“He fell on his face…” (Matt 26:39) Don’t let this phrase pass you by. In Gethsemane, the Lord of Glory is laid low on the ground. The Almighty is bowed down because his soul is “sorrowful, even to death.” The Incarnate Word is pleading in prayer.
Can you see him? Can you feel the cool grass and smell the dirt beneath him? Can you hear his groans and cries to the Father? He is “sorrowful and troubled.” There is a an agony so intense that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
What is the source of this sorrow? Well, we hear it in our Lord’s prayer, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me…” The cup was the cup of sin and judgement. It represented the wrath of God toward sinners. Jesus knew that he was about to be so identified with sinners that he would become sin for them (2 Cor 5:21). And in so doing, take upon himself the wrath of God. He would suffer outside of the camp cut off from the Divine Presence to bear the curse that our sins deserved.
This is what agonized and shook our Lord Jesus. But, thankfully, that wasn’t all He prayed, for Jesus followed “let this cup pass from me” with “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” In humble submission and unforced volition, Jesus takes the cup, as it were, and carries it from Gethsemane to Golgotha and drinks it dry, pouring out his life as an offering for sin. And by that act, Jesus turned the cup of sin and judgement into the cup of forgiveness and salvation. He holds that cup out to us. But we must take it. We must humble ourselves in repentance and faith.
So, I suppose, in a sense, Jesus fell on his face that we might fall on ours. His falling meant death. Our falling means life!
Chuck Cook is the pastor of Grace Bible Church - Rolla.