If Jesus was troubled with the apparent break in fellowship between him and his Father, how could the angel strengthen him?
I will offer a crude, but, I believe, a fairly accurate example of how Jesus could have been strengthened by the presence of the angel in Gethsemane. I believe I understand Jesus’ plight, at least in part, because of what occurred between my own father and me. I am the eldest of eight children. When I was in my twenties, my dad did something that hurt our relationship. In fact, I withheld my love for him. He hurt me, though he did not intend to do so, but I wanted to hurt him. This went on for about two years, before we were reconciled on his death bed. I tried even then to hold back the love I had for him, but I broke down and wept into his lap. Through my sobs, I could hear him say, as his hand stroked my head, “I knew he still loved me.” Up until then, my dad would not speak of his dying. Afterward, he did. I believe that our reconciliation strengthened him. He never wanted to appear weak. After we were reconciled, I believe he was able both to face death and speak about it without breaking down.
Similarly, as long as Jesus had no apparent fellowship with the Father (see: “Bearing Our Sins Away”), he felt very alone. It was difficult to continue, perhaps humanly impossible. Jesus longed for the experience of unity with his Father that he had always enjoyed. The appearance of the angel was evidence of that unbroken fellowship between Father and Son. Jesus prayed and his Father answered, just as he had always done in the past. Jesus, however, experienced that fellowship second hand through the angel, but this strengthened him. His soul was sorrowful even unto death, because he felt so alone. Now after the third session of prayer, Jesus knew, not just mentally (John 16:32), but experientially, through the appearance of the angel, that he was not really alone, and he was comforted and strengthened.
I am convinced that Jesus could have experienced that second hand fellowship through Peter, James or John, had they watched and prayed, as Jesus commanded (Luke 22:40; Matthew 26:38, 41). This would have occurred in the same manner that showed Peter was listening to our Father when he openly declared Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16; John 6:69). Nevertheless, they failed that night, just as I so often do.
Oftentimes it is my sin that keeps me from realizing the love of God. When I am out of fellowship with God, it is because I have moved, not him. He is still in fellowship with me, but the darkness and guilt hides him from me. It is only after repentance that I am able to hear that “still small Voice.” It is important that my faith does not fail under such circumstances. Peter’s faith didn’t fail, but Judas’ faith did. I believe firmly that Jesus would have restored Judas, had Judas only trusted his Lord to forgive. I need to remember and trust in the fact that God is willing and able to restore me after I have sinned. The depression I feel after defeat is a token of the stress that Jesus went through for my sake and for the sake of all. This is another reason why Jesus went through this private terror in Gethsemane, so I would know what to do when I sin, and have the assurance that God waits for me to call out to him.
It was here in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus began to be pressed with the burden of my sins. The word gethsemane is taken from an Aramaic word meaning “oil press.” A gethsemane was a press used to force out the precious oil from the olive fruit. There are many such presses throughout Israel today, wherever there are olive groves. Jesus was in such a place where the owner of the olive grove on Mount Olives worked to press out the olive oil for his trade. Just as the gethsemane presses the olives and the precious oil is forced out, so too, my sins began to press out the blood of Jesus as it mingled itself with his own sweat. The pouring out of my Savior’s blood for me began there at the place called Gethsemane, and it didn’t stop until the Roman spear pierced his side. Oh, God have mercy!
“And being in agony he prayed more earnestly…” (Luke 22:44, emphasis mine).
The words for “agony” (G 74 agonia) and “more earnestly” (G1617 ektenesteron) are found only here in the New Testament. The Greek word agonia (G74) is related to agon (G73), meaning “strife” or “contention,” that is, the struggle itself. It is also related to agonizomai (G75) a verb meaning to “contend, wrestle or fight.” In 1Timothy 6:12 Paul encourages Timothy to “fight (G75) the good fight (G73) of faith…” In 2Timothy 4:7 as he awaits his own death, Paul tells Timothy “I have “fought” (G75) the “good fight” (G73), I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” In Colossians 1:28-29 Paul speaks about his preaching the Gospel “striving” (G75) to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. In Hebrews 12:1-2 we are admonished to run the “race” (G73) set before us, fixing our eyes upon Jesus. In Philippians 1:29-30 Paul writes from prison to the Christians at Philippi, concerning their being persecuted for the name of Christ. He says they have the same “conflict” (G73) in them that they saw in him when he preached the Gospel to them, and now hear to be in him because of his imprisonment.
It seems that the struggle of the Christian life is agon (G73). It is the good “fight,” the “race” that is set before me. Agonizomai (G75), on the other hand, is my activity. I am “fighting” a good fight to honor Christ. I am “wrestling” with my flesh and this world that I may not be defeated. I am “running” in the race to be victorious. Having said this, agonia (G74) is the “pain, fear or tension” I feel before and during the fight, or the race. What I feel before and during the struggle: fear, tension, rejection, humiliation etc., this experience is the agonia (G74).
“Being in agony, he prayed…” (Luke 22:44; emphasis mine).
Having the strength and the comfort of his Father’s presence reestablished, albeit through the person of an angel, Jesus turned to what was just ahead of him. This, visualizing of his sufferings without the apparent fellowship of his Father, was his “agony” (agonia, G74), and he prayed “more earnestly” or “more intently” (ektenesteron, G1617) concerning those things. In fact, he prayed until Judas came to turn him over to the high priest (Luke 22:45-47).