The Sovereign Sufferer

Leslie M. Grant

From Grace & Truth Vol.61, No.6, P.2 June 1994

The gospel of John beautifully presents the Lord Jesus in the calm, yet lowly dignity of One in control of every circumstance. The Jews plot together to have Him killed, but His time has not yet come. He will willingly die at the time appointed in counsel with His Father, but not before.

On the night of His betrayal, He prepares His disciples for His departure by His marvellous ministry of John 13‑16. Judas has already gone out with the object of betraying Him (John 13:30). The Lord knows this, but does nothing in haste as though to get everything done before His arrest. Following the Passover feast, He takes time to introduce the Lord's supper, that wonderful new observance to be ever kept by His disciples in remembrance of Him[1] (Luke 22:19‑20).

Then leaving the upper room, He leads His disciples toward the garden of Gethsemane. Before entering the garden He shows Himself perfectly in control of the circumstances as He utters in the presence of His disciples that most wonderful prayer[2] of John 17.  No one else could ever voice a prayer like this. Hear Him as He lifts up His eyes to heaven and prays, "father, the hour is come" (John 17:1 KJV). He speaks from the viewpoint of His work being already fully accomplished: "I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (v.4). Then in the same sublime dignity of unity with the Father He prays for His disciples who were to be left in the world and for all those who would later believe on Him through their word.

Certainly then, all is perfectly serene and secure. No doubts can possibly remain as to the absolute fulfilment of God's purposes.

Yet in the garden of Gethsemane, as Matthew, Mark and Luke combine to show, the Lord Jesus must face the ordeal that draws forth these words: "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Matt.26:38). How different is this prayer from that of John 17. Prostrating Himself on His face in earnest, agonizing entreaty (Luke 22:41‑44), He anticipates the awful anguish of the cross. Yet His anguish of the cross. Yet His agony even in Gethsemane is deeper than we can understand. In deepest distress He pleads, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but Thine be done."

Though we have already seen that He is the living God in sovereign power above all things, yet here we witness the precious reality of His manhood. We adore Him as we realize that He is both God and Man in one glorious Person. As Man He willingly submits to His Father's will Although the cost of this was so infinitely great, the resulting blessings are also infinitely great. Wonderful, wonderful Lord!

Leslie M Grant

[1] This is not recorded in John, but in the other Gospels.

[2] John's gospel emphasizes the great godhead glory of the Lord Jesus.