Why did Jesus pray for the cup to pass from him in the garden of Gethsemane?

You can buy my book, Is God Moral? A biblical analysis here 

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Did Jesus really have a moment of weakness? Where he prayed to the father that he might be spared from his impending death on the cross?

Was the Messiah who was sent into the word that through his blood the world might be saved, who followed the father’s will, doing all that he was shown, suddenly have a change of heart even for just a moment?

Did Jesus pray to the father to save him from death only to be told no, you are going to have to go through with this?

This would be the common consensus taught by basically every preacher i’ve ever heard on this subject. But something just doesn’t add up. Something seems amiss.

Let’s have a look at the verses in question

If we start with the Gospel of matthew

Matthew 26-39And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

Matthew 26 – 42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

And Mark 14- 35And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

Luke 22-42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

At first glance these verses do look like Jesus is indeed asking that the cup and the hour be taken from him but If the answer is yes Jesus was asking for a way out from the cross then we have some major theological and biblical problems to contend with. We have Jesus contradicting himself when he himself says in John

John 12-27 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. 28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again

Jesus categorically states that he wouldn’t say father save me from the hour. He states that this was the very cause for which he came.

It makes no sense that the Messiah whose purpose was to die for the sins of the world would go around preaching to his disciples that he MUST die, not that he will,  but that he must and then try to avoid the very act itself.

Matthew 16-21From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

When Peter rebuked him saying that these things should not happen to him 
Jesus responded to him by proclaiming that Peter’s statement was from Satan himself

Matthew 22-22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

It would be highly hypocritical of Jesus to rebuke Peter’s words as those that came from Satan that his death shouldn’t happen only to then pray the very thing he made claim was from Satan.

Jesus stated that he had come to do the will of the father and to finish his work 

John 6-38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
John 4-34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

He knew full well what was going to happen to him, Just before he was arrested he went to those who had come for him

John 18-4 4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye

Jesus had no need to pray that he would not die because he was given complete free choice to do so or not. 

John 10-17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

Jesus himself was the one who would lay it down and told his disciples how this was great love

John 15-13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

He called himself the good shepherd who would die for his sheep

John 10-11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

If God had spared him would this not make Jesus a liar having not given his life for his sheep.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd who would die for his sheep, pleaded not to die for his sheep?

Jesus tells us that whatever we pray for we will receive 

Matthew 21-22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

John 9-31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.

If Jesus asked to be spared his death and the answer was no, wouldn’t this now go against his own teaching? Was Jesus a sinner that God would not hear him?
Or maybe Jesus just didn’t really believe?

But we know he was not a sinner and he of course he believed and we see later in Hebrews that his prayer was heard

Hebrews 5-7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;

A herd prayer is a prayer that is answered (in the affirmative ) 

Psalm 66-19 But verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead he thanked the father for hearing him and also stated that the father ALWAYS heard him. 

John 11- 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

So if his prayer was to be spared the cross and he was heard why then did he end up on the cross? we see Jesus prayed to the one who was able to save him from death. If he prayed to be saved was heard and still ended up on the cross and died then either the prayer wasn’t heard or God was unable to prevent it. Major problems come if we say either of these are true.

Jesus is the lamb slain from the very foundation of the world

1 Peter 1-20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

Revelation 133-8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

The Messiah was ALWAYS meant to die. It is kind of in the job description.

Jesus knew this.

John 5-39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

They couldn’t testify of Jesus if Jesus didn’t fulfill the role of the Messiah.

In Jewish understanding, there is at least one potential Messiah in every generation. If the time arises or the need is such, God can call on the potential Messiah to be the Messiah. In fact MANY have fulfilled, in part, the office of the Messiah.  Nobody except Jesus fulfilled the role to its completion.

Matthew 5-17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

The ONLY way that Jesus could fulfill ALL that was written in the law and the prophets was to complete the role of Messiah. The only way he could BE the Messiah is if he fulfilled everything that the Messiah was to do. One of those was to die.

That was when the law could pass away, when it was fulfilled. When Israel would not be a nation but become spiritual.

Jeremiah 31-35 35Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name:

36If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.

