JESUS’ EMOTIONS DURING PASSION WEEK
By: Frank Tunstall
Have you ever wondered how Jesus handled His emotions during Passion Week, the last week of His life? This includes His unspeakable emotional pain that went with His indescribable physical suffering. This study will address five scenes that stand out beginning with the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and continuing to Jesus’ arrest.
1. When Jesus approached Jerusalem in His triumphal entry, He paused to look at the beloved city and began to weep (Luke 19:41). The word Luke used, éklausen, carries the idea of actual sobbing and even wailing.
THINK ABOUT IT: Can you, dear reader, identify with Jesus’ emotions when, with tear-filled eyes, He wept over the city and prophesied its destruction?
In Islamic thinking, it is unthinkable, simply inconceivable, that Allah would suffer. Can it be that a major reason Islamists are so viscious in their treatment of infidels [anyone who is not a follower of Islam] is because Allah never suffered? Without question, Jesus suffered.
The devastation that was pending for the City of David could have been prevented, but it was not to be. When the Roman siege of Jerusalem came in 70 AD, many Jews prayed for their Messiah to come save them. But they had rejected their Savior, even as they continued to look for Him everywhere except at the foot of His cross. Jesus felt deeply how the city scorned Him. One can picture Jesus’ tears and imagine His moaning as He wept while giving the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'” (Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 13:34).
THINK ABOUT IT: It is quite appropriate in our generation, yes, necessary, to speak of the wrath of God and the judgment to come even on our American homeland. But we must do it with a broken heart and misty eyes, following the Lord’s example.
2. After the Greeks visited Jesus (John 12), the Lord faced cold rejection when He tried to teach them His relationship to His Father. Their refusal to believe motivated Jesus to cry out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me” (John 12:44). The term translated “cried out,” (ekraxen) is loaded with emotion. It derives from krazo and communicates to call aloud, to exclaim, to intreat, even to scream out (see John 7:37). Without question, Jesus spoke to His detractors with passionate feelings.
This kind of emotional struggle is no doubt what the writer of Hebrews had in mind:
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:7-10).
The phrase, “He learned obedience” does not suggest Jesus had been disobedient in His past. Instead, the sense of the statement is, “He learned the [wisdom of] obedience” because of what He suffered. Nor does the phrase, “once made perfect” assume a time when Jesus was imperfect. Instead, the Biblical concept of perfection or sanctification is best defined by the term, set apart. When Jesus reaffirmed the decision in Gethsemane and then began His march to Golgotha, He was perfectly set apart [sanctified] for the mission ahead. His objective was to become “the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
THINK ABOUT IT: It is no accident the Holy Spirit inspired the writer of the letter to the Hebrews to pen that Jesus is “touched with the feelings of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). The God of the Bible suffered; oh! how He suffered.
3. At the Passover meal, Jesus prophesied that one of His own would lift up His heel against Him (see Genesis 3:15; John 13:18). After that announcement, the Lord proceeded to wash the disciples’ feet. When He had finished and sat back down, “Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me’” (John 13:21). The Greek word translated “troubled” communicates stirred up or agitated. Jesus as the Son of Man was certain about His pending betrayal, and that knowledge was understandably emotional for Him.
After Judas left the room and the tension left with him, Jesus relaxed and changed the focus of the conversation. He began to look past His betrayal and death and started talking with His disciples about His pending glorification (John 13:34-35).
4. One can only imagine what Jesus felt when He led the disciples in the hymn, probably Psalm 118, at the conclusion of the Passover meal. For examples:
“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone….”
“Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar….”
THINK ABOUT IT: Jesus is the Cornerstone and the Passover sacrifice (1 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6). Jesus sang the psalm knowing the Holy Spirit had given it to the psalmist a millennium earlier to record it as a prophesy for this very moment in history. Yes, Jesus would be nailed to a cross the next morning. Imagine! With His disciples Jesus sang His own requiem, his personal funeral song. It had to be an emotional moment for Him.
