"Emmanuel: God With Us"


26 Gethsemane

by Hubert F. Sturges, www.everlastingcovenant.com, December 2013

And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done Luke 22:40-42

Three times the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost confronted the implications of the everlasting covenant, the plan of salvation, with a decision. Before the foundation of the world, it was a plan, audacious in its detail and operation, but still future.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had to decide to implement the plan to meet the emergency occasioned by Adam and Eve’s sin. Each step in the plan must now be taken in real time. Again the heavenly host mourned at the prophesied death of the Son of God, yet rejoiced that God had provided a way for humanity to be redeemed.

Jesus faced the third decision in implementing the plan in Gethsemane. Knowing that sin cannot exist in the presence of the Father and that human beings could be saved only if He took their sins on Himself, Jesus, as a human being, could not then know whether the plan would be successful or whether He would be brought forth from the grave a victor. But He chose to go ahead.


The Hour Has Come

Momentum toward the supreme event in His ministry, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, was increasing in intensity. On four occasions during His ministry, Jesus had said, “Mine hour is not yet come.”1 He was acutely conscious of the importance of fulfilling prophecy. Knowing the prophecies, He actively worked to fulfill each one. He avoided all situations that might impair that purpose, even when forced into one confrontation after another with the Pharisees and others. His responses were always measured and careful. He never got into a fight. In achieving His goal, timing was essential, and He was well aware of the proper time each event was to occur.

When the time of His crucifixion arrived, He unapologetically repeated, “My time is at hand.”2 His goal was to be the sacrifice. Just before His death on the cross, He declared in triumph, “It is finished!” Satan had failed to make Him sin even once (John 14:30). Jesus had paid the penalty, redeemed humankind, upheld the law of God, and assured for eternity the future of humankind and the security of the throne of God.

The seventy-week (or 490-year) prophecy of Daniel 9:24 was about to close. In the middle of its last week (a seven-year period), the Messiah would die on the cross, “confirm the covenant,” and bring to a close the “sacrifice and the oblation.” The 490-year prophecy began when King Artaxerxes gave the third decree, in 457 BC, to restore Jerusalem and Israel’s national identity. With this decree, the people rebuilt Jerusalem, restored the Temple services, and established local government (Dan. 9:24-27; Ezra. 7).

And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Dan. 9:27)

Daniel gave the exact time the Messiah would begin His ministry and the exact time He would die a willing sacrifice on the cross (Dan. 9:26, 27). The nature of His death had been foretold (Isa. 53; Ps. 22).


The Last Supper

Jesus and His disciples had a quiet, memorable Passover supper (Matt. 26:17-29). The atmosphere was heavy. The disciples were aware of the evil designs of the chief priests.

Then saith Jesus unto them, all ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. (Matt. 26:31, 32)

Jesus spoke with the disciples at length (John 13 and 16). He washed their feet, and they partook of the food. Then He prayed His memorable prayer for unity (John 17) and announced that He would be betrayed by one of their number. It was a time of sorrow and foreboding. As they ate, Jesus invested the supper with new meaning. This was to be the new Passover, a memorial of Jesus’ death and a promise of reunion in the hereafter.

And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he comes. (1 Cor. 11:24-26)

In this simple ceremony, Jesus showed a side that all need to see. Jesus was human. He did not just want to be messiah, teacher, and healer. In His humanity, He wanted to be loved as their friend (John 15:13-15). Jesus deeply appreciated Mary’s love when she broke the box of costly ointment and anointed His feet. It helped sustain Him in the ordeal of the cross. Christians now show their love for Jesus every time they take part in the communion service.


New Testament in My Blood

“This cup is the new testament in my blood” (1 Cor. 11:25). These few words invest the new covenant-- the everlasting covenant--with deep meaning. This was the basis for the everlasting gospel, which would be preached in all the world (Matt. 24:14). All this and much more was only possible because Jesus went to the cross for us! The cross was the central point in human history, where heaven and earth met for the redemption of humankind! “For this is my blood of the new testament (new covenant), which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28).

For three and a half years, Jesus had confronted the old covenant thinking of the Jewish people and leaders. The everlasting covenant, God’s “My covenant” and the new covenant given to Abraham, was now to be confirmed by His sacrifice on the cross. The wine represented the blood of Jesus that confirmed the new covenant of grace-God’s everlasting covenant.

By the power of the cross, Jesus gives salvation to both the living (the church) and to the dead (Old Testament Israel). “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Rom. 14:9). Paul wrote Hebrews to show Jewish Christians that Jesus was the fulfillment of the sacrifices and rituals. Christians must now look in faith to Jesus’ true sacrifice for sin. The Old Testament sacrifices were merely a shadow of the true!

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.... When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people.... It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. (Heb. 9:15, 19, 23, 24, NIV).

Jesus ratified the new covenant, the everlasting covenant, by His sacrifice on the cross. This gave power to the covenant promises, made the covenant effective for every human being (Heb. 9:15), and brought to an end the sacrifices and rituals (Dan. 9:27). His death insured, ratified, and made possible the fulfillment of the promises of God, reaching all the way back to Eden.