So Jesus praying that he would not have to go through with what has always been ordained of him seems like a pointless prayer. Also one that would contradict his own teachings. 
One that would have devastating consequences if his request had been allowed and one that Jesus would have ultimately known would be futile unless he was asking NOT to be the Messiah. Now had he asked NOT to be the Messiah and God rejected that request this now brings about questions as to what kind of God we are worshipping who would FORCE a man to go through with such a task against their will.

Jesus told the disciples to take up their own cross

Matthew 16-24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Did Jesus ask them to deny themselves and then try to save his own life? He himself said if he did this he would in fact lose it.

The disciples who followed Jesus were all killed, bar 1. We see when Stephen was stoned to death he prayed 

acts 7-54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. 59And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

There’s no mention of Stephen wavering as he met his doom. Trying to escape his soon coming end. No pleading for God to let this pass. In fact Stephen would seem to rather have embraced his death. Was Stephen braver than Jesus?  Was Stephen willing to die a painful and agonising death for his faith?  Was Stephen more steadfast in his faith in God? I again rather think we have some rather serious theological issues if we answer any of these questions in the affirmative.

Paul was warned not to go to Jerusalem as they sought to kill him there.

Acts 21-  11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. 12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

However Paul replied that he was willing to go and die for the name of Jesus.

Acts 21- 13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. 

Must we take it that Paul was willing to die for a man that sought after being spared from death.

We even have outside biblical sources where Christians took on martyrdom not only willingly, but they sought it.

Ignatius was killed by wild beast in Rome however he did not seek to be spared by sought his death.

“From Syria even unto Rome I fight
with wild beasts, by land and by sea, by night and by day, being
bound amidst ten leopards? that is, a company of soldiers who only
become worse when they are well treated. In the midst of their
wrongdoings, however, I am more fully learning discipleship, but I
am not thereby justified. May I have joy of the beasts that are
prepared for me; and I pray that I may find them ready; I will even
coax them to devour me quickly that they may not treat me as they
have some whom they have refused to touch through fear. And if
they are unwilling, I will compel them. Forgive me. I know what is
expedient for me. Now do I begin to be a disciple. May naught of
things visible and things invisible envy me; that I may attain unto
Jesus Christ. Let fire and cross and attacks of wild beasts, let
wrenching of bones, cutting of limbs, crushing of the whole body,
tortures of the devil, let all these come upon me if only I may attain
unto Jesus Christ.”

ECH book 3 chapter 36 

Ignatius wished not to be saved by Rome or to be released from his martyrdom

The whole teaching that Jesus had doubt, that he oscillated is inconsistent with the Bible.

So how do we reconcile clear passages that show Jesus asking for the cup to pass from him with these seemingly contradictory passages we have just seen.

We are faced with 2 choices either the bible is incorrect, or, the interpretation of the bible is incorrect. 
So we need to ask is the bible incorrect? My answer to that is no. If your answer is yes then I guess the rest of the answer is not for you. If it isn’t a problem with the bible being correct then it must be the interpretation that is wrong.

The problem arises due the prayer of Jesus being misunderstood and this is due to the simple misunderstanding of what cup Jesus is referring to and what pass from me means. It is most commonly believed that Jesus is talking about the cup of the wrath of God, which people believe God pours out on him on the cross, see my writing on why did Jesus die for a better explanation on that. Jesus is asking that he be spared from God’s wrath and that it be removed, as in he doesn’t have to have it. But these are the 2 mistakes, the 2 misunderstandings on which the wrong interpretation is drawn.
We have already seen that Jesus knew the hour was coming and that this was his purpose. We also have seen that Jesus stated himself that he wouldn’t ask to be spared from the hour.
In order to get the correct answer we just need to understand the cup Jesus is referencing and what pass from me actually means. Jesus is not asking that cup of the wrath of God be removed at all. Jesus is talking about the cup of the new covenant. The cup that he had shared with his disciples only hours before his praying in the garden.

