The battle Christ won on the cross was, in a way, first won in the garden. It was there Christ obediently determined to follow through with his plan in complete submission to his Father’s will. After Gethsemane there would be no turning back.
32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
Christ knew exactly what was coming. Going to the cross would be horrible, but many had done this before. Two others, in fact, were crucified the same day with Jesus. What made Christ’s death any different?
The difference was in his carrying the weight of our sin.
It is impossible to know what that is like, but we can imagine at least a little. It might feel a lot like guilt. For example, sometimes we get into trouble and, while our circumstances annoy us, the thing that truly tortures us is knowing that it is our own fault. How much better would everything be if this had all been avoided? Sometimes we do something wrong and have no one to blame but ourselves. Knowing that the consequences are of our own making makes them worse.
Now let’s think further. It is bad enough dealing with the consequences of our own sin. That much guilt is usually enough for any of us. What if we had to bear the sins of the world on our shoulders while dying that slow, painful death?
By all available accounts, Christ’s time on the cross was less than many who died in that same manner. Sometimes it took a few days for the crucified victim to expire. Christ died in a matter of hours. But no one before or since has had to bear more than their own sin. The physical torture was bad enough, but the psychological and spiritual anguish was much, much worse. Yet Christ was determined to walk it through to the end. And he did that out of love for us.
It was there in Gethsemane that the prayer, “Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will,” was answered. It was answered when the Father simply said no. Jesus was okay with that. He understood what was necessary for us to be saved. He knew the cross was only the first step toward resurrection. He knew that if he shared in our death, and shared in our sin, we would share in his life forever more.