Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46

On more than one occasion during Jesus Christ’s ministry, he claimed that “Mine hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). That distant forlorn future hour was the commencement of atonement and the hour had finally arrived. During the last days and hours of the Savior’s life, Christ marked time with the statement “the hour is come” (Luke 22:14; Mark 14:41).The Savior’s statement “the hour is come” was soon followed by his leaving the upper room and proceeding to the Mount of Olives and to the Garden of Gethsemane, where occurred one of the most important and transcendent events in the history of the world.

It was here that he atoned for the original transgressions of Adam and Eve, and it was here that he took upon himself the sins of all mankind upon the condition of repentance of their sins. The Savior’s entire mortal life and for that matter his preexistent life, had anticipated this very hour to come. This lesson focuses on the Savior’s experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. The assigned New Testament reading amply testifies of two important facts: that during this critical hour Jesus was not left alone and that Jesus voluntarily glorified and followed the will of His Father in Heaven by taking upon himself the cumulative effect of the sins of mortal man—past, present, and future.

Gethsemane

The fact that the word Gethsemane is associated with a garden is significant. The word Gethsemane comes from two Hebrew roots: gath, meaning “press,” and shemen, meaning “oil,” espe­cially that of the olive.[1] In other words Gethsemane was the garden of the oil press. There olives had been pressed under the weight of great stone wheels to squeeze precious oil from the olives. So the Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, was literally pressed under the weight of the sins of the world. He sweated great drops of blood—his life’s “oil”—which issued from every pore (see Luke 22:44; D&C 19:18).

The Events At Gethsemane

Once within the Garden of Gethsemane, the Savior said to most of the twelve: “Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.” He took Peter, James, and John with him, “Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt. 26:36-39.)

And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 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. (Luke 22:43-44.)

Then Jesus rose, went to his disciples, and found them asleep. He retired again and prayed a second time as he had before. He went to his disciples again and found them still asleep. A third time he retired and prayed to his Father as he had done before. (See ibid., 26:40-46.)

Sometimes it is not recognized that Jesus’ suffering in the Garden was a fundamental part of his atoning sacrifice. However, Luke reports that the Lord’s agony in the Garden was so intense that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

President Joseph Fielding Smith gives us insight into this great event. He states:

We speak of the passion of Jesus Christ. A great many people have an idea that when he was on the cross, and nails were driven into his hands and feet, that was his great suffering. His great suffering was before he ever was placed upon the cross. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that the blood oozed from the pores of his body: “which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit — and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink.” (D&C 19:18.)

That was not when he was on the cross; that was in the garden. That is where he bled from every pore in his body.

Now I cannot comprehend that pain. I have suffered pain, you have suffered pain, and sometimes it has been quite severe; but I cannot comprehend pain, which is mental anguish more than physical, that would cause the blood, like sweat, to come out upon the body. It was something terrible, something terrific; so we can understand why he would cry unto his Father: “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”[2]

Thus we are mistaken to believe that the atonement began with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the Cross. The Atonement of Jesus Christ began in Gethsemane prior to His crucifixion. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith states:

We get into the habit of thinking, I suppose, that his great suffering was when he was nailed to the cross by his hands and his feet and was left there to suffer until he died. As excruciating as that pain was, that was not the greatest suffering he had to undergo, for in some way which I cannot understand, but which I accept on faith, and which you must accept on faith, he carried on his back the burden of the sins of the whole world . . . was our Savior and Redeemer of a fallen world, and so great was his suffering before he ever went to the cross we are informed, that blood oozed from the pores of his body, and he prayed to his Father that the cup might pass if it were possible, but not being possible he was willing to drink.[3]

The Suffering In Gethsemane

On the evening of Gethsemane, the Savior suffered the pains of all men, which suffering, He said, “caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink.” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18.)

In spite of that excruciating ordeal, He took the cup and drank! He suffered as only God could suffer, bearing our griefs, carrying our sorrows, being wounded for our transgressions, voluntarily submitting Himself to the iniquity of us all, just as Isaiah prophesied. (See Isaiah 53:4-6.)

It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him.

The mortal mind fails to fathom, the tongue cannot express, the pen of man cannot describe the breadth, the depth, the height of the suffering of our Lord—nor His infinite love for us.

Yet there are those who arrogantly declare the most pernicious heresy: that the blood which extruded from the physical body of our Lord on that night had no efficacy for the redemption of man. They would have us believe that the only significance to Gethsemane was that Jesus made His decision there to go to the cross. They say that any suffering Jesus endured was only personal, not redemptive for the whole human race. I know of no heresy more destructive to faith than this, for the individual who so accepts this delusion is beguiled to believe that he can achieve salvation on the basis of his own merit, intelligence, and personal effort.[4]

Elder Neil A. Maxwell has also spoken at length about the severity of the pain and anguish that the Savior endured in Gethsemane:

“Later, in Gethsemane the suffering Jesus began to be ‘sore amazed’ (Mark 14:33), or, in the Greek, ‘awestruck’ and ‘astonished.’ Imagine, Jehovah, the Creator of this and other worlds, ‘astonished’! Jesus knew cognitively what He must do, but not experientially.

