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Therefore I will divide Him
a portion with the great, And He
shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death.
Isaiah 53:12 (NKJ)



The Cross was Hell

Chapter 2

Gethsemane

The Last Supper   Jesus and the Father are One   Grief in the Garden   The Cup of Sin and Guilt   Jesus Decides to Drink Our Cup of Woe   The Cup and the Second Death   The Sons of Korah Foretell Gethsemane   Sweating Blood

Over the past several years a number men have been freed from prison. Some of these men had been on death row. Though convicted in a court of law, DNA evidence has now shown them to be not guilty of the crimes they had been convicted of.  Imagine serving hard time for a crime you did not do! Have you ever been accused of something you did not do? It does not feel very good.

It is human nature to quickly deny it, insisting that, "I didn't do it! I wouldn't do that!" Even when we are guilty, it is easy to start pointing fingers at others in order to share the blame. Isaiah discloses to us that Jesus, on the other hand, though innocent, chose to take the responsibility, the blame, shame, and guilt for all our misdeeds.

All of Heaven thinks Jesus is great because he was willing to be identified with sinners, that is, to take the fall for our sins, even though that meant risking everlasting death. Jesus had to be willing to cease to exist in order to rescue us from hell.

Isaiah 53:12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors. (NKJ)

How did Jesus "pour out his soul unto death"? Let's look at how Jesus tried to prepare his disciples to understand his imminent suffering. He gave them a view of Heaven's understanding of service and self-sacrificing love.

The Last Supper

A brief overview of Jesus' last few hours will provide us important background information that will give us varied perspectives into Jesus' suffering. We'll start with the Last Supper.

Jesus' closest friends, his 12 disciples were arguing over which of them would have the highest place of honor in the Kingdom of Heaven. The desire for glory, honor, and self-exaltation filled their hearts. Selfishness crowded out love.

Jesus saw that they did not understand the spiritual nature of his kingdom. He feared for their souls. The disciple's selfishness grieved Jesus.

To demonstrate to them the nature, the very foundation of God's kingdom, Jesus showed them that he was their Servant. Jesus laid aside his outer garment. This action symbolized how he laid aside his kingly robes, left Heaven, and came to earth as a Man.

It also symbolized how he was about to lay aside his robes of innocence by carrying the sin and guilt of the whole world. Jesus tied a towel around his waist and took the role of a servant. Even though Jesus was their Master and their God, he then washed each of the 12 disciples' feet. Jesus did not do this to shame them, but to reveal to them the true order of God's kingdom.

All Heaven worships almighty God because he is humble, kind, and serves all of his created beings by upholding them with his mighty power. Though he is our Creator, King, and Savior, Jesus is humble and kind.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (KJV)

Matthew 12:5 "Tell the city of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you! He is humble and rides on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (TEV). Jesus is the rightful King of Israel, the Saviour of the world, God in human flesh. However, he is meek and lowly in heart. Jesus came to show us what the Father is like.

Jesus and the Father are One

John 14:8, 9 Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father?'" (NKJ)

If the Father had come to the earth as a man instead of Jesus, no one could have told the difference. We have seen that Jesus is meek and lowly in heart. Then the Father is also meek and lowly in heart. Heavenly society has different values than what is normally found here on earth.

In earthly society the talented, the young and the beautiful, the rich and the powerful are exalted and idolized. But in Heaven it is not so. Heaven places high value on character. He, who through unselfish love, stoops the lowest to serve others is considered great and is exalted. Matthew 20:16  "So the last shall be first, and the first last" (MKJV).

God's love is the strongest and the most unselfish in the universe. No one can ever stoop lower than God did in the person of Jesus Christ. Isaiah describes how God and all of Heaven view our Savior, Jesus Christ, the greatest Servant of all time:

Isaiah 53:12 "Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors." (NKJ)

Grief in the Garden

Now we will look at what began to crush Jesus' heart in the garden of Gethsemane. The garden of Gethsemane is located on the Mount of Olives. Gethsemane means an oil press, the device used to crush the oil out of the olives. Olive oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (see 1Samuel 16:13). The garden of Gethsemane was the place where the dark weight of the sins of the world began to crush out Jesus' sense of closeness to Father through the Holy Spirit that he had enjoyed from his mother's womb. The meaning of Gethsemane accurately symbolizes the experience of our Savior on the night before the cross.

