from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 36

Topical and Doctrinal Notes

Leading Thought: The Lord's Temptation in Gethsemane

In our lesson on Satan's tempting the Lord in the wilderness (Matthew 4), we learned that "temptation" means "trial." Satan tried with all his might and in very cunning ways to make the Lord do what was wrong, and think or say what was false. But he did not succeed. He tried to make it impossible for the Lord to save men, and put everything in the way of the Lord's Divine work. But the Lord overcame every stumbling-block.

As we learned in that lesson, this was not the first, nor was it the last temptation which the Lord Jesus Christ underwent. He fought against Satan and the Devil all His life, from babyhood until the crucifixion. When we read of "the Devil" and "Satan," we do not mean one devil, but it is an expression meaning all hell, which consists of millions of wicked men and women, or evil spirits, who are called devils and satans and genii. The Lord fought harder than any man ever did or can possibly fight. And He fought all alone against the hells. Of this great war that He was waging against hell; of the bitter and cruel attack of the devils and satans, and His brave fight, and victory, the gospels tell us very little in the literal sense, because it was carried on in the spiritual world, and men on earth could not see it, but they saw only what He was doing on earth. The little that is told us in the Gospels is about the temptation in the wilderness, and about the last of His temptations which took place in the garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross. Today we read about the temptation in Gethsemane, and in our next lesson we shall read about it on the cross.

But even what we read about this His last or final temptation tells us only a very small part of what He was suffering and what He fought for; the internal sense of the Gospels, and of the Word generally, tells us much more. Indeed, all the wars that you read about in the Old Testament, in the internal sense treat of the Lord's fights with the hells. And very many of the Psalms are in the internal sense prayers of the Lord to the Father, when in temptations.

As you read today's story, you will find that our dear loving Redeemer suffered so much that He sweat great drops of blood. This was even before the wicked men came and laid hands on Him to arrest Him and lead Him before the Priests and the King, and the Roman Governor.

Why did He suffer? And what was it that He was fighting for?

He was fighting for us, for all mankind, to set men free from the dominion of hell, which was making slaves of all men, so that they were no longer free to do or even will what was right, and to say or even think what was true. And because He felt how hard it was to free or deliver men, and at times it almost seemed as if He could not win, therefore He suffered so much.

There never was anyone who fought for so great and just a cause as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. No one ever fought so long, nor with such bitter enemies, nor from such a great love as He. He fought from love for all mankind, and not only for love of the people of that time, on all the earth, but for men for all time to come; and not only for people on earth, but also for the angels of heaven. For, if hell had kept on being as strong as it was, no one on earth could ever have been good, and then the angels would no longer have been happy; for angels are with men, and their happiness depends upon men on earth being good and true. The Lord's love took in everyone. So He fought against all the hells, and He conquered them, and shut them up in their places, putting them into a kind of order, such as we find on earth in prisons and mental hospitals. And He arranged heaven into new order, founded a new heaven, and so made the angels happier than they ever were before. The sun of heaven shone brighter, and they could do more for each other and for men on earth.

The Lord fought all alone. The prophet Isaiah, who lived more than seven hundred years before this took place, told beforehand about the Lord's combats and said, "He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore His arm brought salvation unto Him; and His righteousness, it sustained Him." (Isaiah 59:16) And again he foretold the words which the Lord would use, when, comparing His fight, and His separating the good from the evil, to one treading in the wine-press (where the sweet juice is separated from the indigestible solid parts of the grapes), he said, "I have trodden the wine-press alone; and of the people there was none with me." (Isaiah 63:3)

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