We are drawing here to the last scenes of the blessed Lord's life. He is here, the tested, but perfect, Victim, while, alas! the disciples again show what man is. But all only brings out the Lord's grace. It is not, as in John, a divine person above all, offering up Himself, nor the man overcoming in dependence all that pressed upon Him. Obedience and grace must be perfect in the true and spotless Victim. Death and the cup were there, and He must be put fully to the proof in His obedience. But He passes through it all with His Father, and yet can think of others who think but little of Him; for, as to them, it is the testing of the disciples more than what was special to Christ that is portrayed. He looked for their watching, and they failed Him. But we have Jesus perfect in patient obedience, Jesus perfect in referring all to His Father, though feeling, and when feeling, all He had to go through.
It is the perfectness of His mind, when His being a victim is in view, that is here specially brought before us. He takes all the disciples with Him to Gethsemane; and then, telling them to tarry there, while He went on farther and prayed, He takes Peter, and James, and John, who had also been with Him on the mount of transfiguration, and who had the place of pillars afterwards, and there all that was before the blessed One came upon His spirit. He began to be sorrowful and very heavy; He felt as man what He had to undergo; not mere pain or suffering, but the power of death weighed upon His spirit, weighed upon it as man, yet with a weight no man could fathom. Yet with what calm simplicity He tells it out! We ought to know it, though it may be beyond our knowledge. "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." His need was there, and told out to hearts that ought to have felt it and watched earnestly, occupied with Him. He looked for this, for someone to have compassion. "Tarry ye here, and watch with me." Blessed Saviour! What ought the heart to have felt to whom it was said? Oh, how should it have watched! But, alas! what are we?
He went on to be alone there with His Father about that which He could only enter into with Him, and which must be altogether with Him. He was perfect in referring it to His Father, and referring it to Him alone. There the solemn question must have its solution. There alone it could, and there alone His perfectness could bring it. He fell on His face and prayed, saying, "O my Father," in supplicating earnestness, "if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." He should feel it fully, and He did; submission would not have been perfect else, but then His obedience and submission were perfect - "Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt." In the perfect sense of the cup to be drunk, and the holy desire to avoid it, the piety of soul which desired it (for it was all the repulsion of sin from God, and what our wretched souls had fallen into - what man was as departed from God, which He must take upon His soul if indeed He had to drink it, if He undertook our cause, and it was a holy desire to shrink from such a judgment and being made sin, even as bearing it before God), yet with perfect submission and obedience to His Father, whatever His will was; and to His Father He brings it there where it ought to be brought, alike perfect in desiring not to drink it and in obediently submitting to drink it, if it was His Father's will; and this was His second utterance, "If this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, Thy will be done." The no reply to His demand leaves His soul in the unclouded perfectness of the second and third, for He was with His Father in the full and solemn sense of what it was, but with Him - He is occupied with it. How could it be otherwise? It ought to have been so. The disciples sleep, leaving Him alone with God. Where else could He have been with such a work, such a cup, before Him?
Now it is over, one can linger round this scene to learn His perfectness and love, the love we shall enjoy in brighter days when we shall see Him as He is; when He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. Yes, it is well; it was only right that He should be alone with His Father then. It could have been nowhere else, and He went naturally there, if I may so speak, for all His thoughts were perfect.
But where was he (let us think of ourselves) who was to go to prison and to death? With what touching grace the Lord calls up to view the strange inconsistency, and said to Peter, "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?" Where was the strength that was going through everything just now? Yet with what grace He warns, with what grace He excuses: "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." How must one have hated oneself for such a want of earnestness and love to Him. Alas! how we have to do with it. But here so perfectly is He with His Father for the depth of what was before Him, so perfectly had He had all that with Him only, that His free, unhindered grace could in all liberty be as perfect towards His poor feeble, but failing, disciples - no weight on His spirit with them, that was borne with His Father. How perfect are all His ways! What could they be else? But He can warn them, and warn them as to what was just going on. To Him it was now the path of obedience; but what was not that was temptation. So indeed with everything, all we meet with is occasion of temptation or obedience, only there brought out where all was brought to a crisis with man. But this intercourse with the disciples at this moment is a witness of a depth and calmness in His path which is divine perfection, though in man and in human ways and grace which call for adoring recognition. We struggle, or faint, or hide our sorrow in pride. I have known what it is not to know relief till I said, "O my God, my soul is cast down within me." But He has all with God, and can state it, as to fact, in perfect simplicity to man. We cannot tell our grief, we need support, and where are we to trust if it be heavy? He had His resource so elsewhere - all His heart out, looking to His Father - that He could confide where really there was nothing to lean on, only truth of heart - the spirit was willing.
Now this is greatness only in perfection, yet in lowliness, not in self-sufficiency, in conscious weakness of humanity, but all told in perfect faith and dependence to God His Father, yet never losing His human place; rather it is the expression of it. It is here it comes out so perfectly, never a thought that was not human indeed, but never one that was not suited to such a place in the presence of God; that is, to death and drinking the cup; yet, though a man's feelings are there in view of it, not one but what was according to the perfectness of One in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwelt bodily. It would not do that He should not have been fully in conscious manhood there, for He was there for us; nor that in that place a thought or a feeling that was not divine in its fitness for it should have been there, and so it was. He was not drinking the cup, but He had to feel it as to all that it was, and feel rightly about it. Had He not been God, as well as man, that could not have been. Surely He could not have drunk it else, but He could not have thought about it adequately, if a divine source and measure of thought had been the spring of it in man's. necessity before God.
Blessed Lord, I do not pretend to fathom what Thou wast. Who could? But we may learn from it, and adore in our hearts; we may look on and learn who was there, and with thankfulness of heart. No man knows the Son but the Father; but, oh, what traits of paramount blessedness flow forth from this Son being a man! And we shall see that very Man as He is (and who shall tell the joy of that?), yet He is as perfect in gracious gentleness to man. What it must have been to them when they had the Holy Ghost to look back to, and when they knew themselves in their flight from, that which He was going to meet! Humbling surely, but a great thing for a heart to have been thus humbled; for, after all, we must learn what we are where Christ was, save, of course, atonement, and even there in respect of guilt to know the perfectness that is in Him. It is not by our minds, but in looking at perfectness in the same place in our weakness. Who will know strength like the weak one that leans on it? Still we know it as taught of God as He in the perfectness of His person. J. N. Darby.