By Stephen Leonard
“My soul is sad even to death.” Matthew 26:38
Nearly everyone has personally experienced deep and agonizing sorrow. It is the very nature of humanity in a fallen world. No one ever completely escapes sorrows. Some become better by them, others bitter. Sorrows truly are experiencing the valley of the shadow of death.
But no one knew sorrow like the Son of Man, the man Christ Jesus. His sorrow was such He actually sweated drops of blood. I doubt this is true of any other. We can read about His sorrow in the Bible, but still, many of us can hardly believe His sorrow was that great, because He was/is God. Being God, we imagine, He cannot suffer so much as us or anyone who has experienced even the severest trials imaginable.
We cannot even visualize, nor put ourselves in His place. We know the crucifixion was beyond terrible, but the Garden of Gethsemane is often passed by; sleepy disciples not keeping awake for an earnestly praying Christ. How could He sorrow so greatly? How could He?
We cannot come close to understanding the sorrow of Jesus in bearing all the sins of His own in the world; the sorrows of all those living in misery under serial abuse; those living sorrowfully with trembling fear of violence and death like past and present Ukraine; men, women, and children sorrowing in the ongoing trials of life; and, of course, tens of thousands of true martyrs in the terrible face of violent death. Isaiah tells us quite well, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4)
It is beyond our capacity to grasp the weight of these sorrows that Jesus truly carried within Himself. He even pled that if it were possible to escape somehow this “cup” of bearing the piercing sorrows of all those who were His own, he would.
He primarily doubted He could bear up under all this on his solitary shoulders. No man could bear up, except this man, the incarnate Son of the living God. He was not simply a God-intermingled-man. He was FULLY man and FULLY God, and we cannot understand that; we only trust that it is so by faith. But remember, He “emptied” himself of privileges of His Divinity. (Philippians 2)
Jesus bore the sins of His own in the world as “fully man.” He genuinely suffered the enormous burdens of redeemed humanity to an extent we cannot fully grasp. We never will.
We can only imagine by virtue of our own experienced suffering in the loss of a child, or children, or a beloved spouse, or experiencing the shame and humiliation of our sin repeatedly. There is still no comparison, no matter how deeply your own personal sufferings, to the vast sorrows of Jesus in obtaining and securing your salvation.
In acknowledging all this, you can but fall on your face in overwhelming and eternal gratitude to the One who actually bore your sorrows, shame, guilt, and rebellious sins. He bore them all through a perfectly obedient life, the excruciating anguish of the Garden, the ultimate pain of the Cross, and His infinite abiding Love. Fighting through his terrible sorrows, He, nevertheless, became The Victor. But, oh, at what a cost!
“What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest Friend, for this thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end? O make me thine forever; and should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to thee.“
(3rd verse of Bernard of Clairvaux’s hymn, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” 1091-1153)