8 Unselfish Acts of Jesus During His Final Agony
Since becoming a Christian, I have often reflected upon and heard messages about Christ's death on the cross. I must have been about 16 years old when I watched the film The Passion of the Christ alone in my family's living room. As somebody who wasn't accustomed to watching films or movies, I was overwhelmed with the blood and violence and watched most of it through my fingers. It was an odd thing for an unconverted, but curious teen to do of her own accord.
After I gave my life to Christ, I re-read The Desire of Ages by Ellen G. White which I personally believed to be inspired by God, not only a great read. This book is the best book on the life of Jesus besides the Bible itself. Often, while reading this book, I was utterly humbled and brought to tears, especially as I reached the chapters on the events surrounding His agony. Somehow, with no sound effects, bloody scenes, the impact the written text had on me was so powerful that I can only attribute it to the working of the Holy Spirit.
That was over 10 years ago. Now, I'm married and a mother. I was going through the many events surrounding the cross with my 4-year-old son and I was surprised by the details that I had either forgotten or had never struck me before. Often during our devotion time, I had to stop telling the story to wipe away my tears as my son looked on asking if I was okay. These details were not about how bad Christ's suffering was, but the goodness He exuded despite His agony.
Below are the chapters that I'll be quoting from today as I describe "8 Unselfish Acts of Jesus During His Final Agony" that describes Christ's suffering from the Garden of Gethsemane until He gave up His life on the cross.
Chapter 74: Gethsemane
Chapter 75: Before Annas and the Court of Caiaphas
Chapter 76: Judas
Chapter 77: In Pilate's Judgment Hall
Chapter 78: Calvary
Chapter 79: “It is Finished”
The Desire of Ages quotes much Scripture and includes astonishing details that brought the scenes vividly to my mind. It was through re-reading these chapters in order to explain the events more clearly to my son that I discovered the significance of what Christ endured at the Garden of Gethsemane. He wasn't merely praying about His future death on the cross, but was immeasurably suffering there. There is so much significance behind each and every detail that is recorded in the gospels of the Bible about Christ's agony. The Desire of Ages explains these details. Truly, nothing is included in the Scriptures by accident.
The corresponding Bible passages that speak of Christ's agony in the four gospels are as follows:
- Matthew 26:36 - 27:56
- Mark 14:32 - 15:41
- Luke 22:39 - 23:49
- John 18 - 19:30
Another great benefit of reading The Desire of Ages chapters on these events is that it gives a chronological sequence to what happened by piecing together the 4 different accounts from the Bible which all share different parts of the story. It helped me make sense of what happened when.
Let's forge on ahead to the crux of this post which is 8 times Jesus, the one who said, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…" (Matthew 5:44) did the unthinkable during His agony.
I will not be explaining the actual events leading to His death, but referencing them. If unfamiliar with them, please read the Scriptural passage and The Desire of Ages chapters I've provided.
NOTE: All emphasis' are mine. The quotes are from the NKJV Bible. The Desire of Ages references are in the form of "DA XXX.Y" with X being the page number and Y being the paragraph number. The Desire of Ages by Ellen G. White can be read here.
1. Gethsemane: Showing Concern for His Disciples
The night of prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane was not like any other overnight prayer session that Jesus had. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that the sins of fallen humanity were placed upon Him and He felt separation from His Father. This was where The Desire of Ages records the following:
"[Christ] had borne that which no human being could ever bear; for He had tasted the sufferings of death for every man." (DA 694.1)
“The conflict was terrible. Its measure was the guilt of His nation, of His accusers and betrayer, the guilt of a world lying in wickedness. The sins of men weighed heavily upon Christ, and the sense of God's wrath against sin was crushing out His life.” (DA 687.1)
The destiny of mankind was being determined and Scripture says that Jesus was sweating "great drops of blood" (Luke 22:44). Yet, in this time of greatest trial, Jesus was concerned about His disciples. He said to them:
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40)
The reason Jesus gives for His admonishment to "watch and pray" was for the disciples to not enter into temptation. During His terrible conflict, Jesus had the capacity to think of others and even act on His concern.
“The weakness of His disciples awakened the sympathy of Jesus. He feared that they would not be able to endure the test which would come upon them in His betrayal and death. He did not reprove them, but said, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” Even in His great agony, He was seeking to excuse their weakness. “The spirit truly is ready,” He said, “but the flesh is weak.” (DA 689.2)
It's obvious that the test that the disciples would face was far easier and less intense than what Jesus was to endure. However Christ unbelievably felt sympathy for His sleeping disciples and was concerned about their future.
2. His Capture: Securing Safety for His Disciples
When Judas with the mad throng came to capture Jesus, Jesus once again showed His overflowing love for His disciples despite the bleakest situation He was in. When He declared that He was the one they were seeking, He asked for His disciples to be allowed to go free.
"I have told you that I am He.Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,” (John 18:8)
This beautiful token of care for His wavering disciples shows Christ's compassion that overrides His concern for what would happen to Himself.
