Was Jesus Furious or Depressed? Mark 14:34

Was Jesus Furious or Depressed?

Mark 14:34


Was Jesus deeply depressed or was He, like Jonah,[1] angry enough to die?


Mark’s depiction of Jesus—just prior to the series of events leading up to His crucifixion—shows Him taking the eleven disciples to a place by the name of “the oil press.”[2] Then, He took the inner three disciples[3] a little farther away, and because He was very troubled and distressed, said to them:

περίλυπός ἐστιν ἡ ψυχή μου ἕως θανάτου·

Mark 14:34

Most English versions translate Jesus’ self-description as:

“My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death.”

"My soul is swallowed up in sorrow —to the point of death.”

As Jesus contemplates drinking the cup of God’s judgment on sin by dying on a cross, and being abandoned by His Father—with whom He shared an eternal bond, Mark portrays Jesus as experiencing the deepest anguish imaginable. Jesus’ depression enveloped His soul, severe enough to cause physical death.

But the exact same word for grief, περίλυπός, is translated as “furious” elsewhere in Scripture.

“Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you furious (περίλυπός)? And why are you downcast?” Genesis 4:6

“Because of this, the king became violently angry (περίλυπός) and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.” Daniel 2:12

In Genesis 4:6 and Daniel 2:12,[4] Mark’s word is translated either as “violently angry” or “furious.” Yet the exact same word (περίλυπός) is translated as “depressed” in Mark 14:34. Was Jesus angry or depressed?

Jesus: Furious or Depressed?

There is a vast difference between being furious (blowing up) and being depressed (clamming up). Both are emotions, but located at opposite ends of the spectrum. Was Jesus so deeply angry at sin that it could have killed Him? Or was Jesus so deeply grieved that His physical body was about to shut down?

Jesus: Not a Teflon Savior

Both conditions—severe anger and indescribable grief—are parts of our emotional capability. Mark presents Jesus as the “Son of Man,” “One like a human being” (14:41). It is comforting to us to know that Jesus can identify with our emotional peaks and valleys, our highs and our lows. Jesus is not a Teflon Savior, remote, untouchable, insensitive, incapable of identifying with what we feel. As human, Jesus was our peer. Jesus could get emotional. He did not face the cross with stoic dignity.

Crowded Neighborhood

The interconnected relationship between Jesus’ emotions and His physical body is worth noting. It’s a very crowded neighborhood. Like Jesus, our bodies and emotions live so close to one another that they catch one another’s diseases. The severe condition of Jesus’ anguished emotions brought Him to the brink of physical death. Body and soul are intertwined and talk to each other. What impacts our emotions, impacts our bodies. It’s a tightly packed neighborhood inside us. 

So, lexically and humanly speaking, both translations, “depressed” or “furious” of περίλυπός are possible. But only one meaning was intended by Mark. Which one?

How do we decide whether Mark meant that Jesus was severely depressed enough to die or so angry that it could have killed him? Mark provides us with clues to reveal his intentions.

We will examine Mark’s story of Jesus’ emotions this coming Sunday morning in worship.

Thank you for reading.



[1] Jonah 4:9

[2] Traditionally known as “Gethsemane.” Translations render the original Greek word (Γεθσημανὶ) by making up an English word that sounds like the Greek word when pronounced rather than actually translating it. Translated, it means “oil press.” The scene occurs on Olive Mountain, a hill covered by olive trees. For Mark, Olive Mountain is linked to Eden Mountain where the first Adam and Eve also encountered temptation, and also in a garden. Naturally, there would be a place on Olive Mountain where the olives were pressed for their oil extract. The oil press site was the go-to place for Jesus and His disciples in the same way that “the LORD God used to walk in the garden in the wind of the day” to meet with Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:8). Careful students of Scripture know that the garden was in the eastern part of Eden. In both instances, the humans flee. Adam and Eve fled the LORD God. Jesus’ disciples eventually desert Him in the garden and flee. The parallels are not accidental. Jesus is pressed to the limits as are His three inner disciples. He succeeded in His battle but they failed.

[3] In Mark, Jesus took the inner three disciples apart on three separate occasions: when He raised from the dead the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus, on the mountain of transfiguration, and here at the olive press. A study of these three occasions reveals why He took them apart for such episodes. Each episode is linked by a common thread, important to Mark’s depiction of Jesus’ identity.

[4] In the LXX version of Israel’s Scripture, the Greek translation from the Hebrew.

Tim Cole