What Did Jesus Have to Lose?

[No. 4 of 5 Lenten meditations on Jesus in Gethsemane]

Winston Churchill was visiting New York the day after the stock market crash of 1929. The noise of a crowd outside his hotel woke him. “Under my very window a gentleman cast himself down fifteen stories and was dashed to pieces, causing a wild commotion and the arrival of the fire brigade,” he wrote. It is a myth that in the wake of Black Thursday, waves of stockbrokers jumped out windows. But over the following weeks, investors committed suicide by shooting and overdose.

Sold Out (1929), cartoon by Rollin Kirby depicting the repercussions of the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

Sold Out (1929), cartoon by Rollin Kirby depicting the repercussions of the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

A loss of riches, if great enough, can make people sorrowful unto death. Jesus experienced this in Gethsemane. He “began to be sorrowful … very sorrowful, even to death.” (Matthew 26:37-38).

The Greek word translated “sorrowful” is lupeo. This word has various uses. A repeated use in the Bible relates to riches, loss, and poverty causing sorrow. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “Sell all that you have … and come follow me. Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

Paul used the word when writing about persecutions and deprivations the apostles suffered. They were “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6:10)

Jesus was born and lived in poverty. What riches could he lose in Gethsemane? What treasure could be so great that losing it would make him sorrowful to death?

His treasure was in the heart of his Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit. He was losing communication with them.

The phrase “unto death” meant that Jesus was dying there and then. So “an angel appeared to him from heaven, strengthening him.” (Luke 22:43). This was strengthening, but not comforting. The angel only braced up Jesus’ sinking bodily nature so that He would not die too soon, in the wrong place, in the wrong way. By prophesy, He must die as the Passover Lamb, on Golgotha, on a cross, not in Gethsemane.

The angel carried no word from the Father. The abandonment that finally caused the cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” already had begun.

The communion of the Son with the Father and the Holy Spirit was the original treasure, the richest ever. The Trinity is love’s eternal home. Trinitarian love is what makes heaven heavenly.

Once we had communion with God. Adam walked and talked with God in the first garden. But sin separated us from God. This is our poverty without Christ. But Jesus suffered the loss of love’s riches unto death so he could give the treasure to us beggars.

By his redemption, Jesus took on the sin that separated us from God and overcame it. Jesus restores to us the love of Father, Son, and Spirit. (Ephesians 3:14-19). “If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has in us. God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him.” (1 John 4:14)

[ part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 5 ]

About T. R. Halvorson

T. R. Halvorson was born in Sidney, Montana on July 14, 1953, baptized at Pella Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sidney, Montana on November 8, 1953, and confirmed at First Lutheran Church in Williston, North Dakota in 1968. He and his wife, Marilyn, are members of Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Sidney, Montana. They have three sons and six grandchildren. T. R. farms at Wildrose, North Dakota, and is Deputy County Attorney in Sidney, Montana. He has been a computer programmer; and an author, conference speaker, instructor, and consultant to industry in online legal information. He is among the authors of the religion column in the Sidney Herald at Sidney, Montana. He is the Editor of LutheranCatechism.com.


What Did Jesus Have to Lose? — 7 Comments

  1. Thank you for your insight into this complex topic. I was wondering if we could walk back statements that seem to be definitive. I agree Jesus was going to lose communion with God, and His heart could have been certainly troubled by that. I feel it could take a library to define what all Jesus might have been feeling at that point. It just seems as though we are incapable of “knowing” what Jesus was feeling and why at this point, and this article could use a qualifier that Jesus was overwhelmed by a great multitude of things. Which leads into, He is condemning us of our sin and pointing us to His sacrifice as our only way to justification? (IE let this cup pass from me IF…) Which I feel is so much more important than an exposition into The Mind of God. Let’s stick to theology.

  2. @Big Boy #1
    Thank you for a comment thoughtful in content and brotherly in tone. As I understand it, the primary thrust of the comment is that we should be careful not to over-read or speculate upon a text. This is a sound caution that we must remind ourselves of repeatedly, and I welcome your reminder.

    It is true that, as you say, Jesus was overwhelmed by a multitude of things, insomuch that they all could not be put in one article. This is part 4 of a 5-article series on Jesus in Gethsemane. Perhaps its isolation gives it a degree of imbalance. The series as a whole hopefully does a passable job of going into the multitude to which you allude.

