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the awful weight of the Atonement (Maxwell)


A short while before Gethsemane and Calvary, Jesus prayed, "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour." Then, as if in soliloquy, he said, "But for this cause came I unto this hour" (John 12:27). The awful weight of the Atonement had begun to descend upon him. We next find him in Gethsemane.

And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.

And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy. [Mark 14:32–33]

The Greek for "very heavy" is "depressed, dejected, in anguish." Just as the Psalmist had
foreseen, the Savior was "full of heaviness" (Psalms 69:20). The heavy weight of the sins of all mankind were falling upon him.

He had been intellectually and otherwise prepared from ages past for this task. He is the creator of this and other worlds. He knew the plan of salvation. He knew this is what it would come to. But when it happened, it was so much worse than even he had imagined!
Now, brothers and sisters, this was not theater; it was the real thing. "And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him" (Mark 14:35). Only in the Gospel of Mark do we get this next special pleading, "And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me" (Mark 14:36). When Jesus used the word "Abba," it was a most personal and intimate familiar reference—the cry of a child in deepest distress for his father to help him in the midst of this agony.

Did Jesus hope there might be, as with Abraham, a ram in the thicket? We do not know, but the agony and the extremity were great. The sins and the grossness of all mankind were falling upon someone who was perfectly sinless, perfectly sensitive. This pleading to the Father included the doctrine he had taught in his ministry as Jehovah to Abraham and Sarah. "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14). He had taught it in his mortal messiahship: "All things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23). Hence, this resounding plea. And then came that marvelous spiritual submissiveness: "Nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mark 14:36).

Luke wrote that at a particular point, an angel appeared to strengthen him. I do not know who that angel was, but what a great privilege to be at the side of the Son of God as he worked out the Atonement for the whole human family!

Jesus bled at every pore, and the bleeding started in Gethsemane. He was stretched to the limits. Later, when Jesus was on the cross, the Father, for reasons that are not completely apparent, withdrew his immediate presence from his son. The full weight fell upon him one last time, and there came the great soul cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34).

Through that marvelous Prophet Joseph, in the book of Alma, we learned that Jesus not only suffered for our sins, but, in order to perfect his capacity of mercy and empathy, he also bore our sicknesses and infirmities that he might know "according to the flesh" (see Alma 7:11–12) what we pass through and thus become the perfect shepherd, which he is.

Neal A. Maxwell, "A Choice Seer", BYU Devotional March 30, 1986

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