This inquiry centers on the position that somehow Jesus was asking that everything He was about to face, from the Gethsemane to death, would pass. It is said that He was frightened, like most people would be, at the prospect of the painful suffering and death that was about to come upon Him. That is, He was so extremely distressed over it that sweat came as great drops of blood. Or His fear was of an expected separation from Him by the Father while He was on the cross; this was supposedly indicated by His reference to Psalm 22:1. The question: Is any of this true?
I. We must keep in mind that Jesus was God in the flesh. His coming in the flesh did not change that—
“Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily...” Colossians 2:8-9.
All the fullness of the Godhead was in the body of Jesus. That did not mean that all three persons of the Godhead dwelt in that body, but rather everything that was God was there. Colossians 1:15 says He is the image of the invisible God. Hebrews 1:3 says He is˜˜ “the very image of His substance.” No position can be taken that questions the full Godhood of Jesus. Because He functioned as a servant while on earth did not change that. He was sent to accomplish creation as well as other tasks in the ages before the first century. That did not rob Him of any of His deity. Neither did the flesh change His Deity. He said that “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” This was not a physical image, but spiritual; His character was exactly the same as that of the Father all of the time He was in the flesh!
II. Jesus knew the manner of His death beforehand, John 12:32ff, 18:31ff. In John
8:14, He said He knew where He came from and where He was going—
“He said therefore again unto them, I go away, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sin: whither I go, ye cannot come. The Jews therefore said, Will he kill himself, that he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come? And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.” John 8:21-23.
The person standing before them, Jesus of Nazareth, was not of this world and was about to go away. He follows this a few verses later, speaking of the manner of His death and a continuing relationship with the Father—
“Jesus therefore said, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself, but as the Father taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me; he hath not left me alone; for I do always the things that are pleasing to him.” John 8:28-29.
The Greek verb form of “is with me” is Present, Active, Indicative. The present tense in Greek is the tense of continuing action. The context of verse 29 is what He says in verse 28, the time of His being lifted up, the cross. He follows that with a negative that includes an Aorist tense verb in “hath not left me alone.” The aorist tense in Greek indicates, in some way, an act. It means that not one time has the Father left Him alone. All of the time up to that point, the Father was with Him. This would not change, as indicated by the Present tense. The contrast of the Aorist tense shows that the Present tense verb is to be understood in it usual meaning of action continuing. This is even more clearly seen in the next verse—
“Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” John 16:32.
The time He referred to was when they would be scattered and leave Him alone. This was from His capture in the garden through His crucifixion. There is a contrast made here. Both “be scattered” and “leave me alone” are Aorist, Active verbs. Yet, “I am not alone” and the Father “is with” me are both Present, Active, Indicative. There would be a time when the disciples would leave Him alone, but, during the time of their being scattered, the Father would continue to be with Him. The phrase, “I am not alone,” is also found in John 8:16. Now, 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.”
John 8:16 and 16:32 have the same Greek phrase. It is different in John 8:29 only in that “leave” is injected into the sentence so that the word “alone” is accusative instead of nominative. Otherwise, ALL three verses say exactly the same thing— that there was never a time that the Father left Him alone. That included His time on the cross.
III. Jesus insisted that He could not and would not change what was about to happen that had been specifically foretold. Again, 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.”
How is it that Jesus could make a statement like this and turn around in the garden very shortly afterward and plead for the Father to save Him from this hour? Thats a contradiction and makes Jesus to be a liar and deceiver. Further, note the following passages—
“Then saith Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into its place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Or thinkest thou that I cannot beseech my Father, and he shall even now send me more than twelve legions of angels? How then should the scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be? In that hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a robber with swords and staves to seize me? I sat daily in the temple teaching, and ye took me not. But all this is come to pass, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples left him, and fled.” Matthew 26:52-56.
“For I say unto you, that this which is written must be fulfilled in me, And he was reckoned with transgressors: for that which concerneth me hath fulfilment.” Luke 22:37.
