Pillar Journal

Jesus’ Tears in Gethsemane

There are no words to describe the dreadful nature of sin any more than there are words that can describe the nature of Jesus’ tears in Gethsemane.

Hebrews 5:7 tells us that Jesus also wept in Gethsemane. It says that in the days of His flesh, Jesus “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death.” The gospel writers do not specifically record that Jesus wept in Gethsemane, but they surely imply it in describing His agony even more graphically than Hebrews does.

What kind of tears did Jesus shed in Gethsemane? Jesus did not weep out of self-pity, for that would have excluded God from His thoughts. Christ’s tears in Gethsemane were tears of godly fear. While He was weeping and praying, Jesus was addressing God in terms of tender love: “O my Father.” He concluded His prayer in tender submission, saying, “Not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). He prayed with astonishing, unconditional, childlike fear and obedience.

Jesus’ tears were also of sheer agony. He prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matt. 26:39). Jesus had experienced something of this agony before. For example, in Luke 12:50, He had said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened” literally, hemmed in, pressed down—“till it be accomplished.” Then, too, when some Greeks came to the Feast of the Passover, Jesus had a premonition of the consequence of His suffering and crucifixion. He spoke about a corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying, then said, “What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name” (John 12:27-28). A shadow crossed His path on those two occasions, prompting Him to reveal some of the burden that was on Him. But never had He experienced agony like that in the Garden. This agony brought an “if” even to the lips of the Son of God, who willingly came to earth knowing what His Father wanted Him to do.

The shadow of suffering became real in Gethsemane, where Jesus’ sufferings intensified. Matthew 26:37 says, “He began to be sorrowful and very heavy.” As Jesus entered the Garden, a sorrow began to roll over Him that brought Him low in His mind and soul. He confessed, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt. 26:38).

Some commentators suggest that Hebrews 5:7 (“Unto him that was able to save him from death”) means that Jesus was afraid that He would die in the Garden. I do not think it means that, but that interpretation comes close to what Jesus must have felt as He suffered in the Garden. He was brought so low in Himself that He felt like He was being stalked by death. He did not just get down on His knees to pray; He sank to His knees (Luke 22:41). Kneeling is a controlled action, but when we sink to our knees, we are under such pressure that we can no longer stand. An unseen hand pressed Jesus down.

Then that hand pressed harder until Jesus fell on His face on the ground (Matt. 26:39; Mark 14:35). He prayed the same prayer, the same words, three times. He prayed so hard that He sweated blood. There is a rare medical condition called hematibrosis, in which under the most intense agony, blood vessels erupt and blood seeps into sweat glands, breaking the surface of the skin. Apparently, Jesus went through something like this.

When Jesus wept in the Garden, He was in immense, imponderable agony. His human nature almost broke under the load. The tears were motivated not only by the fearsome suffering of crucifixion but by knowing that He would have to drink the cup of His Father’s wrath, resist the temptation not to drink it to its bottom dregs, and submit to the powers of darkness. He would bear affliction that no other had borne because He would take on Himself the judgment and hell deserved by all His people.

Temptation was at hand. Satan was in the Garden, God was in the Garden, the God-man was in the Garden, and the cup was there. Jesus had to say “Thy will be done” in the most agonizing situation possible: the sinless One becoming sin, and bearing the full wrath of God! Jesus wept in inexpressible anguish.

We cannot possibly understand the depth of Jesus’ suffering because we cannot understand how rigorous God’s justice is and how costly our salvation was. That God should so deal with His Son to bring Him to such agonizing tears—does this not tell us how awful sin is in the sight of God and how inflexible the Lord God is about the payment for sin? How dare any of us think that we can cope with God’s justice apart from Christ! If that is what you think, my friends, consider this: If God did not spare His own sinless Son, on what grounds will He spare you and me, who are sinners? We have nothing in us that can justify us in His sight.

Jesus’ tears also show us the great cost of our salvation. God did not save us by a divine wish. He saved us by the blood and agony of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Son of God had to take our sin upon Himself as if it were His own, even though His holy Being revolted against sin. He had to take our punishment as His own; He became sin and a curse for us. What kind of price can we put on that? The tears of the incarnate Son of God should move us to fear God’s justice and love His salvation.

Our salvation has been paid for—not by Jesus’ tears in the Garden of Gethsemane, but in spite of them. For Jesus went forward from Gethsemane in full obedience to God, knowing that He would give Himself as the sacrifice to God for our sins. Do not weep for Him; rather, let us weep for ourselves and our children for whom this sacrifice was necessary because of our sin.

We can never weep such tears as Jesus did in the Garden. We cannot possibly comprehend the depth of that sorrow. Jesus mercifully wept those tears for us that we might not have to weep in hell forever. And yet, Jesus’ tears should move us to tears in three ways:

First, our tears should be motivated by godly fear. As believers en route to “a better country,” we must pass through our own Garden of Sorrows, where we learn that “the disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord” (Matt. 10:24). Trials must come, and by the grace of the Spirit, they will move us to godly fear so that we learn to cry out as we are given the cup of suffering, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26:39). Pray for much grace to bear the tearful anguish of your own Gethsemanes in unmurmuring submission.

Second, our tears must be motivated by divine love. Have you ever wept over the staggering love of the Father in asking His Son to bear such agony as the cross, and the staggering love of the Son to endure it?

