Ellen G. White Writings

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The Present Truth (UK)

August 11, 1892

Christ 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 unusually 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.

Jesus felt that He must be still more alone, and He said to the favoured 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, 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 ministry of Christ, 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. 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.”

This important night-watch should have been spent by the disciples in noble mental struggles and prayers, which would have brought them strength to witness the terrible agony of the Son of God. It would have prepared them, as they should behold His sufferings upon the cross, to understand in some degree the nature of the overpowering anguish which He endured. They would then have been better able to recall the words He had spoken to them in reference to His sufferings, death, and resurrection; and amid the gloom of that trying hour, some rays of hope would have lighted up the darkness, and sustained their faith. Christ had told them before that these things would take place. He knew the power which the prince of darkness would use to paralyze the senses of the disciples, and He therefore admonished them to watch.

But at the most critical moment, when Jesus was most in need of their sympathy and heartfelt prayers, His chosen companions had given themselves up to slumber. They lost much by thus sleeping. The Saviour's trial and crucifixion was to be a fiery ordeal to His disciples. Their faith needed to be sustained by more than human strength as they should witness the triumph of the powers of darkness. Christ designed to fortify them for this severe test. Had those hours in the garden been spent in watching with the dear Saviour and in prayer to God, the disciples would not have forsaken Jesus in His hour of trial, and Peter would not have been left to his own feeble strength to deny his Master.

The evidence of the weakness of His disciples excited the pity and sympathy of the Son of God. He questioned their strength to endure the test they must undergo in witnessing His betrayal and death. He did not sternly upbraid them for their weakness, but in view of their coming trial, exhorted them, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” Then, His spirit moving in sympathy with their frailty, He framed an excuse for their failure in duty toward Him: “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Again Jesus was seized with superhuman agony, and fainting and exhausted, staggered back to the place of His former struggle. Again He was prostrated to the earth. His suffering was even greater than before. The cypress and palm trees were the silent witnesses of His anguish. From their leafy branches dropped heavy dew upon His stricken form, as if nature wept over its Author wrestling alone with the powers of darkness.

A short time before He had stood like a mighty cedar, withstanding the storm of opposition that spent its fury upon Him. Stubborn wills, and hearts filled with malice and subtlety, strove in vain to confuse and overpower Him. He stood forth in Divine majesty as the Son of God. But now He was like a bruised reed beaten and bent by the angry storm. A few hours before, He had poured out His soul to His disciples in noble utterances, claiming unity with the Father, and giving His elect church into His arms in the language of one who had Divine authority. Now His voice uttered suppressed wails of anguish, and He clung to the cold ground as if for relief.

The words of the Saviour were borne to the ears of the drowsy disciples: “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.” The anguish of God's dear Son forced drops of blood from His pores. Again He staggered to His feet, His human heart yearning for the sympathy of His companions, and He repaired to where they were sleeping.

He did not now address them, but, turning away, sought again His retreat and fell prostrate, overcome by the horror of great darkness. The humanity of the Son of God trembled in that trying hour. The awful moment had arrived which was to decide the destiny of the world. The heavenly hosts waited the issue with intense interest. The fate of humanity trembled in the balance. Christ might even then refuse to drink the cup apportioned to guilty men. He might wipe the bloody sweat from His brow, and leave men to perish in their iniquity. Will the Son of the Infinite God drink the bitter potion of humiliation and agony? Will the innocent suffer the consequence of God's curse, to save the guilty? The words fall tremblingly from the pale lips of Jesus: “O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.”

Though the disciples had failed to sympathize with their Lord in the trying hour of His conflict, all heaven was full of sympathy, and waiting the result with painful interest. When it was finally determined, an angel was sent from the throne of God to minister unto the stricken Redeemer.

The glorious vision of the angel dazzled the eyes of the disciples. They remembered the mount of transfiguration, the glory that encircled Jesus in the temple, and the voice of God issuing from the cloud. They saw the same glory here revealed, and had no further fear for their Master, since God had taken Him in charge, and an angel was present to protect Him from His foes. They were weary and heavy with sleep, and again they dropped into unconsciousness.

The Saviour arose and sought His disciples, and, for the third time, found them fast asleep. His words, however, aroused them: “Sleep on now, and take your rest; behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.”

Even while these words were upon His lips, the footsteps of the mob that was in search of Him were heard. Judas took the lead, and was closely followed by the high priest. Jesus turned to His disciples, as His enemies approached, and said, “Rise, let us be going; behold, he is at hand that doth betray Me.” The countenance of the Saviour wore an expression of calm dignity; no traces of His recent agony were visible as He stepped forth to meet His betrayer.

He stood in advance of His disciples, and inquired, “Whom seek ye?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I am He.” As these words were uttered, the mob staggered back; and priests, elders, soldiers, and even Judas, dropped powerless to the ground. This gave Christ ample opportunity to escape from them if He had chosen to do so. But He stood as one glorified amid that coarse and hardened band.

Again the question was asked by the Redeemer, “Whom seek ye?” Again they answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” The Saviour then said, “I have told you that I am He. If, therefore, ye seek Me, let these go their way”—pointing to the disciples. In this hour of humiliation, Christ's thoughts were not for Himself, but for His beloved disciples. He wished to save them from any further trial of their strength.

When the disciples saw that Jesus did not deliver Himself from His enemies, but permitted Himself to be taken and bound, they were offended that He should suffer this humiliation to Himself and them. They had just witnessed an exhibition of His power in prostrating to the ground those who came to take Him, and in healing the servant's ear which Peter had cut off, and they knew that if He chose He could deliver Himself from that murderous throng. They blamed Him for not doing so, and, mortified and terror-stricken by his unaccountable conduct, they forsook him and fled. Alone, in the hands of the hooting mob, the Saviour was hurried from the garden.

Mrs. E. G. White

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