“And he said unto them, These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me.” Luke 24:44.
“From 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.” Matthew 16:21.
“And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.” Matthew 20:17-19.
Jesus knew what the Scriptures said about what He must do and was determin-ed that they be fulfilled. Exactly what the prophets foretold, as well as what Jesus said would happen, came to pass. Jesus knew it, and worked with it. To say that Jesus wanted to change the plan in the garden and begged the Father to drop the whole thing pictures Jesus as being an unstable, vacillating, sniveling, fearful individual, besides being a liar and deceiver because He was doing what He said He could not do.
IV. So, what Scripture prophesied could not be changed. Scripture had to be fulfilled. However, what He prayed about in the garden could go one way or the other or Jesus would not have asked that it be changed. He said—
“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.” John 12:27.
Jesus said that He could not ask the Father to save Him from what was planned to come.
Now, after all of the Bible prophesies, His own declarations to His disciples about His coming death and the manner of it, the promises He made, His declaration that He could not ask the Father to be saved from what was to happen, are we now expected to believe that He melted into a pool of mush in the garden, doing the very thing He said He could not do? Nonsense!
V. Psalm 22. Jesus claims in John 8:28 that His crucifixion was to declare Him as the “I Am.” This statement was not said, on this occasion, to His disciples but to His Jewish enemies that surrounded Him at that moment. This was not a declaration of His being just a man because they already believed that. What was there about the scene of the cross that could convince them of His being God? Whether they could recognize it or not is beside the point Jesus made. The fact is, Jesus told those particular Scribes and Pharisees that when He was crucified, then they would know He was God. The Bible record only specifically speaks of the Jewish rulers and some others of whom it was prophesied that they would mock in disbelief. John 8:28 was fulfilled or Jesus lied about it! There is no other alternative. Certainly, the evidence would be there for the rulers if they would only look. What was the evidence? Certainly it was not just the death of “another” human. The evidence was based in Psalm 22, which they should have recognized. The Jews had evidence before their eyes that they could understand if they would.
Why would Jesus exclaim on the cross a statement that only proved to the unbelieving Jews what they already thought of Him? And, this in view of the fact that He had said that when He was crucified it would prove that He was God? The rulers thought that God had deserted Jesus. Now, He was proving they were right by crying out “Why hast thou forsaken me??” There had to be another reason for His statement than an abandonment by the Father. Lets compare a couple of passages from Psalm 22—
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” Psalm 22:1.
“Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.” Psalm 22:23-24.
Verse 24 says that God does not hide His face from the afflicted. There must be some unique meaning placed either on this passage of Psalm 22:1. They are not contradictory. Verse 6 says—
“I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.”
Was Jesus a worm? Was He a nothing? Of course not, but thats what His enemies thought. There follows in verses 7-8—
“All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.”
“And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself: if thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross. In like manner also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. He is the King of Israel; let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe on him. He trusteth on God; let him deliver him now, if he desireth him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” Matthew 27:39-43.
Jesus drew attention to Psalm 22 by quoting the opening line. Did He do that in order to confirm the erroneous opinion of the Jews that He was NOT God? If God had deserted Him, then the Jews were correct. To the contrary, Jesus quoted the passage to show His fulfillment of prophecy that proved He was God! Note how the crucifixion scene is further described in Psalm 22:12-17 -
“Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.”
There was the scene at the crucifixion in stark detail. Psalm 22 mixes what actually was happening at the crucifixion with what others thought was happening, things about which they were wrong. God did not desert Jesus on the cross, or at any time, just as Jesus foretold it would be.
VI. The Cup. Is it true that Jesus distresses were due to fear or deep anxiety over what He, personally, was going to face? Lets try another Biblical scenario to the garden event through His crucifixion—
“Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee. Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap.” Psalm 69:19-22.
“After this Jesus, knowing that all things are now finished, that the scripture might be accomplished, saith, I thirst. There was set there a vessel full of vinegar: so they put a sponge full of the vinegar upon hyssop, and brought it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.” John 19:28-30.
