One of the arguments that appears from time to time on the discussion boards is that Jesus really blew it in Gethsemane, if he wanted anyone to believe he was God. How can God be afraid of anything? He cried out to God to remove his impending suffering and death, and seems at one point to be so afraid that he feared he might die of fear itself. What gives? Is this true? In a word, “No” it is not true, at least not in the manner in which the argument is formulated.
Luke records that Jesus said: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42), and just before Jesus knelt down to pray, he told his disciples: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). The Scriptures reveal that Jesus was exceedingly depressed over something, but I believe it is subjective opinion to conclude that he was depressed over his impending death. Certainly we know what was to happen to Jesus, but to read this into Jesus’ words here is not good, considering the context of what brings us to this point in Jesus’ life. For example, for at least a year, Jesus had been telling the disciples that he would be taken by the Jewish authorities and crucified. Why would he suddenly get cold feet? Moreover, at the beginning of what we call the “Last Supper,” Jesus expressed how glad he was that this particular Passover had arrived, because he knew that his time had come.
If we look at the book of John and what Jesus told the disciples after the supper was over, we would find that his departure should be a time of rejoicing for his disciples, because this meant that Jesus would be glorified in the way he had been before he became man. This glorification made possible the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the disciples themselves, so they would always have an intimacy with God. Not only so, but just before leaving the upper room, Jesus led the disciples in a hymn. On the way to the Mount of Olives Jesus discussed Peter’s denial which Peter simply would not believe he could ever do to the Lord. In view of all this, how could Jesus have been caught by surprise? Was he living in some fantasy world where no one gets hurt while trying to execute the will of God? Let’s be real here. Does the interpretation that Jesus was afraid to die fit the context of his life up to his prayer in Gethsemane? I for one say this whole idea is illogical. The interpretation simply doesn’t fit the context of what has brought us to this point in Jesus’ life, and remember this interpretation is subjective. The text is not explicit. What, then, happened in Gethsemane that made Jesus afraid or more properly: depressed?
I believe we are given a clue according to how Jesus acted before Gethsemane and afterward. If you have a red-letter bible just look at the Gospel accounts of what we call the Last Supper. Look especially at John. Notice all the red, revealing Jesus was speaking quite a bit. Now look at the Gospel narratives from Gethsemane to the Crucifixion. There is a great disparity in the amount of red print in everyone’s Bibles between these two points of reference. Why was Jesus so talkative before Gethsemane and so silent afterward?
If we can assume that the shedding of Jesus blood has to do with his bearing our sins, as the Scriptures testify, then I submit that the Kidron Valley, which Jesus and the disciples crossed from Jerusalem to Gethsemane, was a kind of border where on the one side Jesus was ready to meet his fate, but on the other side something made him depressed. The Kidron was used as a kind of dumping ground for the gods that were burnt and destroyed by the righteous kings of Judah. If we can say that as Jesus crossed this valley our sins began to weigh down upon him, evidenced in the blood mingled with sweat as he prayed for the Father to reply to his prayer, then it is not Jesus’ fate that worried him, it was the consequences of his present condition. Isaiah 59:2 tells us that our sins have separated us from God. This being true, as our sins began to weigh upon Jesus, his fellowship with his Father was no longer obvious to him. He became exceedingly depressed, but fear is entirely subjective. Fear is not once mentioned in the text in reference to Jesus. His depression led him to understand he could die without going to the cross.
Jesus kept praying and returning to the disciples whom he requested to pray with him. Jesus understood that the Father had already evidenced his speaking to them when Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Remember what Jesus told him—flesh and blood had not told him this, but the Father revealed it to Peter’s heart. Jesus kept returning to the disciples hoping to receive second hand fellowship with his Father—through one of the disciples. They slept, but the Father answered Jesus’ prayer by sending an angel—therein Jesus was strengthened (physically and emotionally) and was able to continue. Jesus didn’t speak much after the Gethsemane experience, because he was no longer privy to his fellowship with the Father. He knew his Father was guiding everything, but Jesus kept silent through it all—accepting the will of the Father, as expressed through the events that transpired.
Therefore, Jesus’ prayer had absolutely nothing to do with his going to the cross and dying. He thought he might die before he finished his assignment. He didn’t want that to occur. He prayed to his Father to break through and comfort him in his distress. He could no longer recognize that “Still Small Voice” from within. Jesus’ answer came in the form of an angel, because the Father always answers Jesus’ prayer, because Jesus whole desire (will) is to manifest the Father’s will in all things.