I’ve read the story of Jesus’ last supper, arrest, and crucifixion many times, and this Passover was no exception. But this year as my daughter, husband, and I read from Luke 22, something new caught my eye.
“Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And [becoming] in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22:43, 44 (KJV)
Wait a minute.
An angel came and “strengthened” Jesus…and his agony increased? Aren’t angels supposed to deliver us from fear and pain? After all, they work for God, and that’s what God wants—isn’t it?
I had to find out more about this. Interestingly, this word, “strengthening,” (enischo in the Greek) is only found one other place in the Word, Acts 9:19, after Saul (Paul) had his sight restored and received the Holy Spirit, “And when he had received meat, he was strengthened.”
That tells us that the strengthening Jesus received from the angel was a physical strengthening. The angel wasn’t sent to spare Jesus the pain, or make things easier, but to gird Him up to endure what lay before Him.
The unfortunate side effect of this was that when Jesus’ flesh was strengthened, He had an even greater capacity for grief. It would appear that the angel left Jesus worse than he found Him.
Yet, regardless of how He felt, and we know how He felt by the prayer He offered and the drops of blood that fell from His brow, Jesus did not run or fight when His enemies came for Him. The same angel that strengthened Him could have easily killed all His foes with one word from Jesus—but He never gave that word. Instead, He stepped willingly into His Father’s will.
I’ve been through some trials in my own life that, frankly, made me wonder how anyone could experience such pain and still be alive. It felt like God had abandoned me in my suffering, but what the angel in Gethsemane has taught me is that my pain was in fact evidence of God’s presence, strengthening me—not just to endure, but to triumph, just as Jesus triumphed over the cross and the grave.
This increased capacity for suffering is where faith grows. This is where the power of God manifests.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
It may not feel like it when I’m in the midst of a trial, but because of what God did for His Son, I can trust that even if I should be grieved to the point of sweating drops of blood, I will prevail. My Father commands the hosts of Heaven—and though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.
So can you.
God’s grace and peace be yours,