See also: Matthew 26:36
We cannot comprehend the great suffering that the Lord had to take upon himself to bring to pass this redemption from death and from sin. . . .
We get into the habit of thinking, I suppose that his great suffering was when he was nailed to the cross by his hands and his feet and was left there to suffer until he died. As excruciating as that pain was, that was not the greatest suffering that he had to undergo, for in some way which I cannot understand, but which I accept on faith, and which you must accept on faith, he carried on his back the burden of the sins of the whole world. It is hard enough for me to carry my own sins. How is it with you? And yet he had to carry the sins of the whole world, as our Savior and the Redeemer of a fallen world, and so great was his suffering before he ever went to the cross, we are informed, that blood oozed from the pores of his body. (President Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, October 1947, pp. 147-48) — Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, p. 37-38
The cumulative weight of all mortal sins-past, present, and future – pressed upon that perfect, sinless, and sensitive Soul! All our infirmities and sicknesses were somehow, too, a part of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement. (See Alma 7:11-12, Isaiah 53:3-5, Matthew 8:17.) The anguished Jesus not only pled with the Father that the hour and cup might pass from Him, but with this relevant citation. “And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me” (Mark 14:35-36). — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1985, p. 73
This is such a personal moment it almost seems a sacrilege to cite it. A Son in unrelieved pain, a Father His only true source of strength, both of them staying the course, making it through the night – together. — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Ensign, May 1999, p. 16
“And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me.” (Mark 14:36.) It was the cry of a Child, in deep distress, for His Father. As Jehovah, Jesus had said to Abraham: “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14.) Jesus had taught this very truth about what was feasible for believers in His mortal ministry. Had not an angel told a perplexed Mary about her own impending miracle, saying, “For with God nothing shall be impossible”? (Luke 1:37.) And so in His anguish, Jesus actually pled that the hour and cup might pass from Him. In His anguish, He even quoted back to the Father those special, significant words – “All things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me.” (See Matt. 16:26; 26:39.) This was not theater – this was shuddering reality! Did the Lamb, in this extremity, hope for a ram in the thicket? I do not know, but the suffering was enormously multiplied by infinity. His soul-cries are understandable. — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “The New Testament – A Matchless Portrait of the Savior,” Ensign, December 1986, p. 26
Can you imagine the suffering, the extent of the anguish of soul that our Savior passed through – He who is the Son of God – in order that we might receive the resurrection and that we might receive the remission of our sins through obedience to the principles of the Gospel, and an exaltation in the presence of the Father and the Son? Do we realize what all of that means?
I think it is understood by many that the great suffering of Jesus Christ came through the driving of nails in His hands and in His feet, and in being suspended upon a cross, until death mercifully released Him. That is not the case. As excruciating, as severe as was that punishment, coming from the driving of nails through His hands and through His feet, and being suspended, until relieved by death, yet still greater was the suffering which He endured in carrying the burden of the sins of the world – my sins, and your sins, and the sins of every living creature. This suffering came before He ever got to the cross, and it caused the blood to come forth from the pores of his body, so great was that anguish of His soul, the torment of His spirit that He was called upon to undergo. Are we not indebted? Yes. Are we ungrateful? Yes, unless we are willing to abide by every word that comes from the mouth of God, unless we are obedient, unless our hearts are broken, in the scriptural sense, unless our spirits are contrite, unless within our soul is the spirit of humility and faith and obedience. — President Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, April 1944, Afternoon Meeting, 49
Elder Orson F. Whitney, a young missionary in the eastern states, says that one night in a vision:
“It was a dream, or a vision in a dream, as I lay upon my bed in the little town of Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I seemed to be in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. I saw Him as plainly as ever I have seen anyone. Standing behind a tree in the foreground, I beheld Jesus, with Peter, James and John, as they came through a little wicket gate at my right. Leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, the Son of God passed over to the other side, where He also knelt and prayed. It was the same prayer with which all Bible readers are familiar: ‘Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.’
“As He prayed the tears streamed down his face, which was toward me. I was so moved at the sight that I also wept, out of pure sympathy. My whole heart went out to him; I loved him with all my soul, and longed to be with him as I longed for nothing else.
“Presently He arose and walked to where those Apostles were kneeling – fast asleep! He shook them gently, awoke them, and in a tone of tender reproach, untinctured by the least show of anger or impatience, asked them plaintively if they could not watch with him one hour. There He was, with the awful weight of the world’s sins upon his shoulders, with the pangs of every man, woman and child shooting through his sensitive soul – and they could not watch with him one poor hour!” — Ivan J. Barrett, “He Lives! For We Saw Him,” Ensign, August 1975, pp. 20-21
Can we, in part, appreciate the suffering of God the Eternal Father. . . . Is there a father or a mother who could not be moved to complete compassion if he or she heard a son cry out in his own Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done”? (Luke 22:42.)
