April 4 – Jesus’ Struggle in Gethsemane

“Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.’ ”

Matthew 26:38


In His time of greatest distress, Jesus realized His human weakness and His need to depend on the Father.

As Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane with Peter, James, and John, He experienced a more profound anguish over sin and death than ever before. His deep and desolate distress was made more severe when He considered the many personal disappointments that confronted Him. First, there was the betrayal by Judas, one of His own disciples. Then there would be the desertion by the Eleven and Peter’s threefold denial of his Master. Jesus would also be rejected by His own people, Israel, whose leaders would subject Him to all kinds of injustices before His death.

It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that Christ tells His three trusted disciples, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death.” A person can die from such heavy sorrow, which in God’s providence did not happen to Jesus. However, the magnitude of Jesus’ sorrow apparently caused the blood capillaries right under His skin to burst. As more and more capillaries burst from the extreme emotional pressures Jesus endured, blood escaped through His pores, “and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). Such sweating was just one outward result of what our Lord felt at the excruciating prospect of His having to become sin for us. His holiness was completely repulsed by such a thought.

It was because Jesus did keep watch and look to His Father in prayer that He endured and passed this test in the Garden. Right up to the end, Christ lived His earthly life in total, sinless submission to the Father. As a believer, you also will face times of severe testing and trial when only direct communion with God will give you the strength to prevail. And you also have the added encouragement of Jesus’ example in Gethsemane, the climax of His experiences through which He became a High Priest who can fully “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15).


Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God today that Jesus was divinely enabled to withstand the trials and temptations that assaulted Him at Gethsemane.

For Further Study: Read Matthew 4:1–11. Write down several key differences between Jesus’ encounter in the wilderness and His experience in Gethsemane. ✧ What similarities do you see in Christ’s response to the two situations?[1]

It is therefore hardly surprising that Jesus told Peter, James, and John, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death.” Perilupos (deeply grieved) is related to the term from which we get periphery and carries the idea of being surrounded by sorrow. It is possible to die from sorrow just as from other strong emotions, such as fright and anger. Jesus’ anguish was enough to kill Him and doubtlessly would have done so had He not been divinely preserved for another kind of death.

The agony of this temptation was unequaled. It was Jesus’ most intense struggle with Satan, more agonizing even than the encounter in the wilderness. The magnitude of His grief apparently caused Jesus’ subcutaneous capillaries to dilate and burst. As the capillaries burst under the pressure of deep distress and blood escaped through the pores of His skin, it mingled with His sweat, “falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). It was to this experience, no doubt, that the writer of Hebrews referred in saying that Jesus “offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death” (Heb. 5:7).

Jesus was not grieved because of fear He would succumb to Satan’s temptations, As mentioned above, He had already declared that Satan “has nothing in Me,” meaning that there was no sin or evil in Him in which temptation could take root. Nor was He grieved over a possibility of not conquering sin or surviving death. He had repeatedly spoken of His coming resurrection and even of His ascension. There was no doubt in our Lord’s mind about the outcome of the cross, by which He would become victor over sin, death, and the devil. Jesus was deeply grieved, to the point of death because of His having to become sin. That was the unbearably excruciating prospect that made Him sweat great drops of blood. Holiness is totally repulsed by sin. The prophet Habakkuk revealed this when he wrote, “Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, and Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor” (Hab. 1:13).

In that deep sorrow Jesus knew His only solace was with His heavenly Father, and with each wave of temptation and anguish He retreated to a place of seclusion some distance away (see vv. 36, 39, 42). Luke reports that “He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw” (Luke 22:41), which amounted to thirty to fifty yards. The intensity of temptation and of Jesus’ prayer response increased with each of the three sessions and is reflected in the positions the Lord took. At first He knelt (Luke 22:41), but as the intensity escalated He fell prostrate on His face (Matt. 26:39).

While He went to be alone with His Father, Jesus asked His three dear friends to keep watch with Him, leaving them not only to watch but also to pray in view of temptation (see v. 41), just as He would be doing.[2]

[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 26:36). Chicago: Moody Press.


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