After Jesus offered His intercessory prayer (John 17:1-26), He went with some of His apostles to the Garden of Gethsemane.
What happened in that garden, said President Ezra Taft Benson, "was the greatest single act of love in recorded history."In one of his books, Come unto Christ, President Benson wrote: "There [in GethsemaneT He suffered the pains of all men. . . .
"It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him. The mortal mind fails to fathom, the tongue cannot express, the pen of man cannot describe the breadth, the depth, the height of the suffering of our Lord - nor His infinite love for us." (From Come unto Christ, quoted in Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson.)
In an address delivered in San Diego, Calif., in December 1979, President Benson spoke further of the Atonement. "Because He [JesusT was God - even the Son of God - He could carry the weight and burden of other men's sins on Himself. Isaiah prophesied our Savior's willingness to do this in these words: `Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.' (Isa. 53:4-5.)
"That holy, unselfish act of voluntarily taking on Himself the sins of all other men is called the Atonement. How one could bear the sins for all is beyond the comprehension of mortal man. But this I know: He did take on Himself the sins of all and did so out of His infinite love for each of us. He said: `For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; . . . Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit - and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink.' (D&C 19:16, 18.)
"In spite of that excruciating ordeal, He took the cup and drank. He suffered the pains of all men so we would not have to suffer. He endured the humiliation and insults of His persecutors without complaint or retaliation. He bore the flogging and then the ignominy of the brutal execution - the cross." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson.)
In great prayer, Jesus interceded for faithful of all ages
"If holy writ contains . . . a prayer that truly merits the designation `The Lord's Prayer,' that divine litany of praise and communion is in the 17th chapter of the Gospel of the Beloved John," wrote Elder Bruce R. McConkie in The Mortal Messiah, Book 4.
Of this passage of scripture, Elder McConkie noted, " . . . . surely [the Savior'sT recorded prayers attained the summit of summits when He interceded with the Father for the Twelve and for the faithful of all ages in the Intercessory Prayer."
Commenting further on this prayer, Elder McConkie explained: "Jesus pleads the cause of the Twelve - and all the saints - in the courts above. He is their Mediator, Advocate, and Intercessor. He makes intercession for them, because they have forsaken the world and come unto Him; they have received His gospel; He performs a divine service of mediation, reconciling fallen man to His Maker, because the fallen ones choose now to associate with those who are not of this world. Jesus prays, thus, not for the world, but for those who have kept His commandments; who have reconciled themselves to God through faith and repentance; who are preparing themselves for an abode with Him and His Father. And His interceding petitions are always available for all men, if they will but believe His word and obey His law."
Applying the scriptures
`Could ye not watch with me?'
"In the gospel of Jesus Christ, there comes a point in time when we must stand accountable for who we are and what we are going to be," said Presiding Bishop Robert D. Hales in his October 1985 general conference address. "In the atonement of Jesus Christ, we have been given an example to follow - that of the eldest son of God the Father."
Bishop Hales referred to the intercessory prayer Jesus offered before He went to the Garden of Gethsemane in which He said, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do . . . . For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." (John 17:4, 24.)
"And so with the love of God the Father, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane," said Bishop Hales. "He dropped to His knees in prayer, even sweating great drops of blood. And then, as He departed to go out to see His disciples, He found them asleep. He asked, `What, could ye not watch with me one hour?' " (Matt. 26:40.)
Bishop Hales asked, "How many of us are sleeping when those around us are hurting and are in need? How many of us give our testimonies of the Lord, but then do not listen, as in 1 John 4:10, `For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?'
"He then returned to the Garden of Gethsemane and asked His Father to help Him through this experience which He had to endure. And for you and me, there is great solace, for `there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.' (Luke 22:43.)
"Do we understand that we, too, will have moments in our lives when we will be brought to our knees, when we will need help to endure to the end? Even Joseph Smith showed impatience after being in jail for a few months and wondered why he could not get on with his mission. At that time the Lord said to Joseph, `All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.' (D&C 122:7.) The ways in which we handle our trials are part of the maturing of the physical and spiritual man."