The hour is late. Christ has left Jerusalem with his disciples. They leave the warmth of the house and make their way out into the cold night, down into the Kidron valley and start to ascend the Mount of Olives. At its foot lies a small grove of olive trees with a press for crushing the olives. Gethsemane was a peaceful place where Jesus had spent time in prayer.
Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him into the garden. He begins to pray and soon his face is marked once more with tears. Why is he weeping? In these tears Jesus displays for us the agony he went through to win our salvation.
And these perhaps are the most precious tears, because in these tears we see what we have been spared from. We see the depths of Jesus’ love for us, and we see the awful price he paid that we might be forgiven. What do these tears tells us?
These tears speak of the intense sorrow Jesus felt
This sorrow is unusually real and deep. He was overwhelmed to the point of death, surrounded by grief and drowning in pain. Mark in his account says Jesus was “greatly distressed.” This word describes the sudden and horrifying alarm as some great terror approaches. Like a man seeing a colossal tidal wave just about to hit him. Luke calls it “an agony”. So intense is his sorrow that he feels just inches away from death. It wrings from him great drops of blood-soaked sweat in the chill of the evening.
Never before, and never again was there a man so utterly immersed in misery, sorrow, and agony.
These tears speak of the awful suffering Jesus would bear
It was not the physical pain of the cross, immense though that was, which troubled Jesus. In the Garden of Gethsemane an awful prospect was set before him in a fresh light. What was it?
He is going to take the sins of his people on himself. In this moment it is as if all the sins he will have to bear crowd into his vision in the most glaring light. Is it any wonder that he looks on this and shudders in utter abhorrence? The awfulness of it swamps him.
And that was not all. Not only is there our sin to bear, but there is something much worse: the wrath of his father—acting not as father, but as the judge of sinners. It is pictured in Matthew 26:39 as a cup full to the brim with the undiluted wrath of God against evil. This cup of unspeakable suffering is placed in Christ’s hands. The anguish it brings causes tears to run in rivers down his cheeks.
This is what Jesus faced so that we would not have to face it. If you do not know Jesus as your saviour, then this is what you will have to face for yourself – the wrath, the anguish, the separation, Hell itself. But you don’t have to. He offers to take your place, and to allow you to take his place in Heaven. Come to him and ask him to take the burden of your sins and to pay the price for you.
These tears speak to us of the thanks our Saviour deserves
Although death and Hell were in that cup, although the prospect of it overwhelmed him and left him gasping as the full brunt of it hit him, he took that cup and drank it down to the very dregs. Christ endured our Hell so that we might be set free to enter his Heaven. At unspeakable cost he drank ‘the cup’ to the very last drop.
If you know Christ as your saviour, these tears tell us how much we owe our saviour, how much we must love him. And if he has done all this for us, nothing he asks of us is too much. How thankful we should be.
(PS - Much of this post owes itself to Fredrick Leahy's book "The Cross He Bore". If you haven't read it, you really should)