Ellen G. White Writings

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The Present Truth (UK)

November 19, 1885

The Sufferings of Christ

By Mrs. E. G. White

In order to realize the value of redemption, it is necessary to understand what it cost. We should take broader and deeper views of the life, sufferings, and death of God's dear Son. A limited idea of the sacrifice made in our behalf leads many to place a low estimate upon the great work of the atonement.

The glorious plan of man's salvation is a manifestation of the infinite love of God the Father. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The love of God in giving his Son to die for a fallen race, amazed the holy angels. The Saviour was the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person. He possessed divine majesty and perfection. “It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.” “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Christ consented to die in the sinner's stead that man, by a life of obedience, might escape the penalty of the law of God. The death of Christ did not slay the law, lessen its holy claims, or detract from its sacred dignity. He himself declared that he came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill. While the system of sacrificial offerings which prefigured the death of Christ was to expire with him, the moral law remained unchanged. Jesus proclaimed the justice of God in punishing the transgressors of his law, in that he took the penalty upon himself, in order to shield fallen man from its curse. Only by the sacrifice of Christ could man be redeemed, and the authority of the Divine law be maintained. The death of God's dear Son shows the immutability of his Father's law.

In Christ were united the Divine and the human. The Son of God took upon himself man's nature, that with his human arm he might encircle the children of Adam in a firm embrace, while with his Divine arm he grasped the throne of the Infinite, thus uniting earth to heaven, and man to God. Angels who were unacquainted with sin, could not sympathize with man in his peculiar trials; but by taking upon himself human nature, Christ was prepared to understand our temptations and our sorrows. Our Redeemer “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin;” and “in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” Oh, matchless condescension! The King of glory subjects himself to man's infirmities, and takes upon himself the burden of man's sins, that he may open the door of hope to a ruined race. Here, indeed, is love that “passeth knowledge.”

Let those who would, in some faint degree, appreciate the price paid for our redemption, follow the Son of God in the crowning acts of his great sacrifice.

In The Garden

Often had Jesus, with the twelve, resorted to Gethsemane for meditation and prayer, but never had he visited the spot with a heart so full of sorrow as upon the night of his betrayal. He had been earnestly conversing with his disciples; but as he neared the garden he became strangely silent. The disciples were perplexed, and anxiously regarded his countenance, hoping there to read an explanation of the change that had come over their Master. They had frequently seen him depressed, but never before so utterly sad and silent. As he proceeded, this strange sadness increased; yet they dared not question him as to the cause. His form swayed as if he was about to fall. The disciples looked anxiously for his usual place of retirement, that their Master might rest.

Upon entering the garden, he said to his companions, “Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.” Selecting Peter, James, and John to accompany him, he proceeded farther into the recesses of the garden. He had been accustomed to brace his spirit for trial and duty by fervent prayer in this retreat, and had frequently spent the entire night thus. On these occasions his disciples, after a little season of watching and prayer, would sleep undisturbed at a little distance from their Master until he awoke them in the morning to go forth and labor anew. So this act of Jesus called forth no remark from his companions.

Every step that the Saviour now took was with labored effort. He groaned aloud as though suffering under the pressure of a terrible burden; yet he refrained from startling his three chosen disciples by a full explanation of the agony which he was to suffer. Twice they prevented him from falling to the ground. Jesus felt that he must be still more alone, and he said to the favored three, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; tarry ye here, and watch with me.” His disciples had never before heard him utter such mournful tones. His frame was convulsed with anguish, and his pale countenance expressed a sorrow past all description.

He went a short distance from his companions, not so far but that they could both see and hear him, and fell prostrate with his face upon the earth. He was overpowered by a terrible fear that God was removing his presence from him. He felt himself being separated from his Father by a gulf of sin, so broad, so black and deep, that his spirit shuddered before it. He clung convulsively to the cold, unfeeling ground, as if to prevent himself from being drawn still farther from God. The chilling dews of night fell upon his prostrate form, but the Redeemer heeded it not. From his pale lips wailed the bitter cry, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

It was not a dread of the physical suffering he was soon to endure that brought this agony upon the Son of God. He was bearing the penalty of man's transgression, and shuddering beneath the Father's frown. He must not exert his Divine power to escape this agony, but, as a man, he must bear the consequences of man's sin and the Creator's displeasure toward his disobedient subjects, and he feared that in his human nature he would be unable to endure the coming conflict with the prince of the power of darkness; in that case the human race would be hopelessly lost, Satan would be victor, and the earth would be his kingdom. The sins of the world weighed heavily upon the Saviour, and bowed him to the earth; and the wrath of God in consequence of sin seemed crushing out his life.

In the conflict of Christ with Satan in the wilderness of temptation, the destiny of the human race had been at stake. But the Son of God had conquered, and the tempter left him for a season. He had now returned for the last fearful conflict. During the three years of Christ's ministry, Satan had been preparing for this final trial. Everything was at stake with him. If he failed here, his hope of mastery was lost; the kingdoms of the earth would finally become Christ's, who would “bind the strong man”, Satan, and cast him out.

During this scene of the Saviour's anguish, the disciples were at first much troubled to see their Master, usually so calm and dignified, wrestling with a sorrow that exceeded all utterance; but they were very weary, and finally dropped asleep, leaving him to agonize alone. At the end of an hour, Jesus, feeling the need of human sympathy, rose with painful effort, and staggered to the place where he had left his companions. But no sympathizing countenance greeted him after his long struggle; the disciples were fast asleep. Ah! if they had realized that this was their last night with their beloved Master while he lived a man upon earth, if they had known what the morrow would bring him, they would not thus have yielded to the power of slumber.

The voice of Jesus partially aroused them. They discerned his form bending over them, his expression and attitude indicating extreme exhaustion. They hardly recognized in his changed countenance the usually serene face of their Master. Singling out Simon Peter, he addressed him: “Simon, sleepest thou? couldst thou not watch one hour? O Simon, where is now thy boasted devotion? Thou who didst but lately declare thou couldst go with thy Lord to prison or to death, hast left him in the hour of his agony and temptation, and sought repose in sleep!”

John, the loving disciple who had leaned on the breast of Jesus, was also sleeping. Surely the love of John for his Master should have kept him awake. His earnest prayers should have mingled with those of his Saviour in the time of his supreme sorrow. The self-sacrificing Redeemer had passed entire nights in the cold mountains or in the groves, praying for his disciples that their faith might not fail them in the hour of their temptation. Should Jesus now put to James and John the question he had once asked them, “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” they would not have ventured to answer, “We can.”

(To be continued.)

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