Matthew 26:36 "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'" (NRSV). As Jesus entered the garden of Gethsemane, he knew the terrible struggle that he was about to endure. Although suffering terrific stress, he carefully weighed the spiritual condition of his disciples. Always kind and considerate, Jesus had eight of his disciples wait for Him at a distance. He knew that they were not ready to comprehend the suffering he was about to undergo.

Matthew 26:37-39 He took Peter with him and Zebedee's two sons James and John, and began to be filled with anguish and despair. Then he told them, "My soul is crushed with horror and sadness to the point of death . . . stay here  . . . stay awake with me." He went forward a little, and fell face downward on the ground, and prayed, "My Father! If it is possible, let this cup be taken away from me. But I want your will, not mine." (The Living Bible)

The Cup of Sin and Guilt

Even with the inner circle of Peter, James, and John, Jesus felt that it was necessary to put some distance between them in order to shield them from witnessing the fullness of his agony. Jesus was beginning to drink from "the cup of God's wrath."

This caused Jesus to cry out, "My soul is crushed with horror and sadness to the point of death." What was this cup that caused Jesus, the Son of God such intense grief? Psalm 78:8 "The Lord holds a cup in his hand, filled with the strong wine of his anger. He pours it out, and all the wicked drink it; they drink it down to the last drop" (TEV).

In order to save mankind, Jesus had to drink the full cup of the sufferings of sin. To drink from this "cup" then, is to suffer the consequences of sin. This is an extremely bitter cup. Contained within this cup are all the murder, rape, fighting, torture, divorce, abuse, rage, anguish, sufferings, shame, and guilt of our fallen world. Hebrews 2:9 "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone" (NKJ).

Christ tasted death for everyone. Christ was headed toward the cross where he would experience the full consequences of sin so that we would not have to. Christ's experience in the garden of Gethsemane shows the horrifying consequences of sin. Jesus dreaded to drink from this cup. But it was the only way to save you and me.

His great love for us was stronger than his dread of the fearful consequences of sin. The results of sin are not pretty. The terrible experiences of Israel and other nations are often described as a cup. The descriptions of this cup provide us with hints of the depths of suffering that Jesus went through on our behalf.

Isaiah 51:22, 23 Thus says your Sovereign, the Lord, your God who pleads the cause of his people: See, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; you shall drink no more from the bowl of my wrath. And I will put it into the hand of your tormentors, who have said to you, "Bow down, that we may walk on you"; and you have made your back like the ground and like the street for them to walk on. (NRSV)

In this world, the good and bad alike suffer from the consequences of sin. However, those who continue in sin will experience a fiery bitterness that is the natural consequence of selfish, sinful rebellion against God's government of unselfish love. The Bible uses a variety of words to describe the contents of this "cup:" terror, horror, bitterness, intoxicating wine, and wrath, etc. Ezekiel describes the experience of a nation that turns its back on God.

Ezekiel 23:32-34 Yes, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: You will drink from the same cup of terror as your sister?a cup that is large and deep. And all the world will mock and scorn you in your desolation. You will reel like a drunkard beneath the awful blows of sorrow and distress, just as your sister Samaria did. In deep anguish you will drain that cup of terror to the very bottom. Then you will smash it to pieces and beat your breast in anguish. For I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken! (NLT)

Obadiah also warns us about the consequences of rejecting the principles of God's love.

Obadiah 15, 16 For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been. (KJV)

John the Revelator, talks about this awful cup and describes the degradation, distress, the fiery guilt, and torment that flow from that cup. Those who worship the beast and its image instead of our loving God, destroy their own souls.

Revelation 14:9, 10 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,  The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. (KJV)

The Last Supper

Christ was the only Man that could ever be tempted to use his divinity to escape his captors. But, Christ was a willing victim. Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane, had to choose of his own free will to drink down to its bitter dregs this awful cup that contained all the burning guilt, shame, horror, separation, fiery indignation, and wrath that are the natural, inevitable results of the sins of the whole world. What an awful cup! Only his great love for us could impel Him to do this. It is no wonder then that Jesus prayed three times to his Father, asking if there were any other way to save us.

