Matthew 26:36-46 Part 3


As we begin to consider the suffering of our Lord Jesus, and inquire into some of the things we see in the text, let’s think on this first:  that there is a difference between “humanity included in Him”, and “humanity not included in Him”.  We’ve begun with this great Truth before.  And it’s safe to begin where you’ve begun before, isn’t it?

But in our daily rounds and duties we as believers encounter lots of situations and numbers of people… all of whom are different in many ways.  And it’s interesting to listen to them attempt to differentiate themselves from everyone else (self-interested and self-concerned as they all are):  “I’m one of those kinds of people who (acts this way)….”  Or, “I’m one of those people who (thinks this way)….”  In their own minds, the vast majority is in another group (derogatory) which “acts” or “thinks” another way – providing oneself with a self-constructed “uniqueness”.

And every time I hear it I’m always tempted to say, “There are only two groups of people:  those dead in Adam (in his old humanity), and those alive in the new humanity of Christ!  You really wish to be different from the others?  Then tear down the concept of yourself which you’ve constructed, and take on the truly “unique” humanity of Christ!”  (Of course, then we must be prepared to abide the “blank stares” and, sometimes, the very vocal ridicule.)

But our Lord Jesus Christ is “God the Son” Who willingly put aside His glorious Person to take on “manhood”.  And He was in every way as we are – except for one thing.

Whether you are a woman or a girl or boy or a man, you belong to “mankind”.  And we all share the same characteristics of the first man – Adam (in original state, including sin and death and the curse of God).

And when God the Son was born a man, He was born in every way the same as we are.  He was a real human being… a man.  All the characteristics of mankind were His – except for one.  He was different.  He was a truly unique man in that He had no sin.

Now, the Scriptures indicate that when this man Jesus died for His people, He took our sin upon Himself and provided His new and unique humanity for us!  And now His “body”, His humanity, belongs to us in place of that “old” one which was cursed and depraved in Adam.  So now we are His body, His humanity.  And we no longer belong to “manhood” in Adam.  We belong to “manhood” in Christ.  He was the new, unique, sinless human Who delivered us from the old, cursed and depraved one.  (And, having explained these things, this is where Paul, writing to the Church at Rome, jumps in and says, “Now, having seen these great things, how can you possibly continue in sin?!”)

So now we are His body – not Adam’s.  Humanity has been “reborn” in Christ!

And the Scriptures go further by saying that God the Son is the “Head” of the body.  What does that mean?  As Adam is the “head” of cursed and depraved mankind, Christ is the “Head” of redeemed mankind – Second Adam.  As Adam was the “genesis” (beginning) of humanity born in sin, Christ is the “genesis” (beginning) of reborn humanity!  He is our “Head”.

The apostle Paul strikes a wonderful analogy with these things – describing the new “body” of humanity as a body with members, i.e. with hands and feet, talents, abilities, etc.  The “hands” and the “feet” represent the diversity of gifts that are found in this new humanity of ours in Christ… this new “body”.  And the “body” is to work so that the whole “matures” together in Him.

And, in Paul’s analogy, the “body” has a “Head”.  And that Head is Christ Himself, representing the One, Unique man Who is the “Genesis” of this new humanity!  He died for it, and paid for it; and it is His body of humanity!  He is its “Head”.

And the “Head” is necessarily different from all the other members of the body.  The “Head” is the “Genesis”… the “beginning” from Whom all the members receive their “being”.  They exist in Him, and they receive their characteristics from Him (as man originally received that of Adam).  The “Head” is the representative of all those who come after Him.

So the man Jesus was necessarily different from all others.  He had to be a “sinless” man.

And He had to be thrust into and under the breakers of wrath in order to be punished and afflicted for all the members.  He wasn’t cursed, but He became cursed.  (Therefore He substituted Himself for them.)  He took their due punishment… the “different”, sinless Head in place of the members of His new body.

Now, one thing is very clear here as our Lord began to give Himself for us.  He was Unique and Different.  Our Lord Jesus Christ allowed His disciples to see and hear His anguish; and He Himself inspired the written Record of that anguish (which is better, since the eyes of the disciples had been made heavy, and since what they saw and heard was the drastic change from the “working” Messiah to the “worm of a man” on the ground in one little isolated spot in the created universe!).

And it is clear that the analyses of educated psychologists, concerning the anguish and suffering of Christ, are so far from the Truth (with their shallow probes into the psychology of human anguish).

