"Abba, Father," He said, "all things are possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will."
I. THE CUP OF EXPERIENCE may be represented by the cup which was the symbol of the mockery and shame and grief the Savior suffered.
1. The phrase reminds us that our joys and griefs are measured. A cup is not illimitable. Full to the brim, it can only hold its own measure.
(1) Our joys are limited by what is in us, and by what is in them. If a man prospers in the world, his wealth brings him not only comfort, but care, anxiety, and responsibility, so that he may occasionally wish himself back in his former lowlier lot. And family joys bring their anxieties to every home which has them. No one drinks here of an ocean of bliss but he thanks God for a "cup" of it, measured by One who knows what will be best for character. This is true even of spiritual joys. The time of ecstasy is followed by a season of depression. The Valley of Humiliation is passed, as well as the Delectable Mountains, by Christian in his pilgrimage. Nowhere on earth can we say, "I am satisfied;" but many, like the psalmist, can exclaim, "I shall be satisfied."
(2) Our griefs are limited also. They are proportioned to our strength, adapted for our improvement. Even in the saddest bereavement there is much to moderate our grief if we will but receive it: gratitude for all our dear one was and did; gladness over all the testimonies of love and esteem in which he was held; hope that by-and-by there shall be the reunion, where there shall be no more sorrow and sighing, and where "God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes." God does not let an ocean of sadness surge up and overwhelm us, but gives us a cup, which we may drink in fellowship with Christ in his sufferings.
2. The phrase in our text suggests not only measurement, but loving control. Our Lord recognized, as we may humbly do, that the cup was filled and proffered by him whom he addressed as "Abba, Father." In one sense the events in Gethsemane and on Calvary were the results of natural causes. Integrity and sinlessness called forth the antagonism of those whose sins were thereby rebuked. Plain-spoken denunciations of the ecclesiastical leaders aroused their undying hate, and no hatred is more malignant than that of irreligious theologians. Judas, disappointed and abashed, was a ready instrument for evil work. Yet, behind all this, One unseen was carrying out his eternal purpose, fulfilling his promise, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." Hence Jesus speaks not of the plot accomplished by his foes, but of the cup given him by the Father. We are at an infinite remove from him, yet, as the same law which controls worlds controls insects, so the truth which held good with the Son of man holds good also with us. We may recognize God's overruling in man's working, and accept every measure of experience as provided and proffered by our Father's hand.
II. THE PURPOSE OF ITS APPOINTMENT. That it comes from our "Father" shows that it has a purpose, and that it is one of love, not of cruelty. It is not like the cup of hemlock Socrates received from his foes, but like that potion you give your child that he may be refreshed, or strengthened, or cured.
1. Sometimes the purpose respects ourselves. Even of Jesus Christ, the sinless One, it is said he was "made perfect through sufferings;" that as our Brother he might feel for us, and as our High Priest might sympathize, being "touched with the feeling of our infirmities." Much more is the experience of life a blessing to us who are imperfect and sinful; correcting our worldliness, and destroying our self-confidence.
2. Sometimes the purpose respects others. It was so with our Lord pre-eminently. He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." "None of us liveth unto himself." If our cup of blessing runs over, its overflowings, whether of wealth, or strength, or spiritual joy, are for the good of those around us. If our lot be one of suffering, we may in it witness for our Lord, and from it learn to console others with the comfort wherewith we ourselves have been comforted of God. - A.R.
Which was named Gethsemane.I. THE PLACE OF THE CONFLICT CALLS FOR A BRIEF NOTICE.
II. THE STORY OF THE CONFLICT. Its intensity is the first fact in the story that strikes us. "His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground." This conflict wrung from the Saviour a great cry. What was it? "O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt." We have a glimpse of the conflict carried on by Christ for us, single-handed.
III. THE SLEEP OF THE DISCIPLES WHILST THIS CONFLICT WAS GOING ON.
(Charles Stanford, D. D.)
The Preacher's Monthly.I. Gethsemane suggests to reverent faith our blessed Redeemer's longing for human sympathy.