3. His Capture: Healing Malchus' Ear
At Jesus' capture, there was a man named Malchus who accompanied the "great multitude with swords and clubs." (Mark 14:43) He was a servant of the High Priest (John 18:10) who was also present to capture the Saviour. It's safe to say that Malchus can be considered an enemy of Jesus as he came to capture Him.
In Luke 22:29-51, the Bible says that Peter (John 18:10) cut off Malchus' right ear and Jesus touched it to heal it.
Imagine that. A mob comes after Christ with weapons. He knows that He will die a painful, bloody death. Yet, He cares enough about His enemy's ear to take the time to heal it!! Let's see another mind-blowing detail about this event:
“[The disciples] were disappointed and indignant as they saw the cords brought forward to bind the hands of Him whom they loved. Peter in his anger rashly drew his sword and tried to defend his Master, but he only cut off an ear of the high priest's servant. When Jesus saw what was done, He released His hands, though held firmly by the Roman soldiers, and saying, ‘Suffer ye thus far,’ He touched the wounded ear, and it was instantly made whole.” (DA 696.3)
Jesus not only reached up to heal Malchus' ear, He "released His hands" that were being held by Roman soldiers. I understand this to mean that His hands were being tightly held by multiple soldiers, yet Jesus supernaturally released them in order to heal the wound of His enemy. Reminiscent of the time Jesus did not perform a miracle to feed Himself when utterly famished, He also did not use divine power to save Himself, but rather to heal an enemy's ear. This act is unthinkable to sinful human beings and shows the uniqueness and amazing divine love of Christ.
4. Trial by High Priest: Looking at Peter
Peter denied Jesus. Not long before he denied His Lord, he had been the bravest of the lot and tried to defend Jesus by sword. But now, fearful, He decided Jesus, not once, but three times.
What was happening to Christ during Peter's denial? He was being tried by the High Priest. This wasn't the type of calm, professional trials that take place now (hopefully). Jesus had been struck by an officer during the trial and He was tied up. (John 18:22, 24) Jesus had also been spit on, blindfolded, lied about, and struck. (Mark 14:65) Luke also tells us:
"Immediately, while [Peter] was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter." (Luke 22:60-61)
Peter had just denied His Master despite being within hearing and seeing distance of the unfair abuse Jesus was going through. Jesus, knowing what had happened, turned His attention away from His own terrible mistreatment and spared a few moments to look at His disloyal disciple.
What kind of look would you give to somebody who had just denied you while you were being mistreated? Let's be amazed by the fact that Jesus is so unlike fallen humanity.
“While the degrading oaths were fresh upon Peter's lips, and the shrill crowing of the cock was still ringing in his ears, the Saviour turned from the frowning judges, and looked full upon His poor disciple. At the same time Peter's eyes were drawn to his Master. In that gentle countenance he read deep pity and sorrow, but there was no anger there.” (DA 712.4)
“The sight of that pale, suffering face, those quivering lips, that look of compassion and forgiveness, pierced his heart like an arrow. Conscience was aroused…” (DA 713.1)
Wow. Compassion, forgiveness, pity, and sorrow, but no anger. While being beaten, mocked, and spit on, Christ turns His thoughts to Peter to give him a look of forgiveness. What wondrous love is this?
5. Way to Calvary: Sympathy for Weeping Women
We are skipping forward to Christ's awful trudge to Calvary. He has already had the crown of thorns on His head. He has been beaten terribly and shipped from one farce trial to another. Finally condemned to death, the Creator was given His own cross to carry. He was unable to carry it. The Bible tells us:
"And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning to them, said, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, "Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!" Then they will begin "to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us!' and to the hills, 'Cover us!'" For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?'" (Luke 23:27-31)
“Not a few women are in the crowd that follow the Uncondemned to His cruel death. Their attention is fixed upon Jesus… They wonder at the hatred of the crowd toward Him for whom their own hearts are melting and ready to break. And notwithstanding the action of the maddened throng, and the angry words of the priests and rulers, these women give expression to their sympathy. As Jesus falls fainting beneath the cross, they break forth into mournful wailing.” (DA 742.4)
Jesus' physical, mental, and spiritual anguish has been gruesome. Yet, His suffering has not ended. He knows He has yet to die on the cross. The women were crying for Him. While He was fainting on the path to the cross, Jesus' attention turned to these women.
“This was the only thing that attracted Christ's attention. Although full of suffering, while bearing the sins of the world, He was not indifferent to the expression of grief. He looked upon these women with tender compassion. They were not believers in Him; He knew that they were not lamenting Him as one sent from God, but were moved by feelings of human pity. He did not despise their sympathy, but it awakened in His heart a deeper sympathy for them. “Daughters of Jerusalem,” He said, “weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.” From the scene before Him, Christ looked forward to the time of Jerusalem's destruction. In that terrible scene, many of those who were now weeping for Him were to perish with their children.” (DA 743.1)
Jesus accepted their sympathy and felt "a deeper sympathy for them" while barely being able to stand!! How is this possible?? Outstanding and unimaginable depth of compassion!!
