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The Lord Jesus having lifted up His soul to God His Father, and, during the last moments He could give to His own affections, entreated for those who had been to Him as His family, that from henceforth they might be one with the Father even as He Himself was one with Him, went forth.
He finished, as was usual, the solemn rites of the Passover with a hymn sung by all who had partaken of it.
MATTHEW xxvi. 30. Mark xiv. 26. “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives."
Through the night IIe calmly took His way down the streets of Jerusalem to the brook Kedron, which, flowing through the valley that divides the city from the Mount of Olives, passes on to empty its waters into the Dead Sea. In Jerusalem itself there was but little space for gardens or for trees; but on the sunny slopes of the hills around were numerous country-houses, farms, and lovely gardens, which were the favourite resort of the inhabitants. In the prosperous days of Jerusalem these were her ornament and pride; and when ruin fell upon her, the historian who describes the horrors of the siege, pauses to lament their desolation by the ruthless Roman Soldiers. One of these gardens, in a place called Gethsemane,* from the Olives which
grew abundantly there, had often been the resort of Jesus and His twelve disciples. Eleven followed Him now as He sought the place, and the TWELFTH knew it well. Probably it had been decided in the morning that they should there pass the night; for it is written that Judas knew the place.
Let us follow them in solemn thought, while we read
* Or Olive-press.
Jorn xviii, 1, 2. “When Jesus had spoken these words, (that is, when he ended His heavenly prayer) he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples. And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place : for Jesus oftentimes resorted thither with his disciples.”
The Lord Jesus appears never to have possessed a home of His own; least of all in Jerusalem had He where to lay His head. It is true that at Bethany there was a home with loving hearts longing to bid Him welcome ; but when He would be alone He sought the retirement of a garden. It was beneath the Olive-trees He made the closet into which He bids us enter when we would
to our Father who seeth in secret ;* and though this, in the history of our Lord, seems to be but a small thing, it speaks to the hearts of thousands. How few of those who seek for communion with their God, have houses in which they can find a place wherein to be alone. There is but little quiet in the house that is filled with children ; but there are fewer still who cannot find some sheltering tree, or some corner beneath the open sky, where they may pour out their hearts unseen, unheard, by all but God. They carry with them there the sympathy of Christ their Lord.
Into the quiet garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives, Jesus entered with his disciples. It was to Him as the valley of the shadow of death. Here began that dread conflict that was finished on the cross.
MATTHEW xxvi. 36–38. “ And he saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be (sore amazed,t) sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death : tarry ye here, and watch with me."
* Matthew vi. 5, 6.
The three who had beheld his glory when he was transfigured on the Mount, who had seen his face shining as the light, might behold him now. They had seen that He was God, now they must behold him as “the man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” such grief as with all our afflictions we cannot know, for in that dreadful hour he singly “bore all our griefs, and carried our sorrows," "and the Lord laid on Him the iniquities of us all.”*
Let each of us who read these lines remember the peculiar griefs that have bowed our spirit down. Time is a great healer, but some of us have passed through scenes of intolerable anguish ? Has not a cry gone up from our hearts as though they were broken, in some past hour when the agony of death has fallen on our best-beloved, or the blackness of darkness covered our summer sky? Oh there are various griefs ! and our hearts sicken when we would remember even those that we have seen.
What unknown depths are there that can never be guessed at in a Christian land! But, blessed be the God of Mercy, He sends them all to none. The frail creature would be crushed; each accounts his own the heaviest to be borne. But all, yes all, from the desolating fear that fell on Adam's heart when he heard the gates of Eden close behind him, from Eve's first agony when she beheld her Abel dead by the hand of her First-born, down through all the mortal throes that have wrung the human heart, for sin, grief, shame, unrequited love, the anguish of the betrayed, the remorseful pangs of the betrayer; all the blasted hopes; all the broken hearts, yea every pang that man can know, till the world's last outcry for the hills to fall upon, and the rocks to cover, the terrors of the convicted sinner, suddenly called upon to face his judge ; all were now crushing down the soul of Jesus, the holy one of God, the representative of sinful suffering man ! Well might he be sore amazed, and sorrowful even unto death. He could not in that
* Isaiah liii. 4-6.
hour endure the presence even of the three whose sympathies clung most fondly to Him. Such a load of sorrow they could not comprehend; he must be alone.
Verse 39. “ And he went a little farther, (LUKE xxii. 41,) about a stone's cast, and kneeled down and prayed ; (MARK xiv. 35,) that if it were possible the hour might pass from him ; (LUKE xxii. 42,) saying, Father, if thou be willing; remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done (MATTHEW xxvi. 39,) and He prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
Yes! He was man's representative, with all the feelings of a man; and his human nature shrunk from the bitter griefs of the human race; but His divine nature desired the fulfilment of His Father's will, even if it caused his sufferings. “If it be possible,” if thou mayest still be glorified, and Man redeemed without these agonies, let them pass from me, but if not, Oh “let thy will, not mine, be done."
It was not possible. Sin and suffering are as one, they cannot be divided; where sin is, suffering must come, and if Jesus was to be the Redeemer of the world, on Him must be “ laid the iniquities of us all ;" therefore he must “ bear all our griefs and carry all our sorrows." 6. The chastisement that was to bring about “our peace” was to be upon Him,* therefore was He “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." The Father in His eternal love did not turn aside that bitter cup from the agonizing lips of His only Son, but He sent Him help to drink it, He strengthened him to endure.
LUKE xxii. 43. “ And there appeared unto him an Angel from heaven, strengthening him.". The strength to bear was given, but the agony did not pass,
* Isaiah liii.
it was increased. Oh have we not seen it thus in those for whom Christ has died ?
Verse 44. "And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
The dullest among us can picture the Saviour, as He lay with his face upon the ground, bathed in that mysterious sweat of agony, amid the cold dews of an Eastern night, the bright Passover moon* shining down upon Him, through the grey foliage, and massive stems of the olive-trees; but which of us can comprehend the conflict of His soul ?
* Never, never, can’st thou know, what then for thee the Saviour bore, The pangs of that mysterious woe, which wrung His bosom's core.” † In solemn awe we gaze, but we cannot comprehend.
Jesus arose and sought the three disciples he had entrusted to watch with him awhile. Alas! He found them then sleeping. It is written
MATTHEW xxvi. 40. “And he cometh unto the disciples and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What ! could
not watch with me one hour ?” St. Luke gives the touching reason
Verse 45. Sleeping for sorrow, And he said unto them, why sleep ye? (MARK xiv. 37.) and he saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou ? couldst not thou watch with me one hour ? (then unto all) Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation."
In his own deep distress He thought of them, of how little they were prepared for all that was before them. It was for their sakes, not for his own, that he sought to rouse them. Did Peter imagine that he was ready to go with his Lord "to * The Feast of the Passover was at the full of the Moon.