“He struggled and groaned under a burden such as no other being who has lived on earth might even conceive as possible.  It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing.  No other man, however great his powers of physical or mental endurance, could have suffered so; for his human organism would have succumbed, and syncope would have produced unconsciousness and welcome oblivion.”

“He had never personally known the exquisite and exacting process of such an atonement. Thus, when the agony came in its fulness, it was so much, much worse than even He with his unique intellect had ever imagined… The cumulative weight of all mortal sins—past, present, and future—pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul!”[5]

The Savior’s atonement affected every age, every dispensation, and every person. As Elder Maxwell states, “Hence the appropriate symbolism of His bleeding at each pore – not just some.”[6]

Father, If Thou Be Willing, Remove This Cup From Me

Anticipating the cross, Jesus said, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42.) Faith in God doesn’t mean that we always have implicit trust that he will grant us our every desire. It means rather that we trust his judgment, that we believe God is on the side of truth and justice and mercy. A disciple of Jesus can also say, “Father, thy will, not mine, be done.” Christ’s statement exemplifies both trust in his Father and the willingness to have His will swallowed up in the will of the Father—what an obedient son.

Speaking of the principle of obedience of the Savior, Elder Jeffery R. Holland elaborates:

When faced with the agony of Gethsemane, where He endured such pain that His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground, He exemplified the obedient Son by saying, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42.)

Christ, in addition to being both the spiritual and physical Son of God (which in and of itself gave him unarguable, rightful claim upon his Father’s virtues), and in addition to acting with divine investiture of authority (both to speak and act in his Father’s stead), claimed a major portion of this divine, fatherly power through the fundamental gospel principle of obedience. By his obedience Christ showed the way to godhood to those of us who, although spirit children of God, are not physically begotten of Him and are not invested with the totality of his divine power.

By this doctrine Christ teaches us as mortal men and women that we can be one with the Father in a crucial, fundamental, eternally significant way: We can obey him. We can subject the flesh to the spirit. We can yield our will as children to the will of our Heavenly Father.

It was such yielding and such obedience that brought the mastery of Gethsemane. Surely one of the crucial moments in those awe-filled hours—moments leading to Christ’s perfection, fulfillment, and eternal majesty—was the moment the Son in flesh yielded to the Father in Spirit, saying, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done”—”The will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.”[7]

The Withdrawal Of The Spirit At Gethsemane

We learn for latter-day scripture that the Spirit withdrew from the Savior during the events at Gethsemane (D&C 19:16-20). The account in Mark also speak of the effects of the loss of the Spirit—it states that the He was “sore amazed,”  “very heavy” and his soul was exceedingly sorrowful unto death (Mark 14:33, 34).

I suppose that all of us have at some time or another done something that caused the Spirit to leave us; hence we felt low, we felt down, we felt alone. In each case, our losing the Spirit was the result of something we had done individually, not something someone else had done.

Now, let us consider the case of Jesus, who had the Holy Ghost all the days of his life (and the Holy Ghost is the Comforter). Indeed, the Savior had the help of the Holy Ghost from the time he was born. At every trial and at every endeavor and at every temptation, he had the strength of the Holy Ghost to be with him. But as he went into the Garden of Gethsemane and began to take upon him our sins, the Father withdrew the Spirit from him, and Jesus worked out the Atonement alone. This withdrawal of the Spirit is the agony described by the Savior in the verses above, an agony which, as he told Martin Harris, “in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit.” It appears that the Father withdrew the Spirit from his Son in the Garden of Gethsemane so that Jesus might tread the winepress alone (see D&C 133:50). Jesus alone is our Redeemer and Savior. He committed no sins; nothing he had done caused the Spirit to withdraw from him. It was our sins he carried and for which he suffered.

I for one am eternally grateful that Jesus Christ drank the bitter cup and did not shrink from the awful amazing pain. The “hour had come” and He was the victorious.

 

[1] Unger, Merrill F., The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moddy Press, Chicago, Illinios, 1988, p.469.

[2] Smith, Joseph Fielding, Doctrines of Salvation Vol I, Salt Lake City: Dereret Book Co. p. 130.

[3] Smith, Joseph Fielding, Conference Reports, 1947 Oct:147-48.

[4] Ezra Taft Benson, Come unto Christ Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983, 6.

[5] Maxwell, Neal A., Conference Report, April 1985, 92

[6] Maxwell, Neal A., Conference Report, October 1988, 41

[7] Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997, 193.