Psalm 118 is also filled with the emotions of hope and assurance that surely buoyed Jesus’ spirit. A few excerpts follow:
This is the day the LORD has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
I will look in triumph on my enemies.
I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
The LORD is God; he has made his light to shine upon us.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
His steadfast love endures forever.
5. The last few hours before Jesus’ betrayal had been a heavy emotional journey for the Lord and for His disciples. Jesus had completed His teaching with the disciples and sung the hymn with them. He also had offered His High Priestly prayer, His first of two recorded prayers of the night. He then led them to Gethsemane for what would be His second prayer. As for the disciples, they had enjoyed a good meal for Passover, the hour was about midnight, and their full stomachs told them they wanted to sleep instead of pray.
THINK ABOUT IT: Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit leading you to pray, but your full stomach or your bone tired body was telling you to sleep? If yes, then you know what Mark meant when he recorded the disciples were sleeping because their “eyes were heavy” in Gethsemane (Mark 14:40). Peter, James, and John also slept through part of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:32).
When Jesus arrived at the Mount of Olives He felt “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” and confided it to Peter, James and John. “Stay here and keep watch, He told them” (Mark 14:34). The word Mark used, perílupós, translates as “overwhelmed with sorrow,” and is packed full of strong emotions. It communicates the idea of being surrounded or wrapped up with grief to the point a person can actually feel like he is dying. In those moments Jesus “plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony. He told Peter, James and John, ‘I feel bad enough right now to die. Stay here and keep vigil with me’” (Mark 14:33-34 Msg).
THINK ABOUT IT: Are you, dear reader, beginning to identify with the intense sadness and grief Jesus felt that night?
The cause of Jesus’ deep sorrow was two-fold. First, the heavy weight of the sin of the world was pressing on His heart (John 1:28-34). Jesus knew He was God’s lamb, with an assignment to make atonement for the sin of the whole world (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; Exodus 12:1-24; Leviticus 23:4-8).
In addition, Jesus was undergoing a Satanic attack in which the devil was throwing his whole arsenal at the Lord. Throughout Jesus’ ministry Satan’s goal had been to break Jesus’ close bond with His Father and lead Him into doing something – anything – independent of the guidance of His Father as enabled by the Holy Spirit. It did not work in the temptation in the wilderness when the issues were raw hunger, the lure of pride, and the enticement of fame, even though Jesus was very weak from a forty-day fast. Nor did it work amid all of the rejection and contradiction of sinners the Lord faced in His ministry. But would it work now? Would Jesus buckle?
THINK ABOUT IT: Jesus, an innocent man, was about to be killed by crucifixion and He knew it. Strong emotions in that scenario were unavoidable.
If the battle of Gethsemane was intended to prove that Jesus as the Son of God could not be made to sin against His Father in the face of such raw terror, then the contest was a mismatch; of course Jesus would win. Jesus himself said, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18). But that was not the point.
Jesus was a new breed of man, having two natures in one person (God and man). He was the last Adam and the Son of Man (John 12:23; 1 Corinthians 15:45). At the same time He was the Son of God (John 1:49; Matthew 3:17). Jesus of Nazareth was a far greater prize than the first Adam the devil had squared off against in Eden. Jesus was “the second man from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47). The Lord had also weathered Satan’s three salvos when they met in the wilderness, and Satan had lost (Matthew 4:1-11).
The test of Gethsemane was to determine if God-become-truly-man, the man Christ Jesus, had a weak spot. Could the furnace be heated so hot the Son of Man would throw in the towel just thinking about it? Could He be made to fold under that kind of intense pressure? Consider:
- The horrible rejection of national Israel was mind-boggling, but very real.
- Betrayal by one of His own was gut-wrenching.
- Roman scourging, a whipping designed to beat a man to death, short only a few blows was ghastly.
- Hatred and jealousy from the Sanhedrin so thick it could be sliced with a knife was unimaginable cruel, and
- The crucifixion surely to follow was horrifying beyond words to express it.
