Luke 22 - The Agony of Christ (Abundant Joy, Big Timber)

The agony of Christ


Luke 22:39-46




A soon to be martyr, while suffering in agony in the burning fire was singing a Psalm.  Dr. Story inhumanly ordered one of the tormentors to throw a log at him, which cut his face severely, caused him to cease singing, and to raise his hands to his face.


Just as Dr. Story was remarking in jest that he had spoiled a good song, the pious martyr again changed, spread his hands abroad in the flames, and through Christ Jesus resigned his soul into the hands of his Maker.


There have been countless Christians slaughtered for the sake of the gospel over the past centuries.  Countless have sacrificed and suffered for truth and have went to their painful, torturous deaths with great joy imitating our Savior Jesus Christ and looking toward Him, who:


Is the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

(Heb 12:2)


Although their deaths were a sacrifice and sweet aroma to God, the ultimate suffering and sacrifice took place on Calvary when Jesus Christ, the sinless Lamb, became sin in our place and bore the fury of the wrath of God upon His head.


As I expound this short passage of Jesus praying in the Garden, I want to focus on a particular aspect of it. 


Many people, as they expound this passage, focus on the relationship between Jesus and the Father and Jesus forfeiting His own will and doing the will of the Father, which is a great and important focus.  I will touch on this but I don’t want to dwell here. 


Some focus on the sleeping disciples and temptation but I don’t want to focus here either.


I want to focus on why Jesus was praying earnestly in agony and distress and eventually sweating blood. 


What was about to happen to Him?


What was Jesus so distressed about?  Physical pain?  Torture?  Loneliness?  Abandonment?  Injustice? 


It is essential to grasp what happened that day on Calvary.  It is essential to truly understand the gospel and it is essential to understand what should motivate us in this life.  This is what I want to unravel to you today.


The cup of God’s wrath


The scene is set in the Garden of Gethsemane on Thursday, the day before Jesus would be crucified.  After eating the Passover meal in the upper room, Jesus and His disciples, as we see here in verse 39, left the upper room and, as was His custom, retreated to the Mount of Olives


Jesus is heading for the Garden and when He arrived, He stopped and turned to His disciples and told them to wait here and pray that they may not enter into temptation.  Jesus separates Himself from His disciples and goes to be with the Father in prayer.


"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me."


What is this cup that Jesus speaks of?  It must be something serious if Jesus is asking His Father to remove it.  We get more insight on what this cup is in the whole of Scripture.


Psalm 11:5-6:


The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.


Here we see that the cup is involves God raining coals, fire, sulfur and a scorching wind on the wicked.


Psalm 75:8:


For a cup is in the hand of Jehovah; and the wine foams; it is fully mixed, and He pours out from it; surely all the wicked of the earth must drain its dregs and drink.


Matthew Henry comments on this verse:


In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, which he puts into the hands of the children of men, a cup of providence, mixed up (as he thinks fit) of many ingredients, a cup of affliction. The sufferings of Christ are called a cup.  The judgments of God upon sinners are the cup of the Lord's right hand.  The wine is red, denoting the wrath of God, which is infused into the judgments executed on sinners, and is the wormwood and the gall in the affliction and the misery. It is read as fire, red as blood, for it burns, it kills.


So again we see the cup as being the judgment and wrath God being poured out on the wicked.  The verse says that all the wicked of the earth must drain its dregs and drink.


The dregs are just that sediment that remains in the bottom of the cup of some mixture.  Like the stuff at the bottom of a good cup of coffee.  That real potent stuff that wakes you up.  No one ever wants to drink the stuff at the bottom of the cup.


It is the same case here. The wicked must drain the dregs of this cup of the wrath of God.  They must swallow it down.  All down and every drop.  This is the cup of God’s wrath.


In Isaiah 51:17 Jerusalem is said to have drunk the dregs of this cup.


Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.


We see in Habakkuk that the cup represents the right hand of God that will bring disgrace.


In John 18:11, Jesus said to Peter, Put your sword into the sheath: the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not at all drink it?


In Matthew 20:22 Jesus asked the two sons of Zebedee if they are able to drink the cup which He was about to drink.


In Jeremiah 25:15-17 we see Jeremiah taking the cup of the wrath of God and making the nations drink it.


Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: "Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them." So I took the cup from the LORD's hand, and made all the nations to whom the LORD sent me drink it:


The cup we see here in Luke that Jesus is praying about is the full cup of God’s wrath, the dregs included, about to be poured out on Jesus as He substitutes Himself in our place.


Basically what Jesus is praying here is that if there is any way I can avoid experiencing your cup of wrath for others, he prays, then remove it.


Even though Jesus understands what He is about to experience and He fears it, He submits to the Father’s will and says:


Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.


