MARK 14: 32-34
“They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.'”
It is a profound thing to realize that God did not spare himself from the deepest human suffering imaginable. Loneliness, physical pain, exhaustion, grief, distress, and even physical death were all chosen by Jesus, for the sake of our salvation. In the greek, to be “distressed” is to experience a state of terror; to be “agitated” is to experience anguish or depression. And Jesus doesn’t just say, “I am deeply grieved, even to death,” in the greek he literally says, “My SOUL is grieved, even to death.” The core of Jesus’ being is troubled. Jesus essentially says, “I am so deeply disturbed in my emotions that I might die from them!”
For those who think of God as One who removes himself from the pain and struggle of life, sitting on a cloud somewhere in a heavenly city far, far away leaving us to fend for ourselves, these passages are vivid reminders that the God of the Bible is intimately connected to and involved in the good, bad, and ugly of life. God enters into the deepest experiences of human suffering in order to redeem them, to turn them into experiences of salvation. On our worst days, in the worst of human circumstances, God is no stranger to how we feel, and God is not ignorant of the power required to overcome those circumstances. I love how the book of Hebrews shows us that our High King, our eternal Lord Jesus, is one who understands our struggles, yet remains faithful. “For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he made atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (chapter 2: 18).”
Sometimes when we suffer, we are tempted to believe that no one else understands our struggle, that we are all alone. Sometimes we are even tempted to believe that God can’t possibly understand our struggles and that God doesn’t care. Jesus shows us that these beliefs simply are not true. Our God has experienced suffering and death. Our God grieves when we grieve and hurts when we hurt. Thankfully, though, Jesus goes beyond merely empathizing with our feelings; he exercises his loving power to overcome the sources of suffering. By the power of Christ’s resurrection we “take heart, for he has overcome the world!” as the gospel of John puts it. The power of Jesus’ suffering is that our God knows how we feel. The power of Jesus’ resurrection is that he has the power to save us. We are grateful for both.