It’s also clear that the philosophers, with their ramblings about universals and “good and evil” and human thought and senses, have entirely missed the mark concerning the vexation of the Christ.

And can there be any doubt concerning the senselessness of “theologians” who illustrate what we don’t know from what we do know.  Or those who, by study of comparative religion, find flaw in the Christ because of His anguish!  To them, somehow He is less because of this event.

These are the thoughts and probes and analyses of fallen men, depraved men, cursed men who attempt to explain the vexation and sorrow of the sinless Man – the different Man.  They compare Him to themselves and others.

But this Man is different!  And His anguish was different.  And His death was different.  Those I just mentioned love to compare the anguish and sorrow and death of the “Head” to that, for example, of the martyrs.  With blind and senseless philosophical language they describe the serene and stalwart approach of many (Christian and pagan alike) to the guillotine or the fire.  And how their deaths somehow place them above the Christ – since they didn’t “flinch” at the thought of death (as He did!).  “Entrapped”, they are in the anguish of the Christ… blind, pagan, apostate, human thought.

Can they think of no differences between the Christ, the sinless God the Son – the Unique One – and other men?  Do they think there is no difference in the death of Christ and the deaths of other men?

Christ’s very work differs from that of any other man!  His was to suffer the penalty His people deserved because of their sin.  And since He is the sinless man, we would have to call one blind and dumb and “mad” to contend that there are no differences.  And who out there can say in what manner He, being sinless, was affected by the weight of sin, and the curse, and Satan, and death.  He suppressed nothing; but received it all!

So if any man (all being sinners and under the curse) knows what it is to be sinless and under the curse of sin, let him speak up and describe the anguish; otherwise, all who would compare it to the suffering of other men, let them keep quiet.  Shut up!

Now, we all know (because we’ve talked about it many times) that there is a mighty fear of death and judgment in the soul of every man who remains in his depraved, original condition.

But they debate with themselves about it; and they suppress it.  Many men bear the burden in stoic bravery… subordinating the fear to other thoughts.  Some won’t speak of it at all; others hope for something else in whatever belief structure they have.  But in all there is the sting of death and the suppression of the fear and dread of it.

I was reminded of all these things once again the other morning as I was thinking these things through.  You’ve heard me speak once or twice of the prominent, eighty-five year old attorney who used to come to the track to walk at about the time I finish my Saturday run.  (He was a long-time United Methodist.)

And sometimes I would “cool down” by walking a few laps with him and whoever else was there.  And I would usually bring the discussions around to “the Faith”.

But one day, as it has happened only once or twice before, there was no one else at the track except him and me.  There were a couple of greetings between us; and immediately there came this question out of his mouth:  “How do we know what happens to us after we die?”

Well, needless to say I didn’t walk just a couple of “cool down” laps with him… I stayed there for his entire two miles.  After the question (which indicated his underlying dread of imminent death), he fought me every step of the way, and even laughed and ridiculed some of the things I said.  He didn’t want what I said, he wanted to hear something that would indicate his safety.

And, finally, with some degree of frustration, I said to him, “Charles, you’re being completely rationalistic; so let me join you in your folly for a moment.  I’ve said many things to you from God’s Word about Christ and judgment and death.  Why should you take a chance that they might be true?  Instead, why not go to God and ask Him for grace and mercy?”

Well, we were finishing up at that point and went to the parking lot.  But this man stood by his car, looked over at me and said, “You’ve given me one good piece of advice this morning.”  And he hesitated for a long while.  I just waited.  And he said, “Not to take a chance.”  And with that he got into his car and left.

But the point of my relating that story to you is that there is, in every depraved soul, a great fear of death – judgment.  And the mind is quite capable of manipulating the avoidance, or the suppression, or the subordination of those fears in any number of ways.

But it was very different for The Christ – The Unique One.  He had to look at death squarely; He had to implicate Himself in it; He had to draw out all of its complications for Himself.  There was no debate.  He couldn’t think of something else and suppress it.  He couldn’t laugh at it or “look good” in bravery.

There was only one way for Him; He could achieve life for His people only by losing it completely – by paying the whole of it as ransom.  And He had to do that by experiencing total loss, and with full consciousness of it.  There was to be no comfort at all:  He had to be fully cognizant of it and experience it completely.  Who says there are no differences between the suffering and death of Christ and that of others?

