“‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” -Luke 22:42-44
With some regularity, we run into moments in our lives that put things into perspective. It may be as simple as standing in a circle of tall people to see that you’re not that tall. Other times you can stare off into space on a clear night and realize you’re just one speck on a slightly larger speck relative to the universe. Perspective can do wonders.
A little perspective can go a long way when looking at the Gospel and the love of God. We know that the Gospel is the good news, but don’t grasp exactly how unfathomably great it is. We say, “God is love” without an understanding of how far and wide and deep that love is. Our fallen minds do not have the capacity to fathom such depth, but we can try.
Enter the Garden of Gethsemane.
As Jesus prays before his imminent betrayal and torture, he begins to sweat blood. This is a rare condition known as hematidrosis, and it’s often brought on by stress and anxiety. Jesus was shaken up to the point that blood began to flow from his pores. He was burdened to the point that he needed an angel to strengthen him. Jesus knows what is about to happen, and he is experiencing absolute agony at the thought of it.
So what had Jesus in so much pain? Yes, he was about to face a gruesome public method of torture that the Romans had perfected, but he was far from the first and last person to be crucified. Many martyrs faced death with far greater composure than what the Son of God showed in Gethsemane.
There was more going on than could be seen. Jesus knew that his sacrifice would involve the Father turning his back on Him and emptying the full measure of His wrath upon Jesus. The perfect fellowship that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit had enjoyed for all of eternity was about to be shattered as the Father crushed His Son. He would experience the pain of a lost relationship to an unimaginable degree.
This is the way it had to be. The cup could not be passed. But what ultimately drove Jesus to endure such indescribable emotional, spiritual and physical agony? The answer is you and me. Everything was created by and for him. There was and is nothing in all of creation that He can’t call his own, but this sin problem needed to be dealt with so that He could have us for eternity.
Jesus knew that the only way for us to have fellowship with the Father was for Him to pay the penalty of our sin. It was a debt that couldn’t just disappear but needed to be paid for. All He was going to gain was us, and that was enough for him to obediently face a brutal death and suffer the agony of temporarily losing an eternally-perfect relationship.
One step towards understanding the Father’s love for us is to understand the great lengths he went to in order to have us forever. To say Jesus came to rescue us at a high price is another gross understatement, but it’s the best statement we have. The agony of Jesus helps to bring his love into perspective.