Undervaluing Christ's Obedience?
December 9, 2014
We must be careful not to speak flippantly about Christ's obedience. The nature, quality, and difficulty of what he actually went through in order to save us will always be beyond our abilities to fully grasp in this life; but that does not mean we should not try to understand something of what it meant for him to obey under the most extreme difficulties. Statements, such as "Jesus was under a covenant of works for us," can become a form of vain repetition if we are not careful. Do we actually realize what this involved for him?
Consider, for example, the picture that Luke paints for us:
"And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Lk. 22:41-44)
That Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane was not accident. Adam's fall happened in the Garden of Eden. Satan overcame him there. Adam was led away from the Garden in captivity and the sentence of death. Here Jesus, like Adam, is led away from Gethsemane as a captive en route to his death.
F.W. Krummacher, in his profound work, The Suffering Savior, adds:
"The voice which resounded through the garden of Eden, cried 'Adam, where are you? but Adam hid himself trembling, behind the trees of the garden. The same voice, and with a similar intention, is heard in the garden of Gethsemane. The second Adam, however, does not withdraw from it, but proceeds to meet the High and Lofty One, who summons him before him, resolutely exclaiming, 'Here am I!'"
But before he would be led away, he would have his own "battle" with himself and his Father (Heb. 5:7-8).
The agonies of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane are his "roars" - "roars" so loud that his natural strength was sapped from him. Like the Psalmist, Jesus was "feeble and crushed." Jesus could say, "I groan because of the tumult of my heart" (Ps. 38:8).
Jesus did not sin by asking for the cup to be removed - three requests, no less (Matt. 26:44). After all, he was about to drink the cup of God's wrath: "Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup" (Ps. 11:6).
Why did he ask for the cup to be removed?
"His deep agitation was clearly, therefore, not due to mere recoil from the physical experience of death, though even such a recoil might be the expression not so much of a terror of dying as of repugnance to the idea of death. Behind death, he saw him who has the power of death, and that sin which constitutes the sting of death. His whole being revolted from that final and deepest humiliation, in which the powers of evil were to inflict upon him the precise penalty of human sin. To bow his head beneath this stroke was the last indignity, the hardest act of that obedience which it was his to render in his servant-form." - Warfield
Thomas Brooks likewise describes the obedience of Christ well:
"Oh, what a sight was here! His head and members are all on a bloody sweat, and this sweat trickles down, and bedecks his garments, which stood like a new firmament, studded with stars, portending an approaching storm; nor stays it there, but it falls down to the ground. Oh, happy garden that was watered with such tears of blood! Oh, how much better are these rivers than the rivers of Damascus, yes, than all the waters of Israel; yea, than all those rivers that water the garden of Eden!" (Works, 5:87).
Those drops were as necessary to our salvation as the nails that pierced his hands and feet.
Christ's obedience for us was no stroll in the park. It was rather agony in the Garden before the greatest indignity on the cross.
Pastor Mark Jones is so thankful for Christ's drops of sweat in the Garden. No hope without them.