“[In Gethsemane] something transacted that brings us completely out of our depth, yet something that has such a distinct bearing on our redemption that we dare not pass it by.” 

R.A. Finlayson1 


He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death”…And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray…“Abba! Father! All things are possible for You;  

remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” 

Mark 14:32, 34–36 

Never had the Savior looked so weak. Never had the Son’s anguish been so visible. Never was His grief so raw, His prayers so fervent, His soul so troubled. The nevers of the moment point to the uniqueness of the night. This is, of course, Gethsemane—where Jesus faced the most severe testing of His faith and overcame the most intense crisis of His life: the temptation to bypass the cross and diverge from His Father’s saving plan. It was a war He had to wage alone (Mark 14:35).

Gethsemane was the perfect place for Jesus’ victory. The Bible’s symmetry is astounding. It was in a garden where Adam’s sin was imputed to man. And thus, it was in a garden where the second Adam agreed that man’s sin would be imputed to Him.  

Imputation Defined 

Imputation is a forensic accounting term. Theologically, it refers to Adam’s original sin being credited to all his progeny.2 When Adam, acting as mankind’s representative, fell, all humanity fell with him. His sin was our sin. His guilt and condemnation became our guilt and condemnation. Romans 5:18–19 puts it this way: “through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men…through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.” Before anyone commits even one sin against God, all of Adam’s heirs are already considered sinful in God’s eyes and worthy of holy judgment.

What is the solution to this sin problem? Answer: A second imputation, a second representative, a second Adam. One to whom our sin, guilt, and condemnation can be credited. One who, having no sin of His own, can represent our evil and pay the just penalty we deserve. 

Then Sings Shudders My Soul 

The imputation of our sin to Christ’s account explains the horror of Gethsemane—why Jesus was “very distressed…troubled…[and] deeply grieved,”4 why He petitioned His Father for another way to save His people, and why He stood on the precipice of death even before the cross (Mark 14:33–36).  

Jesus knew what must be done if He was to fulfill His saving mission. The very sin He despised must be credited (imputed) to His account. His loving Father must become His righteous Judge. The hour of punishment must strike midnight. The cup of God’s wrath must be drunk to its dregs. And the thought of it shocked Jesus’ soul like never before. 

Would He be the promised scapegoat and bear guilt that was not His own (Leviticus 16:21)? Would He fulfill Isaiah 53 and “be pierced through for our transgressions…crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5)? Would He allow “the iniquity of us all to fall on Him”? Would He, “who knew no sin,” permit Himself “to be made sin on our behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:21)? Would He “bear our sins in His body on the cross” (2 Peter 2:24)? 

These were the soul-shuddering questions that brought incarnate God to His knees. Imputed sin was why “He fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by” (Mark 14:35)—a prayer Jesus prayed, not once but three times, not in mellow tones, but “with loud crying and tears” (Hebrews 5:7). 

More Than Our Fallen Minds Can Grasp 

No human agony can compare to Christ’s torment in this garden. No psalmist ever cried to God as the Son did on this night. No one had ever faced the reality of bearing the sin of another, let alone the sins of the world (John 1:29).5 

“Think of him consenting to have all the sins of myriads imputed to him by his Father…of every kind and degree and amount of moral evil—every species and circumstance and combination of vile iniquity!....There is nothing that we know of in all the history of God’s moral administration that can aid us by comparison in considering how sin imputed by the Judge of all to a personally holy being, should fill his soul with sorrow.”6 How can we—who are unable to feel the awful weight of our own evil and far too accustomed to explain it away—even begin to grasp the terror the sinless one felt in Gethsemane? Schilder is right: “One would need to have been in hell for some time in order to understand what it is that is tearing Jesus apart in the garden.”

Holy Strength, Not Sinful Weakness   

Jesus’ request, “remove this cup from Me” (Mark 14:36), implied no spiritual weakness. His asking the Father for another way did not flow from a sinful heart. On the contrary, Jesus’ prayer was proof of His righteous perfection, evidence of His holy hatred of sin, and confirmation of His unrivaled love for His Father. How else should the Holy One respond to the imputation of sin? How else should the eternal Son react, knowing His Father would soon forsake Him? 

The Dreadful Silence of a Loving Father  

“Yet not as I will, but what You will” was how Jesus concluded His painful plea (Mark 14:36). Though perplexed by His Father’s plan, Jesus was still submissive to His Father’s will. Call it anguished obedience, painful compliance, agonizing surrender. Whatever phrase you choose, that is what a Christ-like life sometimes requires. 