This struggle shows Jesus’ human nature.  Matthew Henry explains it like this:


Nevertheless not my will be done, not the will of my human nature, but the will of God as it is written concerning me in the volume of the book, which I delight to do, let that be done.


Jesus Christ, who being the eternal Son of God, became a man, and was and continues to be, God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever.


The fully man nature of Jesus struggled with what was about to happen to Him but the fully God nature of Jesus delighted in what He was about to face because of the joy He received in doing the will of the Father as foretold in Scripture and because of the redemption of His people.


In the next verse, 43, Jesus was in so much agony over that fact that he was about to become a curse for us, about to become sin for us, that an Angel appeared from heaven and strengthened Him.


Now how could an angel strengthen the Lord of Glory? 


An angel was certainly not needed.  The Father could have strengthened Jesus.  Jesus in His divine nature could have strengthened Himself.  However, the human nature of Jesus was almost left alone to be made completely dependent on God.


The angel ministered to Christ, which is one of the roles that angels do. 


When Christ became a man, He was made a little lower than the angels, therefore the angel could strengthen the human nature of Christ.  After Christ rose from the dead, defeated death and ascended to the right hand of God and received His glory, He again becomes greater than them and Lord over them. 


Hebrews 1:3-4 tells us this:


    After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.


The angels strengthens Jesus and now we see Jesus still in more agony while praying.  Verse 44 says:


And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.


The drops of blood


Our attempts to understand the suffering and agony of Jesus in the Garden that night will always fail.  It is holy ground.  This mystery is so profound that our human minds and even angels can’t understand fully. 


What was Jesus about to face?  Was His human nature worried about the pain His body would suffer?  Was He in agony because He was about to face the full wrath of the Almighty Father?


Jesus was not distressed because of the physical pain he would endure but because of the sin bearing that He would do.  We read in Church history of the martyrs going to their death with courage, with joy, singing hymns, and while rejoicing in the midst of the flames.  Here are a few accounts.


William was sent down to Brentwood, where he was to be executed. On coming to the stake, he knelt down and read the Fifty-first Psalm, until he came to these words, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise."


Steadfast in refusing the queen's pardon, if he would become an apostate a bailiff came and made the chain fast about him.


William now cast his psalter into his brother's hand, who said, "William, think on the holy passion of Christ, and be not afraid of death." "Behold," answered William, "I am not afraid." Then he lifted up his hands to heaven, and said, "Lord, Lord, Lord, receive my spirit;" and casting down he head again into the smothering smoke, he yielded up his life for the truth, sealing it with his blood to the praise of God.


The countless Christians who were slaughtered by their tormenters were strengthened by the Holy Spirit to go to their deaths, no only without fear, but rejoicing.


Nicholas Peke was executed at Norwich; and when the fire was lighted, he was so scorched that he was as black as pitch.  But he persisted in his adherence to the truth, without paying any regard to the malice of his enemies; and he was burned alive, rejoicing that Christ had counted him worthy to suffer for His name's sake.


Was Jesus sweating blood because He feared the physical pain of death?  No.  If this were the case then these countless martyrs were much more courageous than Jesus.  They would have made Jesus look like a coward if Jesus was afraid of the pain.


From the human perspective, He may have been a little distressed about the pain of suffering, his betrayal by Judas, Peter’s upcoming denial that He predicted or Israel’s rejecting of Him and the injustice of the situation.  He, an innocent man, was about to be killed by wicked men.


But ultimately Jesus was in distress because He was about to face God while bearing sin, which He had never did before.


 The Sin-bearing Savior


He was in agony and distress because He was about to become sin for us.  In 2 Corinthians 5:21 it says: 


For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


When we are told that Jesus became sin, it is not in the sense that Jesus committed sin or became a sinner but that He bore our sin.  1 Peter 2:22-24 says:


He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.


 Now, for the first time in all eternity, Jesus would not have fellowship with the Father and Spirit.  Jesus was about to be forsaken and crushed by His Father. 


All of heaven would look upon Jesus as our sin was placed on His head and they would turn their backs to Him, repulsed by the sin that He became. 

This is why He came though, to taste death for everyone.  Hebrews 2:9 says:


Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.


Jesus was about to become sin.  This prospect made Jesus sweat blood.


We know scientifically that sweating blood is possible.  It is a condition called hematidrosis, where extreme anguish or physical strain causes one’s capillary blood vessels to dilate and burst, mixing sweat with blood.


The point being that becoming sin when He had known no sin and then facing the cup of God’s wrath with sin on His head brought great anguish.


Jesus, who was perfectly Holy was about to become sin and Holiness is totally repulsed by sin.


In Habakkuk 1:13 says:


You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong


If you read the book of Leviticus you will see the foreshadow of what Christ did on the cross.


