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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Does God Know Everything?

Don Stewart :: In His Prayer in Gethsemane, Did Jesus Believe It Was Possible to Bypass the Cross?

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In His Prayer in Gethsemane, Did Jesus Believe It Was Possible to Bypass the Cross?

Does God Know Everything? – Question 28

After the Last Supper, on the night which Jesus Christ was betrayed He went to the Garden of Gethsemane. At Gethsemane, Jesus withdrew from His disciples a short distance and prayed to God the Father. During that agonizing prayer, He asked God the Father a number of things. The Bible says,

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:36-39 ESV)

There are several questions which naturally arise from these statements of Jesus. Did He really believe that He could bypass the cross? Was He uncertain about the future? Had the future been planned or was it still open to change? How are we to understand His requests?

The following observations need to be made.

Option 1: The Future Was Not Settled: Jesus Thought He Could Bypass the Cross

There is the view that the future was not settled in the mind of God the Father. Until that particular time, He was not certain what He would do. In other words, there was no single plan of God that was in place. Jesus’ prayer supposedly illustrates this. He asked God the Father, if possible, to remove the cross or at least to postpone it. Why would He ask unless it was possible? This, it is argued is another demonstration that the future is not settled. God’s plans adjust to the circumstances.

Option 2: Jesus Knew He Must Die: The Prayer Was Not to Bypass Calvary

The traditional way of understanding Jesus’ prayer is to see it as His human nature in agony. Jesus was fully human and fully God. Realizing what events were ahead, Jesus experienced a fully human reaction. It does not mean that He wanted to bypass the cross or that He even thought this was possible.

We must remember that Jesus was fully God as well as fully human. As God, He certainly knew the plan which He Himself formulated before He created the world. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter said the following to the crowd which gathered.

“Men of Israel, listen to these words: This Jesus the Nazarene was a man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know... He was delivered up according to God’s determined plan and foreknowledge... (Acts 2:22-23 HCSB)

Jesus was delivered up to death by God’s determined plan and foreknowledge. This being the case, it makes little sense to argue that Jesus thought that He could somehow bypass that plan which He Himself formulated!

Therefore, we have little reason to believe that Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane was an attempt bypass the cross or formulate some other plan for the future. Instead we should see it as a request from His human nature to a loving Father.

Summary – Question 28
In His Prayer in Gethsemane, Did Jesus Believe It Was Possible to Bypass the Cross?

The Bible records the prayer of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane as He was waiting to be betrayed by Judas Iscariot. Scripture records Jesus, in agony, asking God the Father if it was possible that the cup could be passed from Him. The cup referred to the suffering He was about to experience.

This prayer of Jesus has been interpreted in a number of ways by Bible-believers.

Some think that it reveals that the future is uncertain. Jesus, it is argued, would not have prayed the prayer unless things could turn out differently. In other words, He would not ask God the Father if the cup could be removed unless it could be removed. Open theists see this as an illustration concerning how the future is open, not closed. God’s plans are not unalterable or settled.

The traditional view is that Jesus, who was fully human as well as fully God, was agonizing in His humanity over the coming events. He did not expect that the future could be changed and He was not asking for it to be change.

This is especially the case since the Bible emphasizes that the death of Christ was in the eternal plan of God. Indeed, since Jesus is God Himself it was His eternal plan for this to happen to Him. Therefore, we should not see this prayer of Jesus as Him somehow believing that His death could be postponed or avoided. He knew that it could not be.

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