6. Being Nailed: Praying for the Roman Soldiers
This unthinkable act of Jesus is more well-known.
"And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.'" (Luke 23:33-34)
Praying for the forgiveness of those that are actively causing you pain is superhuman. It's divine and this only comes from God. The Desire of Ages reveals what was going on in Christ's mind as He prayed for His enemies:
“While the soldiers were doing their fearful work, Jesus prayed for His enemies, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” His mind passed from His own suffering to the sin of His persecutors, and the terrible retribution that would be theirs. No curses were called down upon the soldiers who were handling Him so roughly. No vengeance was invoked upon the priests and rulers, who were gloating over the accomplishment of their purpose. Christ pitied them in their ignorance and guilt. He breathed only a plea for their forgiveness,—“'for they know not what they do.'” DA 744.2
Ellen White's account gives the added detail that it was while these soldiers were nailing Him to the cross, Christ prayed for them. While they were nailing His precious hands and feet, He forgave them and pitied them. He was concerned about their guilt while blood spurt up from His hands and feet.
7. On the Cross: Promising Paradise to the Thief
While Jesus was hanging on the cross between two thieves, He found another soul to bless: one of the thieves dying with Him. Christ on the cross did not have rest from jesting and scorn.
"For long hours of agony, reviling and mockery have fallen upon the ears of Jesus. As He hangs upon the cross, there floats up to Him still the sound of jeers and curses." DA 750.3
His disciples had even doubted His divinity at this point. How discouraging this situation must have been on top of His incredible physical suffering. Then one of the thieves looks at Jesus and expresses faith by calling Him "Lord."
"Then [the thief] said to Jesus, 'Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.'
"And Jesus said to him, 'Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.'" Luke 23:42-43
Today, at that moment! A terrible day of unimaginable suffering, anguish, and injustice, Jesus looked at the penitent their and promised him forgiveness and a future in eternal paradise. Jesus truly meant it when He said He had come to "seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10) for He did it as He hung on the cross! Even a short time before His imminent death, He found somebody to promise life to!
See the result of the kind words of the "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6):
"As He spoke the words of promise, the dark cloud that seemed to enshroud the cross was pierced by a bright and living light. To the penitent thief came the perfect peace of acceptance with God. Christ in His humiliation was glorified." DA 751.2
8. On the Cross: Providing for His Mother
The earthly mother of the Saviour, Mary, was present as her Son was being crucified. I remember when my son cut his finger on a can of olives. He screamed in pain and after we cleaned and wrapped his cut finger, I sat with my arms around him and we cried and cried together. Seeing him hurt cut my heart. I cannot fathom the suffering of Christ' mother as she watched Him go through the worst anguish in the history of the world. Ellen G. White writes about what she saw and how she fainted.
"She saw His hands stretched upon the cross; the hammer and the nails were brought, and as the spikes were driven through the tender flesh, the heart-stricken disciples bore away from the cruel scene the fainting form of the mother of Jesus.” DA 744.1
The Bible records this fascinating, unexpected exchange:
"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, 'Woman, behold your son!' Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold your mother!' And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home." John 19: 25-27
The Desire of Ages expounds on this beautiful moment amidst the excruciating pain:
“In His dying hour, Christ remembered His mother.” DA 752.2
“The perfect example of Christ's filial love shines forth with undimmed luster from the mist of ages. For nearly thirty years Jesus by His daily toil had helped bear the burdens of the home. And now, even in His last agony, He remembers to provide for His sorrowing, widowed mother.” DA 752.3
As Christ was bloodied and hanging on the cross, He thought about His mother and who would take care of her when He was gone. She was long a widow by this point. He assigned His beloved disciple to take in Mary as his own mother in His final hours before death. Jesus truly exemplified how to "honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12) because in His greatest suffering, He was concerned for the well-being of His mother.
Jesus is truly amazing. Wonderful. Kind and compassionate beyond words. His entire life was filled with good and His last days of unutterable pain were graced by beautiful acts of love.
As I reflect on these 8 unselfish acts of Jesus during His final agony, I recall the worst pain I've been through: childbirth. Normally, I am concerned with the wellbeing of my husband, and son, but while I birthed my daughter (with no pain medication), I was completely engrossed in the intense experience I was having. I didn't have the capacity to think about others.
There were other times when I was going through struggles of my own - namely when my mother passed away - that found me also terribly focussed on myself.
How unlike fallen humanity Christ was and is! He came as a human, yet His life outshines all humanity. Although bearing the sins of the world and going through suffering worse than any other has every endured, He found people to admonish, heal, pray for, forgive, sympathize with, and provide for UNTIL THE VERY END: His weak disciples, Malchus, disloyal Peter, weeping women, cruel Roman soldiers, a dying thief, and His widowed mother. In His final days, He lived to give.
Heavenly Father, make me like Jesus! Give me His compassion and love. Help me to bless others in any situation. Thank you for recording these precious acts of love for us to admire. In Jesus' name, amen.