In Gethsemane, the night He was to be arrested, the Master knelt to pray.
He knew prophetically that He must suffer and die for Israel, but under the angst that weighed on His righteous soul, He “fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by” (Mark 14:35), as it is written, “Let him put his mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope” (Lamentations 3:29). He cried out, “Abba! Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39).
He prayed regarding the “hour” of His suffering, the hour of the great apocalyptic clash between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of darkness. He prayed regarding the cup He must drink.
The biblical prophets often spoke of God’s judgment, punishment, and wrath as the contents of a cup that must be consumed. The Master was not under God’s wrath, but He drank of God’s wrath on behalf of others. The cup over which Yeshua prayed contained the suffering of a great trial and torturous death. A week earlier, He spoke of the same cup when He asked James and John, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?” (Mark 10:38). Only a few hours earlier, He told His disciples, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20).
Yeshua said, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me,” and He prayed, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me” (Mark 14:36). How could the Master have asked to be spared after He had already repeatedly told His disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed” (Mark 8:31)? How could the Master suppose that it might be possible for God to change the plan?
Yeshua’s prayer was consistent with the model of prayer He taught His disciples. He told them to pray persistently, with simple faith, appealing to God’s goodness and pleading with Him not to lead them into trial. The biblical heroes did not hesitate to ask God to change His mind. Abraham negotiated for Sodom. Moses often interceded to change the LORD’s mind about destroying the generation in the wilderness. He pleaded with God to change His mind about barring him from the promised land. The biblical prophets frequently beseeched God to reverse a difficult judgment against Israel. King Hezekiah implored God to reverse His will about his impending death. Yeshua knew that “all things are possible” for God, and if all things are possible, then it was possible that He might allow Him to forego the suffering. He prayed, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me” (Luke 22:42).
Is anything too difficult for the LORD? Nothing will be impossible with God (Genesis 18:14; Luke 1:37). The Father might have opened another door to the redemption. Perhaps the Father only wanted to test the Son’s obedience up to a certain point? Might not God, at the last minute, call out as He did to Abraham?
Abraham, Abraham! … Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me. (Genesis 22:11-12)
Nevertheless, Yeshua conceded, “Not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).
The words, “Not what I will, but what you will,” make it clear that the Master had His own human and independent will. He did not move among men as a divine automaton. He intentionally subjected His own, sometimes-contrary will and inclination to the will of His Father. “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). He had His own personal volition independent of the divine impetus.
Yeshua desired to forego the dreadful trial ahead of Him, but, as He had told the disciples only hours earlier, “I love the Father; I do exactly as the Father commanded me” (John 14:31).