Then said he to them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even to death: tarry you here, and watch with me.
Although this name is found in Messianic prophecy (Isaiah 53:3), it would be wrong to suppose that there was no gladness in the life of Christ. He spoke of his joy (John 15:11), and he delighted to do the will of God (Psalm 40:8). So pure a life spent in doing good to men must have had a gladness which no earthly pleasure could bestow. Yet Jesus had sorrows which no man can measure. It is easier to understand the glory of the Transfiguration than the agony of the garden.
I. THE GREATNESS OF THE SORROWS. Many bitter ingredients entered into the cup of anguish which it was the Father's will that Jesus should drink.
1. The horror of death. Jesus was young and in health; it was natural for him to shrink from a premature and violent death.
2. The dread of shame. Jesus was of the most refined and sensitive nature; in his Passion he was to face insult and ignominy.
3. Apparent failure. He came to set up his kingdom, to redeem Israel, to save the world; and his mission was rejected. Instead of the throne, he was to have the cross. All his efforts seemed to be ending in darkness. This was the earthly aspect of them. During his humiliation he must have felt it.
4. The faithlessness of friends. One had betrayed him; another was about to deny him; nearly all would flee in selfish cowardice.
5. Spiritual depression. At last Jesus seemed to be deserted by God.
II. THE SOURCE OF THE SORROWS. We must look deeper than these immediate occasions of the grief of Christ. The fundamental source is beneath and behind all of them.
1. The world's sin. They all result from sin. The world's sin rose up against God's Holy One, and smote him with all its fury. It was the dark cloud of this mass of sin that hid from him the vision of God. Jesus was bearing the load of sin, and it was breaking his heart.
2. The goodness of Christ. Bad men do not feel the world's sin very acutely.
(1) The holiness of Jesus was horrified at its black and hideous enormity.
(2) The love of Christ was grieved at its shocking cruelty towards himself, and at its own fatal and suicidal influence in the world. He saw it as the cause of misery and ruin and death.
III. THE ENDURANCE OF THE SORROWS. HOW did Jesus meet them?
1. With natural shrinking. He was no fanatical lover of martyrdom. He proved his humanity by feeling acutely and desiring to escape. Therefore he can sympathize with sufferers.
2. With prayer. The Gethsemane of agony is Christ's most sacred oratory. He teaches us to bring our griefs to God. His example shows that prayer is the soul's consolation in trouble.
3. With trustful submissions. He desired God's will to be done, whatever that might be. He prayed for deliverance, but he never complained, much less did he rebel. Here he is the example for us whose greatest sorrows never approach the tragic terror of his.
IV. THE FRUIT OF THE SORROWS.
1. Christ's victory. He triumphed by submission. In obedience to God, he attained to the desire of his heart. Through his Passion and crucifixion he won the "Name which is above every name." His sorrows led to his glory. By the via dolorosa he reached his throne.
2. The world's salvation. No selfish motive of personal gain inspired our Lord's endurance. His very reward was to see the world saved. His suffering was all for others; if the world may rejoice in hope, this is owing to the fact that Jesus suffered in the darkness of a dreadful death. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.