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The Day an Angel Ministered to Jesus

One of the more striking scenes in the gospel accounts of our Lord’s earthly life and death takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane. The portrayal of the almost indescribable mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical anguish that Jesus experienced is overwhelming. The synoptic gospels together paint a graphic picture using five different words. One word alone, apparently, simply could not capture the depths of his torment. Continue reading . . . 

One of the more striking scenes in the gospel accounts of our Lord’s earthly life and death takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane. The portrayal of the almost indescribable mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical anguish that Jesus experienced is overwhelming. The synoptic gospels together paint a graphic picture using five different words. One word alone, apparently, simply could not capture the depths of his torment:

In Matthew 26:37 we read that Jesus "grieved" (lupeo), a word that means to be sad or sorrowful. In that same verse Matthew says he was "distressed" (ademoneo), a word, says Lightfoot, that "describes the confused, restless, half-distracted state, which is produced by physical derangement, or by mental distress as grief, shame, disappointment" (123). He was also "deeply grieved" (perilupos; Matt. 26:38), an intensified form of the first word above; hence, grief added to grief, grief once felt and now multiplied; sorrow upon sorrow. Luke says that he was in "agony" (agonia; Luke 22:44). Finally, in Mark 14:33 we read that he was "very distressed" (ekthambeo), a word that describes someone who is in the grip of shuddering horror as he faces some dreadful future. It is a term that describes one’s reaction to the presence of a supernatural mystery that provokes absolute terror.

Jesus was gripped by unbounded horror and suffering, the force of which drives him first to his knees, then face down upon the ground. He prayed fervently with torment so utterly overwhelming that, according to Luke 22:43, his heavenly Father dispatched an angelic attendant to strengthen him.

Does it strike you as it does me, that the Lord of heaven and earth, our Lord Jesus Christ, should be so weak and needy that he required the strength supplied by one of his own creatures?

Jesus is the Lord over the angels of heaven! They do his bidding. They obey his will. They exist by his power and authority. Yet here he is nourished and sustained by one of them. How does one explain this remarkable act of humility, that Jesus would stoop so low for sinners like us and suffer so intensely for sinners like us that he required the assistance of his own creation to persevere?

But how could/did the angel "strengthen" the Son of Man? What did he say? What did he do? What did he bring? What did he impart?

I suggest he actually infused new physical strength and energy into his weakened frame, even as was true of Samson. Perhaps the mere presence of holy company was reassuring to him. His disciples, weak in flesh, could not stay up with him. The angel was there lest he struggle alone. Surely the angel must have communicated tender sympathy to him, perhaps reminding him that all of the angelic host felt the same as they watched him in agony. Perhaps the angel bolstered his sagging spirit by worshipping him!

Perhaps he came to remind Jesus of his ultimate victory, to remind him of the fruit that would grow from his sufferings, to remind him that Satan who tormented him would soon endure everlasting defeat.

We’ll never know until we ask him directly, but I wonder if the angel might have whispered into his ear the promises given to him by his heavenly Father. Perhaps he somehow reminded him of the glory he had with the Father from eternity past or portrayed for him the glory that would again soon be his. Maybe he reassured him that no matter what he endured, he would rise again from the dead. Might the angel have described for him his second coming to earth in the company of myriads of other angels, in great power and majesty? Perhaps the angel spoke of Christ’s universal dominion when one day he would rule and reign from sea to sea. We don’t know what he said or did, but evidently it worked!

Finally, I feel fairly confident that the angel must have come with a message from the Father. Perhaps, as Spurgeon suggests, he whispered something like this:

"Be of good cheer; thou must pass through all this agony, but thou wilt thereby save an innumerable multitude of the sons and daughters of men, who will love and worship thee and thy Father forever and forever. He is with thee even at this moment. Though he must hide his face from thee, because of the requirements of justice that the atonement may be complete, his heart is with thee, and he loves thee ever" (Spurgeon, 106).

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