II. It reminds us of the sacredness of human sorrow and Divine communion.
III. It reveals the overwhelming fulness of the Redeemer's sorrow.
IV. It reminds us of the will of Christ yielded to the will of the Father.
V. It has lessons and influences for our own hearts.
(The Preacher's Monthly.)I. WOE'S BITTEREST CUP SHOULD BE TAKEN WHEN IT IS THE MEANS OF HIGHEST USEFULNESS. Wasted suffering is the climax of suffering. Affliction's furnace heat loses its keenest pangs for those who can see the form of One like unto the Son of Man walking with them by example, and know that they are ministering to the world's true joy and life, in some degree, as He did.
II. FROM OUR LORD'S EXAMPLE WE LEARN THE HELPFULNESS IN SORROW OF RELIANCE UPON HUMAN AND DIVINE COMPANIONSHIP COMBINED. But to do both in proper proportion is not easy. Some hide from both earth and heaven as much as possible. Others lean wholly upon human supports; others, yet, turn to God in a seclusion to which the tenderest offices of friends are unwelcome. Our Lord's divinity often appears plainest in his symmetrical union of traits, mainly remark. able because of their combination. He was at once the humblest and boldest of men; the farthest from sin and the most compassionate towards the returning prodigal; the meekest and the most commanding. So, in the garden agony, he leaned upon human and Divine supports; the one as indispensable as the other. Whatever the situation, we are not to act the recluse. Life's circles need us and we need them. Neither are we to forget the Father in heaven. Storms and trial only increase His ready sympathy and succour.
III. OUR LORD'S CRUCIAL OBEDIENCE IN THE GARDEN AGONY REFLECTS THE MAJESTY OF THE HUMAN WILL AND ITS POSSIBLE MASTERY OF EVERY TRIAL IN PERFECT OBEDIENCE TO THE DIVINE WILL. However superhuman Jesus' suffering, He was thoroughly human in it. He had all our faculties, and used them as we may use ours. It is no small encouragement that the typical Man gives us an example of perfect obedience, at a cost unknown before or since. In the mutual relations of the human and Divine wills all merit is achieved and all character constructed. Learned authors dwell with deserved interest upon the world's "decisive battles," the pivots of destiny. The soul's future for time and eternity turns upon contests in which the will is in chief command. Intellect and sensibilities participate, but they are always subordinate. It were helpful to bear this in mind under every exposure. Let the inquiry be quick and constant, What saith the will? Is that steady and unflinching?
IV. JESUS' SOUL COULD HAVE BEEN "SORROWFUL EVEN UNTO DEATH" ONLY AS HIS SUFFERINGS WERE VICARIOUS. He was always sublimely heroic. Why such agony now? It was something far deadlier than death. It was the burden and mystery of the world's sin. The Lamb of God was slain for us in soul agony rather than by physical pain. His soul formed the soul of His sufferings.
V. GETHSEMANE'S DARKNESS PAINTS SIN'S GUILT AND RUIN IN FAITHFUL AND ENDURING COLOUR. It is easy to think lightly of sin. Having never known guilt, Christ met the same hidings of the Divine countenance as do the guilty. This was man's disobedience in its relation with God's law and judgment.
VI. GETHSEMANE THROWS PORTENTOUS LIGHT UPON THE WOE OF LOST SOULS. He suffered exceptionally, but He was also a typical sufferer; every soul has possibilities beyond our imagination; and terrible the doom when these possibilities are fulfilled in the direction to which Gethsemane points.
VII. OUR LESSON GIVES TERRIBLE EMPHASIS TO THE FACT AND SERIOUSNESS OF IMPOSSIBILITIES WITH GOD. Our time tends strongly towards lax notions of the Divine character and law and of the conditions of salvation. The will and fancy erect their own standards. Religion and obedience are to be settled according to individual notions, a subjective affair. Our Lord's agonized words, "If it be possible," establish the rigidity and absoluteness of governmental and spiritual conditions. God's will and plans are objective realities; they have definite and all-important direction and demands. Man should not think of being a law unto himself either in conduct or belief; least of all should he sit in judgment upon the revealed Word, fancying that any amount or kind of inner light is a true and sufficient test of its legitimacy and authority. But, how futile all attempts at fathoming Gethsemane's lessons.
