When Jesus Was Afraid
Fear is a powerful and destructive emotion. Fear of what might happen if my sexual addiction was found out led me to have a plan to take my own life. I knew how to make it look like an accident and knew that the insurance money would provide for my family. I cannot tell you how many times I have been thankful that fear did not win that battle and God’s Grace made all the difference.
I think the time when Jesus felt the most fear was the night he was captured to begin the journey to being slaughtered on the cross. Did He know He would be raised from the dead victorious over sin and death? Of course, He did, but that did not mean that as a man He was horrified on the events before He could say; “It is Finished!”
The Last Supper has ended. Judas has been exposed and runs away to work out the capture of Jesus. Jesus and the eleven go to a familiar place called the Garden of Gethsemane. He has eight of them wait in one area while Jesus, Peter, James, and John go further into the garden.
Suddenly, John notices that Jesus is no longer the strong and “in control” leader that they have been following for three years. He has become overwhelmed with fear and depression. The word in Greek here is “heavy.” All the preliminaries are over. Everything that needed to be fulfilled was completed and the only things remaining between now and death would be hours of torture, pain, public shame, and death. It will all happen in a matter of hours.
Jesus is having a panic attack of the highest degree. He says to his three friends;
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death…”
To be overwhelmed is to have something coming towards you that you believe will destroy you. It is a sense that nothing can be done to help and nothing is going to be able to stop it. It is a place of utter resignation when you have fallen to the rock bottom of a depression. Almost uncontrollable fear as the knot at the end of your rope is undone, and only darkness lies ahead.
That moment had been planned before the creation of the world where the Son of God will willingly sacrifice Himself for the sins of the world is now hours away. The moment when for the first time and only time ever the Son will be abandoned by the Father is moving quickly towards him, and Jesus is so afraid that he is kneeling in prayer and sweating great drops of blood from the pores in His skin.
He gets up to perhaps get some consolation from His three best friends, but they have no clue what is happening and have fallen asleep. They are resting with full stomachs oblivious to what Jesus is wrestling over. Jesus returns to pray and does it a third time. He has asked the Father to take this “cup” away from Him. His humanity filled with fear has blotted out the sun of their bond, and He is alone in the darkness.
Jesus knows what it is like to be afraid. He has been there and done that to a higher degree than perhaps any of us will ever face. That is why He is our Savior and understands what it feels like to be tempted by fear.
So, when we are afraid and come to Him with our fears, He understands. He knows the depression and anxiety of the waves of doubt rolling over us. To feel completely out of control and wrestling with doom is known by Him and He is there with us.
That is why He has sealed us with the promised Holy Spirit. That our Comforter and Counselor can embrace us and hold us through the darkest hours we face. Be with Him. Sit at His feet and ask Him to pray for you with His hands on your head and allow His strength to strengthen our weaknesses and fears.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”