All of us love the beautiful account from the Holy Bible of Abraham and Isaac. How exceedingly difficult it must have been for Abraham, in obedience to God’s command, to take his beloved Isaac into the land of Moriah there to present him as a burnt offering. Can you imagine the heaviness of his heart as he gathered the wood for the fire and journeyed to the appointed place? Surely pain must have racked his body and tortured his mind as he bound Isaac and laid him on the altar upon the wood and stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
. . . .As God witnessed the suffering of Jesus, his Only Begotten Son in the flesh, and beheld his agony, there was no voice from heaven to spare the life of Jesus. There was no ram in the thicket to be offered as a substitute sacrifice. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16.) — Elder Thomas S. Monson, Conference Report, October 1965, Afternoon Meeting 142
Imagine, Jehovah, the Creator of this and other worlds, “astonished”! Jesus knew cognitively what He must do, but not experientially. He had never personally known the exquisite and exacting process of an atonement before. Thus, when the agony came in its fulness, it was so much, much worse than even He with his unique intellect had ever imagined! No wonder an angel appeared to strengthen him! (See Luke 22:43.) — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1985, pp. 72-73
The utter loneliness and excruciating pain of the Atonement begun in Gethsemane reached its zenith when, after unspeakable abuse at the hands of Roman soldiers and others, Christ cried from the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) In the depths of that anguish, even nature itself convulsed. “There was a darkness over all the earth. . . . And the sun was darkened.” (Luke 23:44–45) “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent,” (Matthew 27:51) causing many to exclaim, “The God of nature suffers.” (1 Nephi 19:12) Finally, even the seemingly unbearable had been borne, and Jesus said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) Someday, somewhere, every human tongue will be called upon to confess as did a Roman centurion who witnessed all of this, “Truly this was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:54)
To the thoughtful woman and man, it is “a matter of surpassing wonder” (James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, 12th ed. (1924), 77) that the voluntary and merciful sacrifice of a single being could satisfy the infinite and eternal demands of justice, atone for every human transgression and misdeed, and thereby sweep all humankind into the encompassing arms of His merciful embrace. But so it is.
To quote President John Taylor (1808–87): “In a manner to us incomprehensible and inexplicable, He bore the weight of the sins of the whole world; not only of Adam, but of his posterity; and in doing that, opened the kingdom of heaven, not only to all believers and all who obeyed the law of God, but to more than one-half of the human family who die before they come to years of maturity, as well as to [those] who . . . [die] without [the] law.” (The Mediation and Atonement (1882), 148–49; capitalization standardized.) — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Atonement of Jesus Christ,” Liahona, December 2003
If we at times wonder if our own agendum for life deliver to us challenges that seem unique, it would be worth our remembering that, when we feel rejected, we are members of the church of him who was most rejected by his very own with no cause for rejection. If at times we feel manipulated, we are disciples of him whom the establishment of his day sought to manipulate. If we at times feel unappreciated, we are worshipers of him who gave to us the Atonement – that marvelous, selfless act, the central act of all human history – unappreciated, at least fully, even among those who gathered about his feet while the very process of the Atonement was underway. If we sometimes feel misunderstood by those about us, even those we minister to, so did he, much more deeply and pervasively than we. And if we love and there is no reciprocity for our love, we worship him who taught us and showed us love that is unconditional, for we must love even when there is no reciprocity.
Most of our suffering, brothers and sisters, actually comes because of our sins and not because of our nobility. Isn’t it marvelous that Jesus Christ, who did not have to endure that kind of suffering because he was sin-free, nevertheless took upon himself the sins of all of us and experienced an agony so exquisite we cannot comprehend it? I don’t know how many people have lived on the earth for sure, but demographers say between 30 and 67 billion. If you were to collect the agony for your own sins and I for mine, and multiply it by that number, we can only shudder at what the sensitive, divine soul of Jesus must have experienced in taking upon himself the awful arithmetic of the sins of all of us – an act which he did selflessly and voluntarily. If it is also true (in some way we don’t understand) that the cavity which suffering carves into our souls will one day also be the receptacle of joy, how infinitely greater Jesus’ capacity for joy, when he said, after his resurrection, “Behold, my joy is full.” How very, very full, indeed, his joy must have been! — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “But For a Small Moment,” BYU Fireside, September 1, 1974
I speak to this generation with some sense of vicarious anticipation in your behalf of what lies ahead – urging you to pour out your hearts in supplication and prayer. There is nothing more powerful than prayer, nothing more masculine or more feminine (at the same time) than prayer. There was more power processed and expended on that single night in Gethsemane, in that small garden, than all the armies and navies have ever expended in all the battles on the land and sea and in the air in all of human history. The catalyst of prayer helped Jesus to cope with suffering, and by his suffering he emancipated all men from death and made possible eternal life. This cardinal fact about the central act of human history, the Atonement, ought to give us pause, therefore, as we face our challenges individually. — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “But For a Small Moment,” BYU Fireside, September 1, 1974
Two thousand years ago, outside Jerusalem’s walls, there was a pleasant garden spot, Gethsemane by name, where Jesus and his intimate friends were wont to retire for pondering and prayer.
There Jesus taught his disciples the doctrines of the kingdom, and all of them communed with Him who is the Father of us all, in whose ministry they were engaged, and on whose errand they served.
This sacred spot, like Eden where Adam dwelt, like Sinai from whence Jehovah gave his laws, like Calvary where the Son of God gave his life a ransom for many, this holy ground is where the Sinless Son of the Everlasting Father took upon himself the sins of all men on condition of repentance.
We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane.
We know he sweat great gouts of blood from every pore as he drained the dregs of that bitter cup his Father had given him.
We know he suffered, both body and spirit, more than it is possible for man to suffer, except it be unto death.
We know that in some way, incomprehensible to us, his suffering satisfied the demands of justice, ransomed penitent souls from the pains and penalties of sin, and made mercy available to those who believe in his holy name.
We know that he lay prostrate upon the ground as the pains and agonies of an infinite burden caused him to tremble and would that he might not drink the bitter cup.
We know that an angel came from the courts of glory to strengthen him in his ordeal, and we suppose it was mighty Michael, who foremost fell that mortal man might be.
As near as we can judge, these infinite agonies – this suffering beyond compare – continued for some three or four hours. — Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” General Conference, April 1985