    Linguists, commentators, and dogmaticians (Lenski, Pieper, Gerhard, et al) have persuaded me that the angel brought no word from the Father in answer to Jesus’ prayers, only a physical strengthening. This will be elaborated upon more in the 5th article, to be titled “Life Support, Agony, and the Fullness of Redemption.” That being so, I do take the events in Gethsemane as involving a silence by the Father which was, so far as we know, theretofore unprecedented between the Father and the Son, and such a disruption of their communion is among the losses Christ suffered for our salvation. It is a loss of sufficient enormity to cause death, which Jesus said he felt He was about to suffer in Gethsemane, and indeed death often has been defined as that very thing, separation from God. The idea, then, is simple and direct — separation from God and death — and so I adjudge the commentators to be right about this aspect of Jesus in Gethsemane.

  3. @ TR Halvorson #2

    You certainly state your case with eloquence and authority. I am but a simple man, certainly not as learned in The Way as you and those you reference. Please feel free to correct, with support, my supposition henceforth.

    If I understand you correctly, God’s silence overwhelmed Jesus in the garden beyond the Brook Kidron. I was unable to find mention of this silence being thee reason in any of the gospels. Rather, we are simply not privy to the inner thoughts of The Word made flesh.

    If it can been seen not as an act of arrogance on my part, may I request you to please point out where the silence is stated? Or is it inferred because no response is written other than an Angel appearing in Luke?

    In addition, does this not borderline on judgement of his character, as I may just as easily infer that Christ was sorrowful because he saw the torment of those in Hell from their rejection of Him? Which would be a selfless act, whereas you have Christ focused on self.

    Please forgive my ignorance, and teach me The Truth.

  4. @Big Boy #3
    On whether Christ has been portrayed as focused on himself, let us see by contrasting the first Adam and the second, the first garden and the second, the first bride and the second.

    When the first Adam’s bride, Eve, fell into sin, what should he have done? By focusing on himself, Adam also ate from the tree, shifted blame, and never was heard sounding his sorrow unto death. What he should have done was focus on his Father and on his bride. He should have taken Even to the Father and interceded for her. He should have taken up an eternal priesthood for her. He should have prayed and offered his life for hers. He thought too little of her plight in sin and too little of his communion with the Father. This makes his sin worse than Eve’s and we inherit sin from him, not from her.

    The second Adam thought of his communion with the Father as He should, and some call that self-centered, by I won’t. The second Adam thought of his bride, the Church, as He should, and some call that self-centered, but I won’t. The dying Christ, who sounds to his disciples the sorrow that was killing him in the second garden, Gethsemane, may, by a theology of glory, seem to be self-centered, but by the theology of the cross we see that He puts the right estimation on communion with his Father and on his wife in his office as Bridegroom. It is entirely other-centered. It is entirely pro nobis, for us.

    Why didn’t we ever hear the first Adam sound his sorrow unto death? Because he was too self-centered to do it; because separation from the Father and his wife’s plight in sin were not big enough deals to him to suffer sorrow unto death. When Jesus told his disciples that he was sorrowful unto death, those were the words of a Law-Gospel sermon, Law in what sin had done, and Gospel in what He was doing for us, his bride.

  5. @ TR Halvorson

    Fascinating response. If I understand it correctly, because Adam had not eaten the apple he would have been able to intercede on Eve’s behalf. Thusly removing the need for Christ’s sacrifice. I was under the impression as humans we were created as incapable of such action. Or is it that we became that way because of sin?

    Can you elaborate on how the conclusion was derived that there was indeed silence, rather than an inferred silence.

  6. @Big Boy #5

    My comment did not claim that Adam could atone. It claimed he should have offered. This was in answer to the question you raised about focus. (And that he should have offered was preached last night at Vespers by my pastor.) It was not a claim of what the effect of the offer might be.

    So, could this be a case of over-reading a text and drawing inferences from things never said?

    And along that line, what did the Father say to Jesus in Gethsemane? From silence of the text do you infer speech by the Father?

    These are the kinds of go ’rounds that tend not to be productive.

  7. @TR Halvorson

    You used the words “should have interceded for her.” In the future, I would ask that you be very clear about the intent of your words.

    I appreciate your response, and certainly agree it is difficult to discuss highly complex theological issues in a single email or post, and will respect your desire to end the thread.


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