Matthew shifts the scene to the Garden of Gethsemane (which means “oil press”). This is another scene that is no doubt a familiar one for most all of us, a scene that has an odd feel to it, when we see the contrast between the Jesus of the prior scenes, confidently predicting His death, secure in the knowledge that He is doing His Father’s will, and the Jesus of Gethsemane who is troubled and mournful, asking His Father for another way. It might prompt us to ask, “Is there an internal conflict going on?”
I don’t think there is, but at the same time I must admit that off the top of my head, I can’t think of another scene in which Jesus seems conflicted about anything, maybe we’d better have a look at His Gethsemane prayer!
Here’s the scene: They went to Gethsemane where Jesus left 8 disciples, went a little further with 3 disciples, left them and went still further to be alone to pray. As the disciples were being placed in their positions, Jesus “began to be sorrowful and troubled” (26:37).Jesus told the three that “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (26:38) Matthew records these words as His prayer:
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (26:39)
“My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (26:42)
Matthew also tells us that Jesus “fell with his face to the ground” in 26:37, and that He prayed the same thing a third time in 26:44. Interestingly, he only gives us one-liners for the prayers, yet Jesus was praying long enough for the disciples to fall asleep, so we can safely assume that more was said in those prayers…
One of the highest and boldest forms of piety in Israel was the prayer of lament (cf. Ps. 31:10; 40:11-13; 42:6, 9-11; 43:1-5; 55:4-8; 116:3-4) and it was not all that unusual for someone to ask God to change His mind (cf. Ex. 32:10-14; 2Kings 20:1-6; 2Sam 15:25-26).
Jesus knew His mission, He was OK with His mission; He was determined. Yet, as the hour approached, He seemed to wonder if there might be another way to accomplish it, for He was fully human after all. Notice what He did: He took this to His Father in an attitude of submission; for He would do His Father’s will whatever that will turned out to be. Please take special note of this, for He was troubled and He cried out to God in submissiveness, not in rebellion. That is where we tend to go wrong, don’t you think? We might cry out to God, but we don’t always do so in submission to His will, preferring our own plans instead.
Apparently, Jesus got the “go ahead as planned” message from His Father, for we see these words in the concluding verses of this passage:
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (26:45-46)
From that moment forward, there were no doubts, no questions; God’s redemption of Mankind would move into full execution.
Those disciples? Obviously they had failed to grasp the gravity of the situation, as they would continue to do, as the most momentous events in all of history unfolded…
Jesus prayer and his submission is both defining and reassuring that our God’s way is the ONLY way, and the perfectly sufficient way! (c.f., John 14:6)
No doubt about it.
Don, I enjoyed reading this post. I’m currently pursuing a master’s degree in theology. My recent lessons have focused on Jesus Christ. I can understand His wanting to know if there was a chance to handle atonement differently. He was, after all fully human and fully divine in a physical body. I have wondered in the past of the “cup” Jesus refers to is the “cup of wrath” He would have to “drink” so to speak. I believe He knew the full nature and implication of His mission at the cross. Perhaps He was thinking about what it would be like to have the wrath of the Almighty Father poured upon Him? Of course, His “humanness” could also have been quite apprehensive about the manner by which He was to be executed. His was not the first crucifixion. Have a very Merry Christmas! Steven.
Thank you Steven. I really appreciate your line of thinking here- this is heady stuff to be sure. May God open the full treasure of His Word to you!
Thanks Don. Merry Christmas!