion and urgency, He chose the one spot his heart felt most at home. Yet an encounter with unspeakable grief tore through every chamber of His human heart.
Join me this month for Garden Grace as we step back to the Garden of Gethsemane, allowing God to reveal Himself through an encounter with unspeakable grief. An encounter that ultimately purchased the Grace we possess today.
an encounter at gethsemane
At the foot of the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane offered a refuge for Jesus on several occasions during His ministry. A popular location around Jerusalem, scholars believe He resorted there to commune with God the Father often.
Not a garden by our standards, the word, “Gethsemane” means “olive press”. More of an olive grove, with some small shrubs is all the rocky, dry soil produced in that location. By the same token, it offered a peaceful respite from busy Jerusalem.
To this place of former comfort, Jesus sought on the night of His betrayal; but instead of the comfort of old, He encountered unspeakable grief.
Moving through Holy Week, we meet God in the garden, where He reveals the most intimate encounter between Father and Son recorded in the Bible.
an encounter with Unspeakable grief
Concluding an intensely emotional and intimate time with His disciples in the Upper Room, Jesus heads to the garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives for His final time of communion with the Heavenly Father before His death.
Though all the remaining disciples followed Jesus to the garden, He took only Peter, James and John further into the garden. (Matthew 26:36-39) After sharing with them His weight of grief and sorrow, charging them to watch and pray, He went further still apart to pray alone with His Father.
Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”Matthew 26:38
Jesus spoke many times about His death as the reason He came into the world, (John 12:27) and spent considerable time explaining the expediency of His departure to His disciples, (John 16), why this unspeakable grief in these last moments?
he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors;Isaiah 53:12
Why unspeakable grief?
Prophesied as a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief in Isaiah 53, Jesus knew the grief of rejection, reproach, criticism and even the ugly gossip surrounding His birth. Even so, none of these things prevented Him from complete peace, joy and communion with His Father.
Yet on the night of His betrayal, an unspeakable grief stifled His joy, quenched his peace and drove Him to His knees in a tempestuous struggle before His Father.
Much speculation surrounds the reason for Christ’s anguishing grief in the garden. Truly He new the torture awaiting Him in the form of crucifixion, but He likewise spoke often of the manner of His death: this offered no threat.
No, the unspeakable grief which so pierced the heart of the Savior involved drinking the cup of divine wrath at the hand of His beloved Father.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief;Isaiah 53:10
The agony of unspeakable grief
Even comments of a final hour spent with the Tempter himself had no power for producing such agony of unspeakable grief. Jesus met the prince of darkness early in His ministry and we find no hint of consternation, tempest or anguish such as reflected in the garden agony.
Though clothed in flesh for the express purpose of death (Hebrews 10:5), thoughts of that death settled before the foundation of the world, brought no agony of spirit to Christ.
The agony of unspeakable grief which fell as drops of blood from His pores, issued from the bitter cup from which He tasted sin for every man. In those moments He shrunk from a cup so unimaginable, from which a draught offered more dread than any physical pain He willingly faced.
A cup proffered from the Father’s hand, with whom He enjoyed perfect fellowship, love and joy, but who now demanded the inconceiveable: viewing His only begotten Son not only as the Final Sacrifice for sin, but as very sin itself.
In drinking the cup, the Holy One of Israel, the spotless Lamb of God, abandoned by His Father; tasted death for every man, became a curse and suffered the full and justified wrath of God.
Facing the full realization of the offered cup, in anguish unknown before the moments in the garden, He besought the Father three times for the cup to pass.
the outcome of unspeakable grief
His return to His beloved Peter, James and John after each season of prayer, reveals a picture of love more beautiful than the intimate struggle with His Father.
The Bible keeps Christ’s thoughts a mystery in these moments, but what if His return to look upon those He loves so much infused the JOY which embraced the cup?
To relegate the agony Christ endured in the garden in the face of unspeakable grief, to simply “wrestling with God“, shows gross misunderstanding of the final outcome. His final words, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42) reveal a conflict within Himself.
The combat enveloping Christ existed in His own soul, not with God the Father. The final battle of the fully God, yet fully Son of Man played out in the agony of the attributes of His human and divine natures.
Ultimately, the infinite love which refused to let His people perish in their sin, relinquished its will to that of the Heavenly Father just moments before His betrayal.
the garden grace of gethsemane
The encounter with unspeakable grief pierced to the core of Christ’s human frame. The agony in the garden revealed the depth of suffering the God-Man bore, where even His Father could not come.
Betrayed into the hands of sinners, from the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was beaten, scourged, spat upon, humiliated and hung on a cross to die. Abandoned by His closest friends and for the first time in all eternity, His Father, He drank the cup meant for you and me.
Sin: judged and defeated; full atonement accomplished on a hill called Calvary, but not before love purchased Grace in the Garden of Gethsemane.
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