(H. L. B. Speare.)I. GETHSEMANE SAW CHRIST'S AGONY ON ACCOUNT OF SIN.
II. GETHSEMANE WAS A WITNESS OF CHRIST'S DEVOTION IN THE HOUR OF DISTRESS.
III. GETHSEMANE WAS A WITNESS OF CHRIST'S RESIGNATION TO THE WILL OF GOD.
IV. GETHSEMANE WAS A WITNESS OF CHRIST'S SYMPATHY WITH, AND AFFECTION FOR, HIS TRIED FOLLOWERS.
(J. H. Hitchens.)I. Let us notice, in the outset, THE SUDDEN EXPERIENCE WHICH LED TO THIS ACT OF SUPPLICATION. He began to be "sore amazed and to be very heavy." Evidently something new had come to Him; either a disclosure of fresh trial, or a violence of unusual pain under it. Here it is affecting to find in our Divine Lord so much of recognized and simple human nature He desired to be alone, but He planned to have somebody He loved and trusted within call. His grief was too burdensome for utter abandonment. Hence came the demand for sympathy He made, and the persistence in reserve he retained, both of which are so welcome and instructive. For here emphatically, as perhaps nowhere else, we are "with Him in the garden." Oh, how passionately craving of help, and yet how majesterially rejectful of impertinent condolence, are some of these moments we have in our mourning, "when our souls retire upon their reserves, and will open their deepest recesses only to God! Our secret is unshared, our struggle is unrevealed to men. Yet we love those who love us just as much as ever. It is helpful to find that even our Lord Jesus had some feelings of which He could not tell John. He "went away" (Matthew 26:44).
II. Let us, in the second place, inquire concerning THE EXACT MEANING OF THIS SINGULAR SUPPLICATION. In those three intense prayers was the Saviour simply afraid of death? Was that what our version makes the Apostle Paul say He "feared"? Was He just pleading there under the olives for permission to put off the human form now, renounce the "likeness of men" (Philippians 2:7, 8), which He had taken upon Him, slip back into heaven inconspicuously by some sort of translation which would remove Him from the power of Pilate, so that when Judas had done his errand "quickly," and had arrived with the soldiers, Jesus would be mysteriously missing, and the traitor would find nothing but three harmless comrades there asleep on the grass? That is to say, are we ready to admit that our Lord and Master seriously proposed to go back to His Divine Father's bosom at this juncture, leaving the prophecies unfulfilled, the redemption unfinished, the very honour of Jehovah sullied with a failure? Does it offer any help in dealing with such a conjecture to insist that this was only a moment of weakness in His "human nature?" Would this make any difference as a matter of fact for Satan to discover that he had only been contending with another Adam, after all? Would the lost angels any the less exult over the happy news of a celestial defeat because they learned that the "seed of the woman" had not succeeded in bruising the serpent's head by reason of His own alarm at the last? Oh, no: surely no! Jesus had said, when in the far-back counsels of eternity the covenant of redemption was made, "Lo, I come: I delight to do Thy will, O my God" (Psalm 40:7, 8). He could have had no purpose now, we may be evermore certain, of withdrawing the proffer of Himself to suffer for men. There can be no doubt that the "cup" which our Lord desired might "pass from" His lips, and yet was willing to drink if there could be no release from it, was the judicial wrath of God discharged upon Him as a culprit vicariously before the law, receiving the awful curse due to human sin. We reject all notion of mere physical illness or exhaustion as well as all conjecture of mere sentimental loneliness under the abandonment of friends. In that supreme moment when He found that He, sinless in every particular and degree, must be considered guilty, and so that His heavenly Father's face and favour must at least for a while be withdrawn from Him, He was, in despite of all His courageous preparation, surprised and almost frightened to discover how much His own soul was beginning to shudder and recoil from coming into contact with sin of any sort, even though it was only imputed. Evidently it seemed to His infinitely pure nature horrible to be put in a position, however false, such as that His adorable Father would be compelled to draw the mantle over His face. This shocked Him unutterably. He shrank back in consternation when He saw He must become loathsome in the sight of heaven because of the "abominable thing" God hated (Jeremiah 44:4). Hence, we conceive the prayer covered only that. That which appears at first a startling surrender of redemption as a whole, is nothing more than a petition to be relieved from what He hoped might be deemed no necessary part of the curse He was bearing for others. He longed, as He entered unusual darkness, just to receive the usual light. It was as if He had said to His heavenly Father: "The pain I understood, the curse I came for. Shame, obloquy, death, I care nothing for them. I only recoil from being loaded so with foreign sin that I cannot be looked upon with any allowance. I am in alarm when I think of the prince of this world coming and finding something in me, when hitherto he had nothing. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint, my heart is like wax, when I think of the taunt that the Lord I trusted no longer delights in Me; this is like laughing God to scorn. Is there no permitted discrimination between a real sinner, and a substitute only counted such before the law in this one particular? All things are possible with Thee; make it possible now for Thee to see Thy Son, and yet not seem to see the imputed guilt He bears! Yet even this will I endure, if so it must be in order that I may fulfil all righteousness; Thy will, not Mine, be done!"
