Hearing nothing from his Father, Jesus stumbled back to his disciples and asked them to stay awake with him (14:37). This is Jesus—the one who commanded the wind and the waves—so weak that he’s looking for someone, anyone, to lean on.
He felt alone. Abandoned.
More than that, he felt rejected by his Father. One thing I’ve learned about rejection is that the closer you are to someone, the more painful their rejection feels. Over the years, I have received my share of angry letters from people I’ve never met. They often say unkind things. But they seldom bother me because I don’t have a relationship with them.
If I were to get such a letter from my father, however, telling me that he was ashamed of me, that would be different. We are close, and I have lived for over forty years now in the assurance of his love. Losing his affection would be unspeakably painful. If losing the love of my earthly father would feel like that, what was it like for Jesus to lose the perfect love of his eternal Father?
Luke tells us that Jesus was so crushed by his Father’s abandonment that he began to sweat great drops of blood (Luke 22:44)—a condition doctors call hematidrosis, in which the capillaries in your face burst from intense strain.
A friend of mine spent the day at the pool with his family. When they packed up their kids in the car to go home, he noticed that their three-year-old wasn’t with them. He raced back to the pool and found his son lying unconscious at the bottom. He pulled him out, began CPR, and managed to revive him. They rushed the boy to the emergency room, where he stayed overnight for observation.
The following morning, my friend noticed dozens of small purple blotches like tiny bruises all over his son’s face. The doctor explained that the most likely explanation was that as his son realized he was downing, he had screamed so forcefully for his father that the capillaries in his face burst.
In Gethsemane, we see Jesus—who spoke the worlds into existence, walked on top of angry waves, calmed the fiercest storms, cast out the vilest demons, healed the gravest diseases, and brought the dead back to life—so horrified that his blood vessels burst. The pain of the Father’s abandonment was more than his physical heart could bear.
Long before the nails pierced Jesus’s hands, the journey to the cross was underway. The Father had begun to turn his face away. New Testament scholar William L. Lane describes this moment in Gethsemane as “the horror of one who lived wholly for the Father, who came to be with his Father for a brief interlude before his death and found hell rather than heaven open before him.” In that moment, God gave to Jesus a glimpse of what he was about to go through on the cross, where he would cry out in agony, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46).
In this one moment, Jesus experienced a taste of hell for us, because that’s what hell is—total abandonment by God.
No wonder the angels watched in stunned silence. The Son of God, ruler of the heavens, was horrified to the point of death; God, who spoke the worlds into existence, so weak he seemed unable to stand on his own. — J.D. Greear and David Jeremiah, Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018).
We have just released a new Bible Study based on J.D. Greear’s newest book, Not God Enough. These lessons are available on Amazon, as we as a part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.