Psalm 69 is the prophecy behind the event of the sponge of vinegar just before Jesus died. Here is what the Bible says about His distress. The text says that His heart was full of heaviness. That was extreme distress. It wasn't distress over abandonment of God, nor concern over the suffering He was to face. Notice that he was talking about those who would be benefited by what He was doing for them. He was not talking about the Father nor His disciples, but those who treated Him so shabbily, tortured and crucified Him. He had created them in His own image, gone through thousands of years of plans and effort, came in the flesh and was now going to die and they were treating Him in this manner. The willful blindness and sinfulness of the people deeply distressed Him. Each member of the Godhead, as we have seen in other studies, is an emotional God—
“And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” Genesis 6:6.
“And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.” Judges 10:16.
“In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” Isaiah 63:9.
There is no doubt of the emotional makeup of God. Jesus showed that. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus, and bemoaned the fate of Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37. He grieved over the sins of man just as the Father did. God so loved the world, both the Father and Jesus, that the plans were made and carried out. God the Word came in the flesh in order to become a sacrifice so that sinful man could have a way to eternal life. This is what we see in Jesus in the days leading up to the crucifixion. Take the great emotional character that God has, then fuse Him with a physical body and we can understand the effect His emotions would have on that physical body. Being much more than human, He felt more keenly than mere men the awfulness of sin and the treachery of His trial and crucifixion. Here now is another prophecy of what He would experience that fits exactly Psalm 69 noted above, reflecting His feelings in the garden and on the cross—
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:3.
Why does anyone assume that His distress in the garden was due to fear over what He was to face? After He had expounded on where he came from, what he knew of the after life, his promises of what would be true of life after death, of his promise to go and prepare a place for his followers, then return, after he had made the flat statement, “I am the resurrection and the life..” how, in the name of anything sensible, can one conclude that He was so frightened unto death that He wanted to call all off? Here is what the Scriptures say—
“...and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that hath endured such gainsaying of sinners against himself, that ye wax not weary, fainting in your souls.” Hebrews 12:1-3.
Some have Jesus fainting in His soul so severely that He was near death in the garden because He was frightened of what He had to face. Isn't that a fine example for us? Hebrews 12 is a direct contradiction to such a view of Jesus in the garden but in perfect harmony with the prophecies and promises of both the Old Testament and the promises of Jesus, himself.
The cup that Jesus asked to pass was the effect His distress was having on His body. He was heard and the effect passed. The cause of the distress remained throughout the time from before the cross to His death, but the effect on His body ceased. We will continue with this in the next section.
VII. The Father heard the supplication of Jesus and agreed to what He asked. Note the following—
“I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:21-24.
“Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages...” Isaiah 49:8.
These are prophesies of the Messiah; notice the context of each. The prophesies said that He would be heard, Jesus said that the Father always heard him. Martha said—
“And even now I know that, whatsoever thou shalt ask of God, God will give thee,” John 11:22.
Jesus said, “And I knew that thou hearest me always,” John 11:42. Hebrews 5:7 says that He was heard, and I John 5:15 says that if our prayers are heard then we receive what we ask of Him. The only conclusion we can make from Scripture is that what Jesus asked for, that the cup would pass, was granted.
An angel came to tell Zacharias in response to his prayer, telling him that his prayer was heard, Luke 1:12ff. An Angel came to Cornelius, Acts 10:31, in response to his prayer to tell him that his prayer was heard. An angel came in response to the prayer of Jesus, strengthening Him, Luke 22:43, and Hebrews 5:7 says that His prayer was heard. In each of these instances, an angel appeared in response to prayer that God granted and the verb in each place is a Greek Aorist Passive. We must conclude that “heard” means the same in each instance. What Jesus asked was for the cup to pass. It did. Some brethren make Jesus to be a simpering, unstable and contradictory liar who was as weak as the weakest human, instead of God in the flesh who was distraught over the weakness and sinfulness of those He came to save.