Researchers tell us that our faces show “microexpressions” as we react to the world around us. These are split-second facial movements which reveal one of seven basic emotions. It’s fascinating to learn that we can’t hide them or fake them—and they are universal across the planet.
The stories of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane are packed with descriptions of his emotions. He knew that he was living in his last hours of freedom before the arrest and trial. Mark 14:33 (NIV) says he felt “deeply distressed and troubled.” One scholar paraphrases the first word as experiencing a “shuddering horror,” and the next word denoting the anguish of traumatic loss. The next verse reveals his “sorrow,” as being plunged into intractable sadness.
Roman and Jewish heroes of the era were celebrated because they faced death with stoic resolve. The Jesus of the Gospels expressing the very opposite as the shadow of the cross looms. Is it weakness, as critics allege? Or something deeper?
When we read of these profoundly human reactions, our hearts identify with Jesus as one like us. His full manhood reacts, not to the fear of death, but to the agony of spiritual alienation from his Father. The prophet Isaiah had warned, “Your sins have separated you from God.” In the hours beyond the Garden Jesus would know this dereliction infinitely beyond our imagination.
The emotions of Jesus call us to a deeper love for him. He knows the struggles of our Gethsemane moments—and far more! We can follow him towards the trusting obedience of faith when our paths are hard.