Sean B. asks, “When Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, ‘…let this cup pass from me…,’ was He praying for more than the physical suffering He would endure to include the spiritual implications of the Cross?”
Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is recorded in three of the four Gospel accounts (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46). Before He went about a stone’s throw from Peter, James and John (Luke 22:41), He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:34).
The word translated “exceedingly sorrowful” shows the degree to which the Lord was agonizing over the upcoming events of the Cross. It means, “surrounded with grief, severely grieved.” He magnifies it even more when He says, “even to death.” We might say that He was “grieving Himself to death.”
It was in this state of deep grief that Jesus prayed, “let this cup pass from Me,” (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:39). Luke says He prayed with such intensity that the sweat poured from His face like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44).
What was in “this cup” that had Jesus so severely grieved? Certainly, it would have included all the physical suffering that He was about to endure in the approaching events leading up to His death on the Cross.
Jesus was a man, completely human and susceptible to all the pain, suffering and sorrow that comes with being human (John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8; 1 Tim. 2:5; Isaiah 53:3). No human being would want to face the kind of suffering that He was about to endure.
He knew He was about the feel the pain of betrayal by a close friend (Matthew 20:18; Psalm 41:9). He knew He was about to be unlawfully condemned to die (Acts 2:23). He knew He was about to be severely beaten (Isaiah 53:5; Luke 18:33; John 19:1). He knew He was going to be mocked, slapped and spat upon (Psalm 22:1-2, 11-13; Matthew 20:19; Mark 15:16-20). He knew He was about to be nailed to a cross and hung up to die (Psalm 22:16-18; Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:35).
No human being would want to suffer that kind of torture and torment. So, of course, Jesus was praying that His heavenly Father might take that suffering from Him.
But Jesus was more than just a man. He was also the Son of God, Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:22-23; John 1:1-3, 14; Titus 1:13). His Divine Nature (Colossians 2:9) magnified what He would suffer on the Cross, far beyond anything that we could possibly understand.
He had always known, throughout eternity, perfect oneness with His Father (John 17:5, 24). Even though we live in a world where God sends blessings on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45), we can’t appreciate to the fullest what the perfect unity and fellowship between the Father and Son must have been like. But Jesus knew!
And He knew that that perfect fellowship and oneness was about to be broken for the only time in all of eternity. If sin separates one from God and Jesus, “who knew no sin” was made “to be sin for us” on the Cross, then Jesus felt a separation from God that would have been much more acutely painful for Him than anything else He would have suffered that day (2 Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 59:1-2).
What was in “this cup” would have surely included that terrible suffering Jesus would have felt when He was separated from His Father, for the only time in all of eternity, when He paid the price for the sins of man (John 3:16).
While we experience separation from God when we commit sin, we don’t feel it like Jesus would have. When we see Him so distressed over the approaching suffering of the Cross it shows us just how bad total and complete separation from God will be. As long as we live in this world, sustained by the power of God (Hebrews 1:3), we receive blessings from God.
Even when we choose to live a life of rebellion against God, we are still eating the food He provides, wearing the clothing He provides, enjoying the sunshine and rain He provides; even the very air we breath is His air. We don’t know just how bad it will be to experience total separation from God. But the day is coming when those who “know not God and who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” will know what it was like to feel that separation (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).
I pray that none of those reading this would ever know how terrible that must be (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26, 27; Romans 6:3-4, 17).