The Gethsemane Agony -- By: Archibald Eugene Thomson
BSac 67:268 (Oct 1910) p. 598
The Gethsemane Agony
Beyond a question, a very large majority of Bible students and readers see in our Lord’s agony in the garden the natural recoil and shrinking of the soul from a painful and ignominious death, and in his submissive words, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt,” an example for us of patience in the event of unanswered prayer, and humble acceptance of the Father’s will instead of our own. Many have found comfort and heart-strengthening from this interpretation. The view of scriptural questions taken by the average Christian is generally pretty correct, and it is a serious matter to discard it. Such rejection must be accompanied by strong proof, to make it permissible. It is, however, a fact that sometimes a genuine truth will be based on a mistaken use of Scripture. Every helpful lesson which has been drawn from the common view of the Gethsemane agony can be found elsewhere in the Word of God; so that the Christian world will not lose, and may gain, if we find that the view ordinarily accepted is not correct. Other interpretations have been given, and one, quite different from the common view, seems to the writer to have such scriptural warrant as to justify its acceptance. Before setting forth this better interpretation, certain facts and considerations should be examined which militate strongly against that commonly received.
1. It is well known that strength of will, lofty purpose, and
BSac 67:268 (Oct 1910) p. 599
high views of truth and duty have often upheld mere men in the face of death at least as painful and humiliating as that which Jesus suffered. From the American Indian, who bore unflinchingly the worst tortures his enemies could devise, and Regulus, the Roman hero who went calmly to face the fury of Carthage, to Christ’s own disciples who have not only met a brutal death cheerfully, but have often needed to be restrained from seeking a martyr’s crown, men have shown their ability to rise superior to the terrors of death. The fact that Christian martyrs have been upheld by the Holy Spirit leads us to reflect that our Lord had the presence of that Spirit in the highest degree. Often, filled with the Spirit who dwelt in fullness in our Lord, men and women have been brought face to face suddenly with the certainty of a speedy and painful death, and have met the situation at least without showing any outward signs of panic or fear. Knowing this, many a Christian has been perplexed by the record of our Lord’s agony, and has almost felt that an apology for him was needed.
2. It is hard to reconcile our Lord’s agony in the garden, interpreted in the common way, with his own previous statements. Early in his ministry he had plainly told h...
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