the Second Week of Lent
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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
Agony, a word directly meaning contest, and especially the contests by wrestling, etc.in the public games; whence it is applied metaphorically to a severe struggle or conflict with pain and suffering. Agony is the actual struggle with present evil, and is thus distinguished from anguish, which arises from the reflection on evil that is past. In the New Testament the word is only used by Luke (Luke 20:44), and is employed by him with terrible significance to describe the fearful struggle which our Lord sustained in the garden of Gethsemane. The circumstances of this mysterious transaction are recorded in Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 20:39-47; Hebrews 5:7-8. None of these passages, taken separately, contains a full history of our Savior's agony. Each of the three Evangelists has omitted some things which the others have recorded, and all are very brief. The passage in Hebrews is only an incidental notice. The three Evangelists appear to have had the same design, namely, to convey to their readers an idea of the intensity of the Lord's distress; but they compass it in different ways. Luke alone notices the agony, the bloody sweat, and the appearance of an angel from heaven strengthening him. Matthew and Mark alone record the change which appeared in his countenance and manner, the complaint which he uttered of the overpowering sorrows of his soul, and the repetition of the same prayer. All agree that he prayed for the removal of what he called 'this cup,' and are careful to note that he qualified this earnest petition by a preference of his Father's will to his own.
With regard to the cause of his overwhelming distress, Jesus himself points it out in the prayer, 'If it be possible, let this cup pass from me;' the cup which his Father had appointed for him; and the question is, what does he mean by 'this cup.' Doddridge and others think that he means the instant agony, the trouble that he then actually endured. But this is satisfactorily answered by Dr. Mayer, who shows by reference to John 18:18, that the cup respecting which he prayed was one that was then before him, which he had not yet taken up to drink, and which he desired, if possible, that the Father should remove. It could, therefore, be no other than the scene of suffering upon which he was about to enter. It was the death which the Father had appointed for him—the death of the cross—with all the attending circumstances which aggravated its horror; that scene of woe which began with his arrest in the garden, and was consummated by his death on Calvary. Jesus had long been familiar with this prospect, and had looked to it as the appointed termination of his ministry (Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:9-12; Matthew 20:17; Matthew 20:19; Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:32-34; John 10:18; John 12:32-33). But when he looked forward to this destination, as the hour approached, a chill of horror sometimes came over him, and found expression in external signs of distress (John 12:27; comp. Luke 12:49-50). It is manifest, therefore, that something more than the cross was now before him, and that he was now placed in a new and hitherto untried situation. Dr. Mayer says: 'I have no hesitation in believing that He was here put upon the trial of His obedience. It was the purpose of God to subject the obedience of Jesus to a severe ordeal, in order that, like gold tried in the furnace, it might be an act of more perfect and illustrious virtue; and for this end He permitted Him to be assailed: by the fiercest temptation to disobey His will and to refuse the appointed cup. In pursuance of this purpose, the mind of Jesus was left to pass under a dark cloud, His views lost their clearness, the Father's will was shrouded in obscurity, the cross appeared in ten-fold horror, and nature was left to indulge her feelings, and to put forth her reluctance.'
Under another head [BLOODY SWEAT] will be found the considerations suggested by one of the remarkable circumstances of this event.
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Agony'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​a/agony.html.