And now comes Gethsemane. Both hat and shoes quickly go off here, for this is holiest ground. One looks with head bowed and breath held in, and reverential awe ever deepening. The shadow of the cross so long darkening His path is now closing in and enveloping Jesus. The big trees cast black shadows against the brilliance of the full moon. Yet they are as bright lights beside this other shadow, this inky shadow cast by the tree up yonder, just outside the Jerusalem wall, with the huge limb sitting sharply astride the trunk.
The scene under these trees has been spoken of by almost all, if not by all, as a strange struggle. With a great variety of explanations men have wondered why He agonized so. It was a strange struggle, and ever will be, not understood, strange to angels and to men and to demons. It is strange to angels of the upper world, for they do not know, and cannot, the terrific meaning of sin as did Jesus. It is strange to all other men except Jesus, for we do not know the meaning of purity as Jesus did. And it was strange to demons, for in the event of the morrow sin was working out a new degree of itself, a new superlative, in its final attack on Jesus. Sin was trying to strangle God. Even demons stared.
Purity refined beyond what angels knew, and sin coarsened beyond what demons knew were coming together. Purity's finest and sin's coarsest were coming together in the closest touch thus far, in this Man under those old brown-barked gray-leaved, gnarly trees. The shock of such extremes meeting would be terrific. It was terrific here under the trees. It was yet more so on the morrow. Here was the cross in anticipation. Calvary was in Gethsemane.
Man never will understand the depth of Gethsemane. We are incapable of sympathizing with Jesus here. Yet it is true that as the Holy Spirit within a man increases the purity, and the horror of sin, there comes an increasing sense of sympathy with Him, and an increasing appreciation that we cannot go into the depths of what He knew here. In the best of us sin is ingrained. Jesus was wholly free from taint or twist of sin. He knew it only in others. Now He, the pure One, purity personified, was coming into closest contact with sin, and sin at its worst. He had been in contact with sin in others. He had seen its cruel ravages and been indignant against it.
Now, on the morrow, He is to know sin by a horrid intimacy of contact, and sin at a new worst. He was yielding to its tightest hold. Sin at its ugliest would stretch out its long, bony arms and gaunt hands, and fold Him to itself in closest embrace and hold Him there. And He was allowing this, that so when sin's worst was done, He might seize it by the throat and strangle it. He would put death to death. Yet so terrific is the struggle that He must accept in Himself that which He thereby destroys. This is the agony of Gethsemane. It may be told, but not understood. Only one as pure as He could understand, and then only under circumstances that never will come again.
The horror of this contact with sin is intensified clear out of our reach by this: it meant separation from His Father. The Father was the life of Jesus. The Father's presence and approving smile were His sunshine. From the earliest consciousness revealed to us was that consciousness of His Father. Only let that smile be seen, that voice heard, that presence felt by this One so sensitive to it, and all was well. No suffering counted. The Father's presence tipped the scales clear down against every hurting thing.
But -- now on the morrow that would be changed. The Father's face be -- hidden -- His presence not felt. That was the climax of all to Jesus. Do you say it was for a short time only? In minutes y-e-s. As though experiences were ever told by the clock! What bulky measurements of time we have! Will we never get away from the clocks in telling time? No clock ever can tick out the length to Jesus of that time the Father's face was hidden. This hiding of the Father's face was the climax of suffering to Jesus.