Matthew 26: 40-50 Then he returned to the three disciples and found them asleep. "Peter," he called, "couldn't you even stay awake with me one hour? Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For the spirit indeed is willing, but how weak the body is!" Again he left them and prayed, "My Father! If this cup cannot go away until I drink it all, your will be done." He returned to them again and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy, so he went back to prayer the third time, saying the same things again. Then he came to the disciples and said, "Sleep on now and take your rest . . . but no! The time has come! I am betrayed into the hands of evil men! Up! Let's be going! Look! Here comes the man who is betraying me!" At that very moment while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived with a great crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent by the Jewish leaders. Judas had told them to arrest the man he greeted, for that would be the one they were after. So now Judas came straight to Jesus and said, "Hello, Master!" and embraced him in friendly fashion. Jesus said, "My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for." Then the others grabbed him. (The Living Bible)

The Cup and the Second Death

Our Heavenly Father, up to this point, had always shielded Jesus from the full weight of the dark knowledge of the guilt, grief, woe, and sin of humanity. Powerful angels had also protected Jesus from physical harm. Now Jesus would face physical and spiritual torture, and death. Now Jesus would open his heart and mind to experience the full weight, agony, and darkness of sinful humanity's grief and woe. Even now Jesus was entering into the second death. He began to experience the fullness of the wrath of God. In Psalm 16, David, through the power of the Holy Spirit, foretells the hellish sufferings of Jesus.

Psalm 16:8-11 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (KJV)

Peter, under the mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, confirms that Jesus experienced hell.

Acts 2:29-32 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. (KJV)

Again and again David prophesied regarding the second death experience that our Savior would endure to rescue us from the power of sin. These prophecies describe Christ's torturous, hellish time of suffering, which began in the garden of Gethsemane and ended with his death on the cross. David's Psalms of innocent suffering prefigure the innocent suffering of the Lamb of God.

Psalm 86:12-15 I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore. For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them. But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. (KJV)

One of David's weapons against despair, against the temptation to feel forsaken of God, is to praise God's name. God's name is synonymous with his character. Jesus also rested on the name, the character of Almighty God.

Psalm 116:1-5 I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. (KJV)

The Sons of Korah Foretell Gethsemane

While in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knew full well what our salvation would cost Him. Putting the cup of our sin and guilt to his lips meant drinking down all the horrors of hell. Centuries before Christ, the Holy Spirit gave the sons of Korah insights into Jesus' agonizing decision.

Psalm 88

1 O Lord, God of my salvation, when, at night, I cry out in your presence,

2 let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry.

This refers to Jesus' three seasons of earnest, pleading prayer that night in Gethsemane.

3 For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.

4 I am counted among those who go down to the Pit; I am like those who have no help,

In the garden of Gethsemane Christ said, "My soul is sorrowful, even unto death." Sheol is a Hebrew word that is often translated as hell or the grave. After three agonizing seasons of prayer, Jesus saw that the only path by which he could save humanity lead Him right through the pit of hell.

5 like those forsaken among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand.

6 You have put me in the depths of the Pit, in the regions dark and deep.

Remember we are talking about Jesus, the Creator God. He voluntarily left the warmth of Heaven, the praise and adoration of myriads of angels, and the intimate friendship with his Father, for the cold slap of human rejection and the hellish, soul-burning guilt of sin. Christ faced the cruel result of sin, which is the second death. (We will continue to explore the second death in the next two chapters.) Jesus felt forsaken of God, cut off from his life-giving hand. Jesus felt that he would cease to exist, and enter into the dark abyss of eternal death.

7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

Though perfectly innocent, Jesus chose to face the wrath of God against sin. The hot anger, the seething indignation, the ocean of grief that a father would feel upon learning of the brutal torture and murder of his precious, innocent child gives us a window into the heart of God. Now multiply that by the billions of God's children that have suffered under the tyranny of sin. That's one part of God's wrath against sin. Selah is a word that is similar to "amen." It means, hesitate, meditate, slow down; don't miss the importance of these words.

8 You have caused my companions to shun me;

you have made me a thing of horror to them.

I am shut in so that I cannot escape;

9 my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call on you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.

All Jesus' disciples deserted Him. Peter denied his God three times. Jesus felt that the death that he faced would hold Him forever and ever. Jesus did know the prophecies that foretold his resurrection in three days. However, it was by faith alone that he could grasp these prophecies.