Satan knew he had to wage war to the last blow against this new breed of man, this “last Adam who was a life-giving Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45).
Satan also knew Jesus had come to destroy the works of the devil and that his dominion as the “prince of the power of the air” was fundamentally threatened (John 12:31; 16:11; Ephesians 2:2). The wilderness was the first round in Jesus’ ministry years, and Jesus had soundly won it. But this second round was exponentially worse. So the jury was still out and the big question remained unsettled. The furnace had been heated seven times hotter than the wilderness temptation. At all costs Satan and his minions had to pull Jesus into Satan’s orbit by stopping that sacrifice. Yes, the stakes were very high. Would the precise threat of raw terror make the man Christ Jesus give-in at the prospect of the suffering ahead? That had never been tested. But it was about to be.
THINK ABOUT IT: In the Battle of Gethsemane Jesus petitioned His Father to take the cup of suffering away from Him. At the same time Satan was no doubt saying, “Jesus you don’t need your Father’s permission. You can refuse the cup on your own!”
Jesus positioned Peter, James and John a distance away from the other eleven disciples and said to them: “Stay here and keep watch” (Mark 14:34).
To pray, Jesus walked away from His inner circle a distance about a stone’s throw. The load was so heavy Jesus actually fell to the ground face down. It is the only time in the ministry of Jesus this posture of prayer is described (Matthew 26:39). One can only imagine how Jesus’ emotions must have been churning.
As for the disciples, they fell asleep.
THINK ABOUT IT: It is painful for me even to think about Jesus so distraught He would fall face down on the ground to pray to His Father – and do it because of the load of our sins – yours and mine. Am I alone, dear reader, or does the picture of Jesus prostrate, face down on the ground in anguished prayer pain you too? Are our sins that bad? We answer yes, and even worse.
Jesus’ prayer can be summarized in this short statement: “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet, not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:35-36; Matthew 26:32; Luke 22:42).
“Abba” is an Aramaic term for father. Interestingly, Jesus combined the Aramaic word for father (abba) with the Greek and Persian word for father, pater; hence “Abba Pater,” or “Father, Father.” The phrase shows Jesus’ supreme loyalty to His Father and demonstrated the bond between them remained as strong as ever. In fact, from eternity past to this day, the unity in the Trinity has never been broken.
When Jesus wanted to teach His disciples how to pray, He offered them a model prayer identified by the term, “The Lord’s Prayer.” In it Jesus included the phrase: “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 KJV). All prayer ultimately must reach this point of total submission to the higher purposes of God. The Son of Man came to that conclusion again in Gethsemane: “Not my will but thine be done” (Matthew 26:32; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42).
Jesus was indeed stressed in the Garden to the core of His humanity. Even His perspiration “was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). But the decision was the same: “Not my will but thine be done.”
Jesus’ stress level was at such a point His blood actually oozed through His vessels to the skin, in a medical condition known as hematohidrosis; then, like sweat it dripped to the ground. But Jesus’ choice was the same, “Not my will but thine be done.”
Satan had lost another battle, but the war was not over – crucifixion was still ahead.
THINK ABOUT IT: Both a Satanic evil spirit and the Holy Spirit were in Gethsemane that night; yes, pure goodness and raw evil were in conflict amid those olive trees. If we do not extol our Lord for His triumph that night in Gethsemane, then surely those olive trees will cry out (Luke 19:40).
Yes, Gethsemane was a true test. Any thinking believer should love Jesus even more for the agony He suffered and the battle He won in Gethsemane.
It follows that every follower of the Lord at some point faces a situation in which he feels the tight squeeze of his own olive press, when he is challenged to the core of his being.
‘Tis midnight and on Olives’ brow’
The star is dim that lately shown.
‘Tis midnight in the Garden now,
The suffering Savior prayed alone.
’Tis midnight, and for other’s guilt
The Man of Sorrows weeps in blood;
Yet He that hath in anguish knelt
Is not forsaken by His God.