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the one effective sacrifice. It brings meaning to the animal sacrifices of the past. Christ’s high priestly ministry in heaven could not begin until He had given Himself as a sacrifice on the cross, fulfilling the types of the earthly sanctuary. Hebrews 9:11-14 contrasts the ceremonial law and the new covenant. The rituals and the blood of animals could not cleanse the soul. Only the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is effective.

Only now that Christ ministers as High Priest in the heavenly tabernacle can souls, in Old as well as New Testament times, be redeemed. Jesus is the only One who lived, died, and came to life again that we might live. His is the only name “whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).


Example and Command

Jesus formally established the Lord’s Supper at this time. Christians “shew the Lord’s death” whenever they take part in the Lord’s Supper. He also gave baptism by immersion to remind us of His death and resurrection. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).

The ceremonies of the Lord’s Supper and baptism were significant enough that Jesus established each by His example and command. Did Jesus change anything else?3 Did He change the fourth commandment or the day of worship before ratifying the covenant? The Jews kept the seventh-day as the Sabbath. Had Jesus changed this law or the day of worship, He would have given us His example and command, just as He did with the Lord’s Supper and baptism.

The original purpose for the seventh-day Sabbath was as a memorial to creation. To change the day would destroy this meaning. We are His-both by creation and by redemption. The story of the fall of our first parents and our need of a Redeemer rest upon the truth of the creation.

Jesus’ resurrection gave meaning to the Passover and power to the crucifixion. Without His resurrection, faith is vain. Yet, He said and did nothing about making the first day of the week a memorial, nor did He change the Sabbath from the seventh day to the first. He made no mention of the “Lord’s day” being a first-day “Sabbath” or Sunday.

The term the “Lord’s day” comes from the words of Jesus: “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27, 28). The setting for Jesus’ statement was Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees’ accusation of the disciples eating grain on the Sabbath-the Jewish seventh-day Sabbath. Jesus, here, emphasizes that He is Lord of the Sabbath.

After the supper, Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane.


Dark Gethsemane

The crucial event in Gethsemane was the struggle that Jesus endured in accepting all that bearing the sins of humankind entailed. He knew that the offense of sin would separate Him from the Father. Isaiah said, “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isa. 59:2). Habakkuk said of God’s attitude toward iniquity, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?” (Hab. 1:13)

Jesus came to this earth to live as a human being. His ministry and His miracles were all performed through faith in the power of God the Father. Now the time had come to “bear the iniquity of us all.” As a human being, Jesus did not know whether sin was not so offensive to God that it would cause eternal separation from the Father. His bearing the sins of humanity and suffering separation from the Father was His heaviest trial of all.

Jesus “fell prostrate, overcome by the horror of a great darkness" [Gen. 15:12]. The humanity of the Son of God trembled in that trying hour. “The awful moment had come--that moment which was to decide the destiny of the world.“ Christ might even now refuse to drink the cup apportioned to guilty man. 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.”

Three times has He uttered that prayer. Three times humanity shrunk from the last, crowning sacrifice. He sees that the transgressors of the law, if left to themselves, must perish. He sees the helplessness of man. He sees the power of sin. And His decision is made. He will save man at any cost to Himself. And He will not turn from His mission. “If this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.”

Having made the decision, He fell dying to the ground from which He had partially risen. But God suffered with His Son. Angels “saw their Lord enclosed by legions of satanic forces, His nature weighed down with a shuddering, mysterious dread. There was silence in heaven. No harp was touched.” The angelic host “watched the Father separating His beams of light, love, and glory from His beloved Son;“ how offensive in His sight is sin.

The powers of good and evil waited to see what answer would come to Christ’s thrice-repeated prayer. "In this awful crisis “ the mighty angel who stands in God’s presence, occupying the position from which Satan fell, came to the side of Christ. The angel came not 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.”

Christ’s agony did not cease, but His depression and discouragement left Him. The storm had in nowise abated, but He who was its object was strengthened to meet its fury. He came forth calm and serene. A heavenly peace rested upon His bloodstained face. He had borne that which no human being could ever bear; for He had tasted the sufferings of death for every man.4

Jesus knew the promises of the covenant. He knew the plan and purposes of God. He remembered the divine affirmations He received as “My beloved Son,” the refreshment of hours spent in prayer, and the prophecies that the Redeemer would be victorious over evil. After a terrible struggle, faith won the battle and He accepted the will of the Father.

This is the faith of Jesus, a faith that holds onto God even when everything is black and the outcome is unsure. Jesus showed us that, in the plan of God, we should not wait until we know for certain. Jesus’ victory is ours. Strengthened by the angel, Jesus went forth to meet the mob.


Endnotes

1. Jesus repeated statements similar to “Mine hour is not yet come” several times (John 2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20).

2. Nine times Jesus announced that the time of His death was at hand (Matt. 26:18, 45; Mark 14:35, 41; Luke 9:51; John 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1).

3. Hebrews describes the changing of the law concerning the priesthood. “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Heb. 7:12). If it were not changed, then Jesus could not have been a priest, for He was not of the tribe of Levi. He was from Judah, the royal tribe, and His priesthood is after the order of Melchizedek. This enables Him to be both priest and king.

4. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1940), pp. 690, 693, 694.