It is a very different thing to read about something than it is to experience it. Theory versus the real world never seemed further apart. Jesus' five senses told Him that if he accepted the sin and guilt of the world that he would die, forever separated from his Father, forever trapped in the grave.

10 Do you work wonders for the dead?

Do the shades rise up to praise you? Selah

11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,

or your faithfulness in Abaddon?

12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,

or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?

Meditate on these words. Clearly, Jesus confronted the emotions, the physical sensation of reality that screamed out in his heart, mind, and soul that if he took on our sins that his Father would reject Him, that he would cease to exist, and that he would never experience the joys of Heaven again!

Also, Jesus was overwhelmed with a strong sense of the futility of his death. He was tempted to fear that it would do no good. Every fiber of Christ's being longed to bless others. He was tempted to fear that his death would not bring salvation to fallen humanity. His heart and mind abhorred the thought that death would prevent Him from praising his Father, leading the angels, and serving humanity.

13 But I, O Lord, cry out to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.

14 O Lord, why do you cast me off?  Why do you hide your face from me?

While still in the Garden, before anyone had laid a hand on Him, Jesus began to feel the darkness of separation from his Father.

15 Wretched and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.

Jesus' identification with sinful humanity had been placing the foul, bitter cup of sin to his lips from his youth up. Jesus embodied holiness, purity, and absolute perfection. Even while growing up, the presence of sin in his family, friends, and neighbors caused Him pain in proportion to his holiness, purity, and affection for others.

16 Your wrath has swept over me;

your dread assaults destroy me.

17 They surround me like a flood all day long;

from all sides they close in on me.

18 You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me;

my companions are in darkness. (NRSV)

Jesus' sacrifice brings to light important lessons about the wrath of God and the second death. Jesus Christ is the only Man to have ever experienced the fullness of the wrath of God, which is the second death. The wrath of God flooded over Jesus and engulfed him. Jesus drowned in our sins. Christ endured the burning anguish and guilt of the world's sins, the horrific lake of fire. There is only one thing in the entire universe that could motivate the Son of God to open his heart, mind, and body to this infinite torture?infinite love!

How few understood his sacrifice. How dark appeared the condition of human guilt and the dense ingratitude of men! Satan presented to Jesus the worst possible view of sinful humanity. Satan forcefully brought to Christ's attention the fact that his special people whom he had blessed above all others were rejecting Him. Not only were they rejecting Him, they were seeking to take his life.

Judas, one of his own disciples was about to betray Him. Peter, one of the inner three, was about to deny Him three times. All his disciples and other followers would desert Him. This pierced Jesus' heart and soul. The leaders of the nation that he had come to save, even his own closest followers that he loved so dearly, were about to become pawns that Satan would use for his evil purposes.

Sweating Blood

everything to fall upon Christ Jesus. All this sadness and grief was piled on top of the sense of separation from his heavenly Father, caused by the infinite weight of the world's sin and guilt. Luke adds an important detail to the picture of grief and woe that Christ experienced in the garden of Gethsemane.

Luke 22:41-44 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. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (KJV)

And "His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." Many people have faced imminent torture and death without sweating blood. Very few people ever sweat blood. It was not fear of the coming physical torture that caused Jesus such intense agony. Only intense mental anguish, an abyss of horror and dread can cause this phenomenon. Extreme mental stress and strain can cause the outer capillaries to burst, mixing blood with sweat.

Jesus had greater spiritual and emotional strength than any man that had ever lived. Jesus was also physically strong, for he had worked as a carpenter until he was thirty years old and had taken perfect care of his body. Picture then, if you can, the kind of mental and spiritual stress and anguish it would take to cause Jesus to sweat blood!

Mortal humans can endure a finite amount of suffering. Beyond that point, the human body fails. But Christ was fully human, and fully divine. His capacity for suffering was immense, far greater than ours. The intense agony that Christ began to suffer in the garden of Gethsemane broadens and deepens our understanding of the heinous, hideous nature of sin. His sufferings also give us insights into how God views sin, and what will come upon those who hang on to sin. Behold your God! Behold Jesus sweating blood before suffering any physical torture or abuse! Behold the Lamb of God!


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