In the same way as the sin of the people was symbolically transferred to the animal so that the animal could bear the penalty for sin and satisfy the justice of God as we see in the Levitical Law, our sin was transfered on the head of Christ and Christ bore the penalty of our sin and satisfied God’s divine justice.


Jesus was crushed and just like the remains of the slaughtered bull in the sin offering was carried outside the camp as a symbolic act of removing the sin from the people, Jesus suffered outside the gate to symbolize the removing of sin from the people by His blood.


For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.

(Heb 13:11-12)


In Isaiah 53:10 we see that it was the will of the Father to crush the Son and put Him to grief. 


Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

(Isa 53:10)


Jesus was in grief here in the garden.  He was in grief and agony and distress because He was about to become sin and face the Father.  That is what it clearly says here in Isaiah.  It wasn’t the physical pain in His body but the wrath of the Father.


Why would it please the Father to crush the Son when there was no sin or fault in Him?


Because there was no other way than by the death of His Son to satisfy divine justice.


Nowhere but in Christ is found the satisfaction for sin and the appeasing of the wrath of God.  It can only be found in Christ alone.


Buddah, the Dali Lama, Mohammad, Joseph Smith, the Pope, can never satisfy the justice of God or appease His wrath because they are all sinners.  Jesus is the only One that is without sin.  All these men must pay for their own sin in Hell so they can never bear another’s.


Since we are all born in sin and continue breaking the Law of God daily since our birth, which is sin, then we must either satisfy the justice and wrath of God by ourselves for an eternity in Hell or we must have a perfect substitute to go before us in our place.


This is called substitutionary atonement and it is what Christ did on the cross for those who will repent of their sins and trust in Christ to be their substitute and Lord.


There is no other way.  All roads don’t lead to Rome.  All roads lead to the broad road which lead to Hell.  There is only one narrow road that leads to life and it is the road of Calvary.


The road to the cross.  Like Spurgeon said:  the law can only chase you to Calvary


The road is narrow and few find it.  Sin cannot be pardoned any other way.  There is only one way and it is found in Christ and His appeasing of the wrath of the Father by His sinless life, substitutionary death, and His resurrection from the dead.


Our Motivation


When Christ became sin, He became a curse.


At the point where Christ went from holy and blameless to sin and a curse, all of heaven with it’s countless myriad of angels and flaming creatures designed to worship and glorify God for all of eternity; who have always worshiped the Son since their creation, now, for the first time in all eternity, they turned their back in disgust.


All of heaven turns and looks away from Christ because they abhor sin and can’t look at sin, and they turn to the Father.

The Father turns from the Son and Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”


The Father turns back in all of His wrath and fury and in one blow, crushes His only begotten Son.


He did this all because of His love for us and in order to redeem sinful, depraved, wretched men like us for His glory.


Now if you need any more motivation to die to yourself and live your whole life for Christ, then your lost.


If you need me to tell you that you will receive rewards in heaven if you will just pursue a life of holiness then your lost.


If you need me to tell you that you will receive material prosperity if you will live for Jesus then your lost.


If you need more motivation to share the gospel with everyone that God puts in your way then your lost.


Don’t you understand what happened on the cross??? 


He died.  Jesus became a curse in your place and bore the wrath of God that was meant for you.


What more motivation do you need?


What happened at Calvary should be our fully sufficient motivation for everything in this life.


When you understand the flaming glory of the cross of Christ your whole life will completely change.


When you keep the cross as the focal point of your life, then the American Dream is repulsive to you.  Selfishness is repulsive to you. Living for Material possessions is repulsive to you.


Christ and His love for us that He demonstrated at Calvary is our motivation.


This is why we give up everything and move to the foreign mission field to die.


This is what motivates us to spend our lives preaching to a handful of Indians in the Andes mountains that the world has never heard of.


We don’t go to the mission field primarily for men.  We go to the mission field for God and because our precious Savior commissioned us to go to every tribe, tongue and nation.


It is the love of Christ that compelled the countless martyrs throughout history to choose a painful death and suffer instead of denying He who was so precious to them.


The love of Christ compels us to godly living, self-sacrifice, and to offer up our whole life as a pleasing aroma to God.


              E’er since by faith I saw the stream,

              Thy flowing wounds supply

              Redeeming love has been my theme

              and shall be till I die

This is what should motivate you to live sacrificially and pursue a life of holiness that is so opposite of the world that the world hates you.


What more motivation do you need?


              All the glory and praise

              To the Lamb that was slain

              Who has borne all our sins

              And has cleansed every stain.

              Hallelujah!  Thine the glory,

              Hallelujah!  Amen

              Hallelujah!  Thine the glory,

              Revive us again.


Won’t you just radically change your life and cling to the cross and make it the focal point of your life.





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