III. Again, let us observe carefully THE EXTRAORDINARY RANGE WHICH THIS PRAYER IN THE GARDEN TOOK. It is not worth while even to appear to be playing upon an accidental collocation of words in the sacred narrative; but why should it be asserted that any inspired words are accidental? The whole history of Immanuel's sufferings that awful night contains no incident more strikingly suggestive than the record of the distance He kept between Himself and His disciples. It is the act as well as the language which is significant. Mark says, "He went forward a little." Luke says, "He was withdrawn from them about a stone's east." Matthew says, "He went a little farther." So now we know that this one petition of our Lord was the final, secret, supreme whisper of His innermost heart. The range of such a prayer was over His whole nature. It exhausted His entire being. It covered the humanity it represented. In it for Himself and for us "He went a little farther" than ever He had in His supplication gone before. One august monarch rules over this fallen world, and holds all human hearts under His sway. His name is Pain. His image and superscription is upon every coin that passes current in this mortal life. He claims fealty from the entire race of man. And, sooner or later, once, twice, or a hundred times, as the king chooses, and not as the subject wills, each soul has to put on its black garment, go sedately and sufferingly on its sad journey to pay its loyal tribute, precisely as Joseph and Mary were compelled to go up to Bethlehem to be taxed. When this tyrant Pain summons us to come and discharge his dues, it is the quickest of human instincts which prompts us to seek solitude. That seems to be the universal rule (Zechariah 12:12-14). But now we discover from this symbolic picture that, whenever any Christian goes away from other disciples deeper into the solitudes of his own Gethsemane, he almost at once draws nearer to the Saviour he needs. For our Lord just now "went forward a little." There He is, on ahead of us all in experience! It is simply and wonderfully true of Jesus always, no matter how severe is the suffering into which for their discipline He leads His chosen, He Himself has taken His position in advance of them. No human lot was ever so forlorn, so grief-burdened, so desolate, as was that of the Great Life given to redeem it. No path ever reached so distantly into the region of heart trying agony as that it might not still see that peerless Christ of God "about a stone's cast" beyond it, kneeling in some deeper shadows of His own. No believer ever went so far into his lonely Gethsemane but that he found his Master had gone "a little farther."
"Christ did not send, but came Himself, to save;
The ransom price He did not lend, but gave;
Christ died, the Shepherd for the sheep, —
We only fall asleep."
IV. Finally, let us inquire after THE SUPREME RESULTS OF THIS SUPPLICATION OF OUR LORD.
1. Consider the High Priest of our profession (Hebrews 12:2-4). What good would it do to pray, if Christ's prayer was unsuccessful?
3. Have we been "with Him in the garden"? Then we have found a similar cup" (Mark 10:38, 39).
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
(H. Clay Trumbull.)I. WITH REGARD TO THE POSITION OUR LORD WAS IN, HE STOOD THERE AS THE GREAT SIN BEARER. Here, beloved, we see what the burden was which our Lord bore: it was our sins.
II. BUT NOW OBSERVE, SECONDLY, THE GREAT WEIGHT OF THIS BURDEN. Who can declare it?
(J. H. Evans, M. A.)
(R. N. Cust.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
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