By Morris D. Norman
It is not insignificant that about one fourth of the gospels is given over to the “passion week” in the life of our Lord, and that nearly half of this deals with the last twenty-four hours prior to his burial. There is immensely more to “Christ and him crucified” than just the shedding of blood. That blood was indeed the blood of the only begotten of the Father. the unique Son of God and all that this means. God declared, both at his baptism and at the transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” and then at the resurrection: “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee” (Acts 13:33). He is declared, then, to be the “Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). Jesus Christ, who became like unto his brethren and who was tempted in all points like as we, yet without sin, will bring many sons into glory (Heb. 2:9-18). We become the children of God by faith when we “put on Christ” in baptism (Gal. 3:26,27). Paul served God in his spirit in the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:9), for it was Christ who lived in him through faith (Gal. 2:20). If we miss this basic truth we miss the heart and core of the gospel.
Although the divine record of Gethsemane is brief (30 verses in four gospels), it is one of the most poignant events in the life of Christ. Not since the wilderness had he had such trials. He had faced and overcome many things in three and one-half years: worldly acclaim when they would have made him king; discouragement when his followers lacked understanding and followed for the loaves and fishes. He had successfully disputed with the scribes and Pharisees over their false concepts and traditions. Now, in Gethsemane, he faces the greatness conflict of all, that of the spirit over the flesh.
Christ knew full well what was before him. It is very likely he had seen crucifixions before since this was the common practice of capital punishment. He knew his destiny before he came into the world. At the beginning of his ministry he said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn. 2:19). Months before the events he told his disciples what would happen (Matt. 16:21) and the details became more graphic as he drew nearer Jerusalem (Mk. 10:33,34). There is no mistaking it, he knew what was before him.
The last week was spent in pin-pointing why God judged the nation of Israel and in teaching needed last minute lessons to the twelve. He may lose the nation but not those who had followed him. Even here the true nature of his mission comes clear as he speaks of his broken body and shed blood for a covenant for the remission of sins. In washing his disciples feet he teaches the real essence of his kingdom, humble service. If they would abide in him through love they would bear fruit and the Comforter would come to guide them into all truth that they could be witness of him.
Having prepared the twelve as best he could for the coming events, he now prepares himself. He comes to the garden where he often went. He exhorts the disciples to pray that they not enter into temptation, for their trial would be great. Then he goes a bit further, with sorrow of soul and anguish of heart he prayed three times, “Abba Father, all things are possible unto thee; remove this cup from me: howbeit, not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mk. 14:36). Here he fought his battle and won his victory over his humanity, able to face his trial and death with courage and determination. As he emerges from the garden he is in complete control, not his enemies. He permits them to take him (he could have called down 12 legions of angels; even Pilate had no power but from above). There were no mockings, no blasphemy, no false accusations, no scourgings that could rile him. He is the master of the events; at each step he has composure and control.
He is able to accomplish and endure the agonies and trials of his death because he knew full well his purpose and destiny, that he must die in Jerusalem, for it was heaven’s will that he be offered up for all humanity. “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say, Father, save me from this hour? But for this cause came I unto this hour” (Jn. 12:27). Thus, he faced the ordeal with determination, for it was in Gethsemane that he made his victory, and having made it, he went through the ordeal as no other man could have.
Every Christian has his Gethsemane. Initially, it comes at his conversion, when he must come to grasp with the reality of sin in the battle between the flesh and the spirit. With this thought in mind read Romans 6-8, Galatians 3:26-4:7 and Hebrews 5:5-9. In these and many other passages we see the similarity between Christ’s trial and ours. By the same “spirit of holiness” that the Lord had to give him his victory in his most compelling hour, we may have victory over the flesh. To have our dominion over death, to die no more, we are to crucify the old man that the body of sin might be done away, that we permit not sin to reign any longer in our mortal bodies. Having been servants to sin, we obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine to which we were delivered and became free from sin and servants of righteousness. We have not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear, but the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:12-17). “For whom God foreknew, he also foreordained to conform to the image of his Son” (8:29). In our obedience we “put on Christ.” He redeemed those who “were under law that they might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal. 3:26-4:7).
When he was in the flesh he “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears to him who was able to save him from death” and was “heard for his godly fear, though he were a Son yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered, and having been made perfect, he became to all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:7-9). “Wherefore, having received a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, whereby we may offer service well pleasing to God with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28).
If we are to overcome sin in the flesh and sit down with Christ on his throne, we must acquire the spirit of Christ. This fact comes back to us over and over in the gospel message: “Be like Christ. ” The song, “In The Hour Of Trial” expresses it well: “Bring to mind sad Gethsemane.” Have you noted how many of our songs center around the garden? With our spirit after the likeness of his spirit, we are the sons of God (Rom. 8:16).
The entire life of Christ was to fulfill heaven’s will, this was his destiny. “Then said I, Lo, I am come (in the roll of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7). He continually declared he came not to do his own will, but that of his Father. He overcame all temptations, his life was a life of continual victories. But they all reached their height in the scenes around the cross. And Gethsemane was the decisive battle ground. His will became the will of the Father’s in the greatest of all sacrifices, his own life.
“Look unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross despising the shame, and hath set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Know your destiny: we are people bound for eternity. Christians are strangers in a foreign land, pilgrims on their way to the city whose builder and maker is God. Let nothing of this realm keep you from going home. Know God’s purpose.
We have been given life to be servants of righteousness, to be pleasing in the sight of our king. We cannot, under any circumstance, give way to the temptations of the adversary. Remember the determination that brought you to the waters of baptism, and with the spirit of Christ, be not entangled again in the corruption of this world.
Use the power of prayer, even as did our Savior. Face each crisis and each trial with, “Abba, Father, not my will, but thine be done.”
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 20, pp. 613-614
October 15, 1987