Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

June 3, 1897

Gethsemane

“Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” It was here that the mysterious cup trembled in Christ's hand. Here the destiny of a lost world hung in the balance. Should he refuse to stand as man's surety? Satan encircled his humanity with a horror of great darkness, tempting him to think that God had forsaken him.

In this hour of trial Christ's human nature longed for sympathy. In the supreme agony of his soul, he came to his disciples with a yearning desire to hear some words of relief from those whom he had oft blessed and comforted and shielded in sorrow and distress; for the law of kindness was ever on his lips. The One who had always had words of comfort for them was now suffering superhuman agony, and he craved sympathy; he longed to know that they were praying for him and for themselves. How dark seemed the malignity of sin! No earthly potentate can show himself more keenly observant of his subjects than was Jesus. He was jealous for his law as no earthly king can be, for he was the king, eternal, invisible, immortal. If he could only know that his disciples understood and appreciated the terrible temptation to let the human race bear the consequences of its own guilt, while he stood innocent before God, he would be strengthened.

“And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep.” Had he found them praying, he would have been relieved. Had they been seeking refuge in God, that Satanic agencies might not prevail over them, he would have been comforted by their steadfast faith. But, unheeding the repeated warning, “Watch and pray,” they had fallen asleep. They knew not the necessity of watchfulness and earnest prayer in order to withstand the temptations of Satan.

As one surprised, Christ addressed them, saying, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” They roused themselves, and looked sorrowfully at their Lord. “Watch and pray,” he said, “that ye enter not into temptation.” Then the divine Sufferer excused the disciples, saying, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Christ went away the second time, and prayed earnestly, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” Again darkness pressed upon his soul with almost unbearable agony, and again he felt a longing for companionship, for some words which would bring relief, and break the spell of darkness that well-nigh overpowered him. “And he came and found them asleep again; for their eyes were heavy;” “neither wist they what to answer him.” They saw his face marked with the bloody sweat of agony, and they were filled with sorrow; for “his visage was so marred, more than any man.”

Again Christ went away, and prayed that if it were possible this cup might pass from him. His soul was filled with an overpowering fear of separation from God in consequence of sin. Satan told him that if he became the substitute and surety for a sinful world, he would nevermore be one with God, but would be under his control.

Three times the prayer ascended to God, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” always followed by the words, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” Shall the cup pass from the Suffering One? Shall the sacrifice of Christ, ordained before the foundation of the world, and symbolized in every sacrifice offered since Adam's transgression, be given up? Shall the glorious purpose of God the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son, entered upon to save a perishing world, be of no account? Shall that which angels eagerly desired to look into and understand, that which had been the burden of prophecy, that which lay at the foundation of types and shadows, fail after all, leaving Satan and his apostate forces and confederacy of evil to come off triumphant?

O, how much Christ had already suffered as the Son of man, in order to redeem and save men! How much he had borne as their substitute! Now the time had come when all the types and symbols pointing to his suffering and death were to be fulfilled. Shall he fail, and come short in his work of redemption? Shall the prince of darkness triumph? Shall his proud boast become truth? Shall the prey be left helpless in the hands of the mighty, or shall the captives be delivered, Satan overcome, and it be demonstrated that obedience to the law is possible; for all have been made more than conquerors through Christ?

It was the will of God that none should perish, but that all should have eternal life through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. Him God the Father sealed to become man's Restorer. The worlds unfallen and the heavenly angels watched with intense interest as the conflict drew to its close. Satan and his confederacy of evil, the legions of apostasy, watched intently this great crisis in the work of redemption. The powers of good and evil waited to see what answer would come to Christ's thrice-repeated prayer. In this awful crisis, when everything was at stake, when the mysterious cup trembled in the hand of the Sufferer, the heavens opened, a light shone forth amid the stormy darkness of the crisis hour, and an angel who stands in the presence of God, occupying the position from which Satan fell, came to the side of Christ. What message did he bring? Had he come to tell Christ that the price to be paid was too great, that it would cost too much to save the world, and that man must be left to his doom, to be destroyed by the wrath of an offended God? Did he tell him that he need not drink the bitter cup, that he need not bear the guilt of man?

The angel did not come to take the cup from Christ's hand, but to strengthen him to drink it, with the assurance of the Father's love. He came to give power to the divine-human Suppliant. He pointed him to the open heavens, telling him of the souls that would be saved as the result of his sufferings. He assured him that his Father is greater and more powerful than Satan, that his death would result in the utter discomfiture of Satan, and that the kingdom of this world would be given to the saints of the Most High. He told him that he would see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied, for he would see a multitude of the redeemed, saved, eternally saved.

Christ's agony did not cease, but his depression and discouragement left him. He still carried the load of guilt, and he fulfilled the demands of the divine law, and glorified the Father by drinking the bitter cup.

“Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto 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.” The storm of the hellish host had in nowise abated, but he who was its subject was strengthened to meet its fury. He came forth calm and serene. He had borne that which no human being can ever bear; for he had tasted the sufferings of death for every man. “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine fat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me.”

The Temptation of Christians

As Satan tempted Christ, so he will tempt Christ's followers. The Son of man was betrayed into the hands of sinners. Many, for Christ's sake, will undergo a similar experience. Priests and rulers will instigate men to testify falsely against them. Christ has told us of the persecution that will come upon those that love and fear God through men who are working in copartnership with Satan. Under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, God's people will learn more of the terrible character of sin as they feel the cruelty of those who are controlled by it. But all the cruelty manifested toward them is charged against the doers as done to Christ, who has redeemed human souls with his own blood, and has called them by his name.

The strength given to Christ in the hour of bodily suffering and mental anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane, has been and will be given to those who suffer for his dear name's sake. The same grace given to Jesus, the same comfort, the more than mortal steadfastness, will be given to every believing child of God, who is brought into perplexity and suffering, and threatened with imprisonment and death, by Satan's agents. Never has a soul that trusts in Christ been left to perish. The rack, the stake, the many inventions of cruelty, may kill the body, but they can not touch the life that is hid with Christ in God.

“Nation shall rise against nation,” said Christ, “and kingdom against kingdom; and great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish.” “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Mrs. E. G. White

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