The Agony of Christ -- By: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 124:496 (Oct 1967)
Article: The Agony of Christ
Author: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.


The Agony of Christ

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

The Gathering Storm is the title of the first volume of Winston Churchill’s memorable history of the second world war. It is admirably suitable as a description of the circumstances surrounding our Lord’s last visit to Jerusalem. We are reminded of the transfiguration and the subject of the conversation of the visitors from beyond. They spoke “of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31). As He strode on toward Jerusalem even the disciples, so often dull-witted and obtuse, seemed to sense that something was in the air. Mark puts it this way in one of his most striking texts, a verse filled with “the sense of the numinous”1 and the awe of the supernatural: “And they were on the way going to Jerusalem, and Jesus went before them; and they were amazed and, as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him” (Mark 10:32). It was “the gathering storm.”

If the transfiguration and the immediately following events mark the gathering of the storm, then the agony in Gethsemane marks the fall of the first sheet of rain amidst the blustery winds. It is not that Jesus now for the first time begins to think of His passion, although He does begin to dwell in it more deeply and frequently. His life had certain peaks and on these peaks He saw the cross as the close and culmination of His ministry. Among these heights were the temptation in the wilderness, the marriage in Cana of Galilee when Mary so spoke to Him that He was stirred to look on

to His “hour” (John 2:4), and the feeding of the five thousand when the multitude wished to make Him a king. Passing by the transfiguration, of which we have already spoken, there is the incident in which the mother of Zebedee’s children came craving a lofty place for her sons, which moved Him to speak of “the cup” and “the baptism,” both figures of His death (cf. Matt 20:20–28). Finally, to avoid needless multiplying of examples, there was the desire of the Greeks for an interview with Him (cf. John 12:20). The request brought home to Him the wider mission of the future, but it also reminded Him of what must precede. He was visibly shaken. Stalker comments: “Instead of responding to their request, He became abstracted, His face darkened, and His frame was shaken with the tremor of an inward conflict. But He soon recovered Hims...

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