Further, our Lord Jesus Christ was the second Adam, the New Man, the “Head” of a new humanity.  He is not just a “man” (different from all other men), but He is “the Man”.  He is the foundation of the salvation of God’s people and the “Head” of the New body!  A new humanity.

Therefore He doesn’t suffer and die as an individual, but as a ransom for all!  It is His righteous judgment since He is our substitute!  Therefore His obedience to suffering and death isn’t only a “passive” obedience – not just “giving in” to it; but it is also an “active” obedience!  He must be the “surety” for us.  He must be the payment.  And that demands that He not only is a passive recipient of the terrors of death, but that He actively desires it!  He must desire and pursue death in full awareness of His Headship.  This is vicariously suffered anguish – the Mediator’s passion.  And who would dare to compare this to the suffering of any other man?

And, lastly, there is the matter of time and space.  We know about these issues because we’ve addressed them before.  When men die there’s always (in their minds) the possibility of another time… another place… another life.  And people will comfort themselves with that – no matter what the religious sentiments are.  In that way they limit the fear and dread.

But Jesus Christ is Son of God/Son of Man; He is God-man, the second Person of Triune God.  And since without Him nothing was made that was made, He Himself is the Creator of time and space and whatever other dimensions there are.

So who’s to say whether there were time and space limitations to His anguish?  There is no “mighty force” playing against “mighty force” out there in eternity, since He is Sovereign God.  There are no limitations upon Him; so do space and time limit His vexation and sorrow?  Who can say anything about that?  And who would even venture a comparison?

Now we’ve seen a bit of the “uniqueness” of the suffering and death of Christ.  But has anything said so far accounted for the fact (as the text says) that there is an immediate point of beginning of this vexation and sorrow?  As Matthew writes (verse thirty-seven)


“He began to be vexed and to sorrow….”


There is a sudden beginning to His anguish; can we attribute that to some “inconsistency” in Him, as some would say?  I think not.  If Christ was in the chaos of hell with the devils or in heaven with the angels, He would be equally resolute, controlled and unchangeable – as long as He moves and stands with God the Father.

And even though the “bulls” and “dogs” (Psalm two) were approaching like demons sneaking from hell, these men aren’t the cause of this anguish.  There certainly is a graduated intensity all through the Gospel; and the approach of Judas would have “pricked” His sensitivities.  But this awful change in Jesus (described in our text) from the “working” Messiah to the “worm of a man” on the ground at some little isolated spot in the created universe… this couldn’t have happened as a result of the fear of men or of rulers or of Satan or of torture and death.

Gethsemane, and the beginning of the anguishing of Christ, is explicable solely in the mind of God the Father.  God alone is the explanation of His self-revelation in Jesus Christ.

Here, you see, is the complete escape from the confusion of human psychology, and from the ramblings of philosophers, and from the confused illustrations of sycophant ministers:  those who would make comparisons with human anguish.  Open your Bibles and see the Revelation of God!

And the answer to all the questions lies in the pattern of God throughout the Scriptures.  It is His covenant.  It is a pattern fixed in eternity… a definite outline.  It is the form of God’s faithfulness, of His justice, or His One Will, of His wrath and His love and His righteousness and His justice.

Although we cannot penetrate all of its far-reaching implications (and caution must be our guide), we know from the Revelation of God that Jesus’ fall to the depths of vexation and sorrow coincides with the beginning of the Father’s departure from Him.

This is God’s hour to forsake; to abandon; to withdraw from Him.  The Father thrusts Him into the abyss.  No comfort; no assurance; no love; no help.  The Mediator begins to be forsaken; and wrath flares up against Him.  The terrors of the Covenant are now being brought against Him as the substitute for His people.  And our Lord Jesus Christ responded perfectly to what God the Father brought upon Him in this awfullest hour.  So this event isn’t that occasion for disbelief, but for overwhelming joy! – not in a study of human anguish!

Any attempt to understand Gethsemane is a sacrilege unless it discovers the explanation in Almighty God.  As Schilder says, “Gethsemane is not a field of study for our intellect; it is a sanctuary for our faith.”

This is a very sacred place in the Scriptures; and we will not probe too deeply… I’m afraid we can’t.  But there is a firm Rock in eternity upon which to set our feet.  And His Name is Jesus Christ our Mediator.  But there is more to say about it.  And we’ll continue that next time.