Several years ago, I was accosted by some men in Latvia after an evening of teaching. They bound my face, hands, and feet, then ran a knife up and down my spine, and periodically slapped my face with it, shouting, “Mafia! Mafia!” For forty-five minutes, I felt sure I was going to die. During that time, however, I felt wonderfully sustained by one thing—the blood of Jesus. Meditating on His substitutionary blood gave me unspeakable calm and peace. All that mattered was that I was washed in His blood. I felt more like weeping over the stupendous love of the Father in giving His Son to the bloody cross than I did about my own impending death.

Dear friend, you need that blood, the blood of Christ’s salvation and love. Daniel Smart, a nineteenth century Baptist preacher, once remarked, “The sweetest tears a believer sheds are always in relation to the precious blood of Jesus Christ.”

Third, our tears must be motivated by redemption’s price. Have you looked at Jesus, whom your sins have pierced, and mourned for Him, overwhelmed by the price He paid to secure your salvation (Zech. 12:10)? Have you wept over sin because of what it has cost our blessed Immanuel? Oh, how we trivialize sin! Dear friends, if your soul enters Gethsemane even for one night, you will never be able to speak lightly of sin again.

I’ve had the privilege of visiting the Garden of Gethsemane on two occasions. Once, I had several minutes alone under one of the ancient olive trees in Gethsemane. They were the most sacred moments of my time in Israel. I meditated on my Savior crawling on the ground there, weeping, agonizing, asking if the cup might pass. Thank God the cup could not pass! Thank God He had to drink it to its bottom bitter dregs for me—every drop, for me. Mary Winslow once wrote, “If I were the only sinner for which He ever had to die, His sufferings would have been just as exhaustive as they were, given the enormity of my sin.”

Sin is heinous. There are no words to describe the dreadful nature of sin any more than there are words that can describe the nature of Jesus’ tears in Gethsemane.

Jesus wept tears of tender sympathy and of groaning anger at Bethany; He wept tears of anguish and lamentation at Jerusalem; He wept tears of godly fear and sheer agony at Gethsemane. All of His tears were shed in light of our sin, dear children of God. Will you not admire His grace with awe?

That He should leave His place on high,
And come for sinful man, to die;
It is a thing most wonderful,
Almost too wonderful to be,
That God’s own Son should come from heaven,
And die to save a child like me.

Dear friends, what kind of tears do you shed? Do you walk as Jesus walked, weeping as He wept? Do you weep for those walking deep in sin without a care for salvation? Do you weep out of hatred for sin? Do you weep because of the amazing love of God in Christ revealed to us in the gospel? Do you weep in the footsteps of Christ as you look forward to that day when God will wipe away all your tears (Rev. 21:4)?

If so, you will emerge from the Garden of Tears one day into the radiance of the heavenly Eden. You will be seated on the throne that Christ gives you and bask in the sunshine of His favor. You will enjoy His endless friendship through a tearless eternity. You will experience what Gerald Massey suggested when he wrote:

The sap is bitter in the bark,
That sweetens in the fruit above;
And spirits toiling through the dark,
Shall reach at last their light of love.

Dear friend, if you do not know the precious, weeping Christ as your own Savior, will you not bow before Him now? He is a Savior full of anger against sin, but full of compassion toward our plight and full of power to execute our redemption. He can save you—today.

I read recently of a Scottish Highland shepherd boy who was sheltering his sheep in a cave one evening because of a ferocious storm. The next morning, to his horror, he noticed that the central viaduct of an extensive bridge that stretched across a wide gulf was washed away by the storm. The shepherd boy knew that a train was coming soon. In a flash, he scrambled up the embankment, and tore his way through the bushes. Bruised and breathless, he reached the track just in time to wave down the train. The conductor, however, waved him away. The boy fell onto the tracks. The conductor hit the brakes just in time; the train stopped at the edge of the abyss. The people on the train awoke and were soon led by the conductor to see the mangled body of the shepherd boy who died for them.

Dear friend, if Jesus had not wept, suffered, and died for sinners, if He had not come to lay across the track of our lives and to call to us, “Come unto me all you that are weary and heavy laden,” you and I would end in the eternal abyss.

Why do you keep trying to wave away Jesus’ loving warnings? Why do you reject the gospel? Will you rush over the dead body of Jesus again today, and once more deny Him as the resurrected and living Lord? Cast all your sins upon Him, believe in Him, surrender to Him as Lord; you will never regret it. And you will know tears of joy and tears of sorrow as you have never known before.

Excerpt from
Walking as He Walked
By Joel Beeke

Walking as He Walked (Beeke) (475 in Stock)

MSRP: $9.00 $4.00


Every Christian yearns to be more Christ-like. This book addresses how we can be more conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29) in four of the most difficult areas of the Christian life: cross-bearing, office-bearing, sorrow, and endurance.

Table of Contents:

1. Jesus’ Crossbearing and Ours

2. Jesus’ Office-bearing and Ours

3. Jesus’ Tears and Ours

4. Jesus’ Endurance and Ours



Joel R. Beeke (PhD, Westminster Seminary) is president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary; a pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan; editor of Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth; editorial director of Reformation Heritage Books; and a prolific author.



“A Christ-centered tour de force which gets us into Christ’s servant heart and asks the pointed questions of what that means for us who are in union with Him. Deeply and affectionately pastoral, Dr. Beeke gives us a magisterial example of puritan-infused, preached prose that is as fresh as the air we breath. Like the puritan Richard Sibbes, know to his contemporaries as ‘the sweet dropper’ Dr. Beeke has a similar touch, presenting to us the confidence, richness, depth, and encouragement of the gospel.” – Maurice Roberts