Matthew 26 -27And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Jesus was praying that this cup be passed from him.  Now the true meaning of this is that it might be passed from him onto others for them to drink.
The cup that Jesus drank from during the last supper was a communal cup and each person would drink then pass on the cup to the next person, obviously it would be difficult for 2 people to drink at the same time. So each person would take a turn in drinking from the cup and then pass it on from them to the next . Jesus’ prayer is that he is ready to pass on the cup of the new covenant which as we know is the blood of Jesus. He cannot pass it on, nobody can drink from it because it is not yet full, his blood has not yet been shed. Jesus is stating his readiness to pass on the cup

Let’s look at the prayer again

Matthew 26-39And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

Jesus statement that not his will but the fathers is simply Jesus saying i have fulfilled all that you have asked me to do except die but if the father has anything left for me to do then not my will be done which would be that he now die and fulfill all that he had come to do, but the fathers will. Jesus’ will is ready If the fathers is also. If it’s possible let this now be the time to pass on the cup. His prayer is not that he be spared but that this was now his time.

We see in the gospel of Luke that an Angel comes to Jesus

43And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

This is the answer to Jesus prayer , that the father’s will was that all was complete and he is also ready. Strengthening him that he knew his wait was now over there was no more to be done than his death.

Then comes a verse that is very much misunderstood

Luke 22- 44And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Firstly we must notice that unlike the common teaching that Jesus sweated blood, the sweat of Jesus was LIKE drops of blood.  If we look at the English carefully it clearly states was as it were, so it was LIKE drops of blood. The Greek word ὡσεί hósei means like or as if , not that it was blood.

It is stated and BEING in agony. this is taken to mean in emotional agony of the human man who was in great fear for the coming event.  However the being in agony rather pointing to his anguish over whether or not this was his time and not through fear that it was, 

Notice that Jesus prayed EVEN more intently.

“he prayed more earnestly”

Are we really going to say that God rejected these prayers. I refer back to my points regarding the theological problems and the kind of God that this implies. 

Jesus’ second prayer

Matthew 26 – 42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

It Is the confirmation that he must drink of the blood first in order to pass on the cup to the world, but that he cannot pass away the cup until he drinks of it himself but he couldn’t drink of it until it was filled and therefore his blood had to be shed. Again stating if the father’s will should have him do so now, then let it be so.

In Mark we see that Jesus uses the term the hour might pass from him (which is not a literal hour but a reference to a period of time HIS hour.)

And Mark 14- 35And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

This hour is an hour of glorification not suffering. The hour of the son of man

John 12- 23And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.25He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

Jesus clearly affirming to the disciples that the hour in which he is glorified is the hour in which he dies.

Again Jesus said the hour was about glorifying him and the father

John 17-1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

When Jesus is saying let the hour pass from him he is saying let this be the hour…im ready lets get this over and done with. The hour is something that is part of the son of God something that Jesus knew all along as we have already seen.

It’s like if you have an assignment to do you might say i wish this assignment was already over and done with. You know that that assignment won’t pass away until it is completed. Jesus knows what his assignment is and he is now ready to go through with it and is praying not that it pass him by but that the assignment pass from him meaning the assignment is done and therefore it no longer needs to be done and so it has gone from him. Its passed away from him.

The prayer that Jesus prayed was that the hour was now. That it was his time to be glorified
He had confirmation from the angel that it was and so after his third prayer Jesus returns to his disciples and declares that it is indeed the hour

Mark 14-41And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

We then see more affirmation that Jesus was not wavering when Peter strikes a guard

Matthew 26-51And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. 52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

Jesus clearly stating that if he wanted to pray for it all to stop that he could at any point and his father would send armies to defend him, which would in fact have been a lie if he had just prayed that very prayer and the father had said no.

Again he makes it perfectly clear that he is to drink the cup.

John 10- 10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. 11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

Now how could Jesus, in all good conscious proclaim this to Peter after just trying to get out of it?

This makes no sense whatsoever.

He then again affirms the need for him to die in order that all be fulfilled

In matthew 26-54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

Jesus HAD to die in order to fulfill the scriptures that Jesus had come to fulfill.

Jesus never falters from his task.
He Never hesitates 
He Never once doubts the father even for a moment.

Jesus Never asked to be spared from the cross.

He knew exactly what he was to do he he knew exactly what was going to happen. Jesus did it freely, Jesus did it willingly and Jesus did it for you.