As Jesus approached the time of betrayal, it would seem he did so with the same apprehension that you or I would have had. What lied ahead of him was the worst events you could image from either a physical or spiritual perspective.
Physically it was one of the most torturous deaths that humans had ever devised: crucifixion. The Romans had taken this form of execution to the heights of torture and humiliation, as well. From what I understand, they knew exactly where to put the nails to inflict the most excruciating pain possible.
The person being executed, from what we can tell, was stripped of all his clothing before being nailed to the pieces of wood. Severe pain and humiliation.
On top of this, Jesus also experienced a spiritual separation from God. The one thing God has no experience in is sin (James 1:13). As Jesus took on the sin of the world, no wonder he cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 NET). Although quoting the first verse of Psalm 22, it would seem this was exactly what he was feeling at that moment.
With this in mind, I believe we can realise what he was going through in Gethsemane and why he left his apostles behind to be alone and pray. He told Peter, James and John, “My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me” (Matthew 26:38).
He then prayed to God, “My Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me! Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Matthew 26:39). And he prayed this not once, but three times, “My Father, if this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will must be done” (Matthew 26:42,44).
From this prayer, we can see that Jesus was not looking forward to the ordeal he was about to undergo. If there was any other way he could fulfil his purpose on the earth, he was all for it!
But notice, as well, the condition he placed on his prayer: “Not what I will, but what you will…your will must be done.” Jesus was not willing to go against God’s will. And it was God’s will that he die to pay the price for the sins of all humans.
Notice that after Jesus had spent this time of prayer with God, he never wavered on facing what was about to happen to him. He woke the disciples up, who had fallen asleep, faced Judas in the betrayal, the mock trial before the Sanhedrin, the abuse that the Jews poured out on him by spitting in his face and hitting him with their fists (Matthew 26:67), hearing the crowds call for his crucifixion, enduring the flogging and further abuse by the Roman soldiers, and finally being nailed to the cross. Yet he endured this without a complaint and virtually without speaking (except when compelled to do so).
This truly was the last temptation of Jesus: find some other way. Yet we can rejoice that he did not give in to this temptation but overcame it, going on to die for our forgiveness. Each Sunday we remember what Jesus went through for us when we partake of the Lord’s Supper. But we should not only dwell on his death but remember his resurrection and the hope that this gives us (Romans 1:4) as we look forward to his return (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Readings for next week:
15 February – Matthew 27:1-31
16 February – Matthew 27:32-66
17 February – Matthew 28
18 February – James 1
19 February – James 2