And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he said to his disciples, Sit you here, while I shall pray.…
It is on the sufferings of the soul that we would fix your attention; for these, we doubt not, were the mighty endurances of the Redeemer — these pursued Him to His very last moments, until He paid the last fragment of our debts. You will perceive that it was in the soul rather than in the body that our blessed Saviour made atonement for transgression. He had put Himself in the place of the criminal, so far as it was possible for an innocent man to assume the position of the guilty; and standing in the place of the criminal, with guilt imputed to Him, He had to bear the punishment that misdeeds had incurred. You must be aware that anguish of the soul rather than of the body is the everlasting portion of sinners; and though, of course, we cannot think that our Lord endured precisely what sinners had deserved, for he could have known nothing of the stings and bodes of conscience beneath which they must eternally writhe, yet forasmuch as he was exhausting their curse — a curse which was to drive ruin into their soul as well as rack the body with unspeakable pain — we might well expect that the soul's anguish of a surety or substitute would be felt even more than the bodily: and that external affliction, however vast and accumulated, would be comparatively less in its rigour or accompaniments, than His internal anguish, which is not to be measured or imagined. This expectation is certainly quite borne out by the statements of Scripture, if carefully considered. Indeed it is very observable that when our Lord is set before us as exhibiting signs of anguish and distress there was no bodily suffering whatever — none but what was caused mentally. I refer, as you must be aware, to the scene in the garden, as immediately connected with our text, when the Redeemer manifested the most intense grief and horror, His sweat being as it were great drops of blood — a scene which the most callous can scarcely encounter: in this case there was no nail, no spear. Ay, though there was the prospect of the cross, there was hardly fear. It was the thought of dying as a malefactor, which so overcame the Redeemer, that He needed strength by an angel from heaven. That it was that wrung out the thrilling exclamation: "My soul is exceeding sorrowful." It is far beyond us to tell you what were the spiritual endurances which so distressed and bore down the Redeemer. There is a veil over the anguish of the incarnate God which no mortal hand may attempt to remove. I can only suppose that holy as He was — incapable of sinning in thought or deed — He had a piercing and overwhelming sense of the criminality of sin — of the dishonour which it attached to the world — of the ruin which it was bringing on man: He must have felt as no other being could, the mighty fearfulness of sin — linked alike with God and with man — the brethren of sinners, and the being sinned against. Who can doubt that, as He bore our transgressions in our nature, He must have been wounded as with a two-edged sword — the one edge lacerating Him as He was jealous of divine glory, and the other as He longed for human happiness? Though we cannot explain what passed in the soul of the Redeemer, we would impress on you the truth, that it was in the soul rather than in the body that those dire pangs were endured which exhausted the curse denounced against sin. Let not any think that mere bodily anguish went as an equivalent for the miseries and the tortures which must have been eternally exacted from every human being. It would take away much of the terribleness of the future doom of the impenitent, to represent those sufferings as only, or chiefly, bodily. Men will argue the nature of the doom, not the nature of the suffering capacity in its stead. And, certainly, a hell without mental agony, would be a paradise in comparison with what we believe to be the pandemonium, where the soul is the rack, and conscience the executioner. Go not away from Calvary, with thoughts of nothing but suffering a death by being nailed to a cross and left to expire after long torture! Go away, rather thinking of the horror which had taken hold of the soul of the forsaken sufferer; and as you carry with you a remembrance of the doleful spectacle, and smite your breasts at the thought of His piteous cry — a cry more startling than the crash of the earthquake that announced His death — lay ye to heart His unimaginable endurances which extort the cry: "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death."
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.