Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping.
In every Hero’s Journey, there is a major point of testing. The hero struggles with the next step, almost gives up or hits a new low. It’s the moment when the hero starts to feel that the burden is unbearable and they see the incredible difficulty they are about to experience in saving the world. This is that moment for Jesus.
Many people have faced death without fear and stood strong even though they experienced incredible agony. Countless martyrs have died the death of crucifixion or have been burned at the stake without this same kind of distress that Jesus is expressing. However, nobody ever died a death like Jesus died. Instead of seeing this as a time of weakness for Jesus, we should look at it as a moment of strength and love.
It was not physical death that Jesus dreaded; it was the task of taking the sins of the world upon Himself. Jesus speaks over and over about this “cup” that he must drink. He was not afraid of dying, but he was afraid of the “cup.” But what is it? When the Bible talks about God’s punishment, it often refers to it as something that fills a cup. Jesus trembles at this cup because it is full of the wrath of God. To drink of it is to be sent out of God’s presence, to be pushed from the source of happiness and light into darkness and despair. It is to experience the penalty for sin.
Here in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sees the weight of what He is about to do. On the cross, he will bear the sins of the world and be temporarily cast out of the Father’s presence. Because Jesus was fully God and fully man, this thought caused Him great agony. He knew the pain and suffering that He was about to experience, and He asked the Father if there was another way.
Just like Adam, Jesus is asked to submit to the will of God in a garden. However, where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded. Despite the suffering that he would endure, Jesus obeyed and submitted to the will of the Father. Here in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is able to see the pain he was going to experience, and he shows his incredible strength and love by stepping into it. He looked into the cup of the wrath of God, and He picked it up to drink it.
On the cross, the Savior drained God’s cup of punishment for us. God poured out his wrath onto Jesus so that we could be free. Paul wrote, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV).
Because the Son of God was treated like a sinner, we can now be treated like sons and daughters of God. Jesus showed us his great love and incredible strength in the garden by pressing on toward the cross to drink the cup of wrath so that we could drink in eternal fellowship with God.