Have you ever heard or read a sermon noticing something that was said did not sound quite right? Maybe it brought to mind a verse that seemed to say something different. This has happened to me on occasion, and I may not even have had a verse in mind, or couldn’t remember where it was. (We should be like the Bereans in that case and search the Scriptures.)
Take for instance, the accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke telling of Jesus and His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Matthew 26:38 Jesus said, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death…”, and in verse 39, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not as I will, but as You will.”
In Mark 14:34 Jesus said, My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death…”
In verse 35, “He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by.”
In verse 36 He said, “Abba, Father. All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me, yet not what I will, but what You will.”
And in Luke 22:42-43, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me, yet not My will, but Yours be done. Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.”
I’ve listed these accounts in the gospels where Jesus is fervently praying for “the cup” to pass or be removed from Him. Now—to give a hint as to where I’m going with this, ask yourself, “Where does Jesus ever say anything in these verses or others about avoiding the cross or if there is possibly another way to pay for Man’s sin?” He doesn’t, it’s not there.
Another rarely cited verse that talks about the garden prayer is Hebrews 5:7, “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.”
Just another thought here, would Jesus, or did Jesus ever pray for anything that was outside the will of God? No. Did Jesus ever pray for something that He didn’t receive? No.
Now, back to if you’ve ever heard a message that didn’t sound right to you. I’ve heard pastors, famous preachers and expositors, preach or teach on this subject many times. I’m not saying that there was not some truth contained in the messages, but they sound something like this:
“Jesus was fully God and fully man. When He was praying for the cup to pass from Him, it was His human side dreading what was coming. He was going to have to take on the horrible sin of mankind. He was going to be separated from His Father for the first time. In His anguish, He was just asking God if there was possibly another way to pay for man’s sin.”
Where in the Bible does it say anything like that? And to repeat, did Jesus ever pray for something outside the will of God? No. I guess that many speakers have tried to find an explanation for Jesus’ prayer without looking very closely at what Scripture tells us. Or they have borrowed the ideas for their sermons from others who didn’t look at what Scripture says.
We need to always search for what Scripture says about whatever it is that Scripture is saying. The Bible will interpret itself very often, as does Hebrews 5:7. So, what is “the cup” that Jesus was asking to have removed? The verses of Scripture listed above give the answer. He said that He was grieved to the point of death.
Now sometimes, we will say something to make a point, but it’s just and exaggeration. Like, “I worked myself to death today.” But it’s just our figure of speech, hopefully. Jesus’ statement was not a figure of speech. He was near death. “The cup” was the cup of death, death right there in the Garden of Gethsemane!
We may question that and say: How, why? We will probably never know, certainly in this life, all that was involved in grieving the Lord so much that He was near death. Maybe there is some truth in that He was dreading the cross, but it just does not say that. But Scripture does describe His prayer and the outcome in the Hebrews verse. He prayed to be delivered from dying there in the garden, and God heard and answered His prayer.
We know this verse in Hebrews is referring to Jesus in the garden because He didn’t hang on the cross praying with loud crying and tears to be saved from death.
“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before it’s shearers, so He did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7)
Also, in the Luke passage we see that His prayer was answered by the angel coming and strengthening Him, so that He would not die in the garden. Praise the Lord, Jesus kept praying, and prayed through.
And we know He was not praying about any other way to pay for sins. Jesus always prayed in the will of God. What was God’s way for taking care of the sin problem? The answer can be found here:
“…that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 3-4).
Jesus had to fulfill all that the Scriptures convey. It was God the Father’s will that Jesus Christ the Son should shed His blood and die for mankind’s sins. Therefore Jesus would not have prayed for another way. (The idea of Him praying for another way makes for sermon material, but is not true, and is heretical.)
Another place in Scripture where to examine is John 12:27: 32-33, a time prior to the garden, where Jesus said:
“Now my soul has become troubled, and what shall I say, ‘Father save Me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour, and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself ‘He said this to show the kind of death He was going to die.’”
Now, how could Jesus say in John 12, that He would not ask to be saved from dying on the cross because that was why He came, when in the garden it’s so often said that that is exactly what He was asking for? If Jesus was praying in the garden for another way other than the cross, then He would be doing what He had said He wouldn’t do.
Another matter to study are the times when satanic attempts to try to get Christ to take another way out other than dying on the cross. Satan had tempted Jesus with the kingdom that he would give Him without going to the cross (Matthew 4:8-9). Satan used Peter to tell Jesus that He wasn’t going to die (Matthew 16:22-23).
A passersby tried to get Jesus to come down from the cross (Matthew 27:39-40). This may well be another example of Satan causing Jesus such grief—hoping that He might die in the garden instead of going to the cross. (See the commentary on Matthew by John R. Rice in his book, The King of Kings.)
We can be thankful that Jesus prayed that the cup pass from Him, the cup of dying in the garden, and that His prayer was answered; and that He confidently went to the cross and paid for our sins according to the Scriptures.
If you have never put the safe-keeping of your soul in God’s hands, you can by simply asking Him to save you, For whoever will call upon the name of The Lord will be saved, Romans 10:13.
Happy Resurrection Day.
May those who come behind us find us faithful.