 And yet, Jesus’ anguish had only begun. Three times, His tearful prayers were met with dreadful silence. Three times, the Father offered no audible answer to His Son’s repeated pleas. 

This was new for Jesus. At His baptism, the Father spoke (Mark 1:11). At His transfiguration, the Father answered (Mark 9:7). Even on Monday, three days before Gethsemane, “a voice came out of heaven” calming Jesus’ troubled soul (John 12:27). But not on this night. And not in this garden. “[T]he Lofty One is silent, and heaven seems barred as with a thousand bolts.”

Why? Because there was no reason for the Father to speak. His silence was His answer. Imputed sin was His will. What was needed was not the Father’s voice but the Son’s submission to become a curse for others (Galatians 3:13).9 

Saved to Suffer the Weight of Sin 

Jesus’ words to His Apostles, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death,” showed the severity of Jesus’ torment (Mark 14:34). His spiritual distress threatened His physical life. The promise of imputed sin was crushing Christ, bursting His capillaries, and mixing His blood with His sweat (Luke 22:43).10 And it would have killed Him unless the Father intervened (Hebrews 5:7). 

And intervene, the Father did. Though silent, He was not unmoved by His Son’s appeals. Jesus would not (and could not!) die in this garden. Blood must be shed, but it must be spilled at Golgotha—which is why “an angel from heaven appeared…strengthening Him(Luke 22:43). 

Though we do not know how the angel strengthened Jesus, we do know why he strengthened Him—so that the weight of sin would be laid upon Jesus’ back and paid for by His sacrifice. The angel saved Jesus in the garden so that He would save others on the cross. 

The Second Adam Accepts Our Imputed Sin 

Perhaps Leahy is right, “For one fleeting moment immense joy must have leaped within Christ’s soul…This was a message from home. Heaven was behind him. He was forsaken, but not disowned. His Father was there, somewhere in the darkness. His loud cries had not been unnoticed.”11 This explains why Jesus ended His prayer vigil with the words, “It is enough” (Mark 14:41)—not a rebuke to His Apostles (as the NIV translates it), but a submissive acceptance of His Father’s will.  

The matter had been settled. No more prayers needed to be offered. Jesus’ troubled soul was now a courageous spirit. Distress was now determination. The second Adam had been victorious where the first Adam had failed. And thus, what was lost in Eden would be restored.  

The Father would credit sin to His Son’s account and crush Him for it (Isaiah 53:10). Why? Because imputed sin and holy judgment is what it took for a righteous God to reconcile sinners to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21). Nothing less would do. 


[1] As quoted in Frederick S. Leahy, The Cross He Bore (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2007), 7. 

[2] There are two other theological imputations: (1) on the cross, the elect’s sins were imputed to Jesus, and (2) at conversion, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer. Both imputations are described in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Future blog posts will discuss each of these.  

[3] “Writers have often objected to the idea of imputation, arguing that guilt and righteousness are not the sorts of things that can be transferred from one person to another, even by God. How this can happen is certainly a mystery. It could never happen in any human court, that the guilt or innocence of one defendant could be transferred to another. But marvelously, this is precisely what happens in God’s economy.” John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2013), 968. 

[4] “Distressed” (ἐκθαμβέω) is a strengthened form of θαμβέω, that pictures terror and shock. “Troubled” (ἀδημονέω) refers to extreme anguish or anxiety, even confusion or restlessness. “Deeply grieved” (περίλυπος) portrays sorrow surrounding Jesus on all sides of His “soul” (ψυχή). There is nothing superficial in these words. Sorrow was caving in on Jesus. There was an emotional restlessness inside Him, an inconceivable awe at the sin He must endure. See: Leahy, The Cross, 2. 

[5] I’m using “world” here with reference to both Jew and Gentile, not every single person who has ever lived. 

[6] Hugh Martin, The Shadow of Calvary (Edinburgh: the Banner of Truth Trust, 2016), 24, 26. 

[7] K. Schilder, Christ in His Sufferings (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, 1938), 296. 

[8] F. W. Krummacher, The Suffering Savior: Meditations on the Last Days of Christ (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2002), 97. 

[9] See R.C Sproul, “The Curse Motif of the Atonement” in Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009), 131-143. 

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2810702/#:~:text=Hematohidrosis%20also%20known%20as%20Hematidrosis,%5B1%5D%20Manonukul%20et%20al (accessed April 14, 2024)

[11] Leahy, The Cross, 19.