Did Jesus Pray to Avoid the Crucifixion?

01 Jul

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After his final meal, which he shared with his disciples, and when he had finished speaking, Jesus went out to the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39). Many of the things that were recorded to have been done by Jesus recently were planned ahead of time and kept secret, no doubt, to avoid any prior knowledge on the part of Judas and the authorities who wished to arrest him. However, this was not so for Jesus’ choice of where to go on the Mount of Olives to spend the night, and Judas knew of this place on the mount. A way had to be made for Jesus’ arrest, but that event couldn’t happen until the prophesied time—the day the Passover lamb was slain.

Jesus always went to a specific place by the name of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36; Mark 14:32). The name, Gethsemane, means oil press. Apparently, the garden to which Jesus and his disciples usually retired and slept for the evening was a place on Mount Olives where olives were pressed for their oil. No doubt, its owner, perhaps one of Jesus’ disciples, had made it available to Jesus and his disciples when they visited Jerusalem on occasions such as the Passover, when rooms etc. would have been scarce due to the influx of pilgrims.

In Luke 22:40 Jesus told his disciples to pray that they would not enter into temptation. Jesus then withdrew (G645) from his disciples about a stone’s cast, perhaps cir.100 feet, where he fell, kneeling in prayer (Luke 22:41). Luke doesn’t say, but Jesus took Peter, James and John with him (Matthew 26:37-39; Mark 14:33-35). All Luke says is that Jesus withdrew (G645), which action implies a sense of force. Probably, it means Jesus felt he needed to be alone, or that he was drawn away from the others by his Father. He told Peter, James and John that he was exceedingly sad or depressed, and he felt his sorrow or depression had brought him to the point of death (Matthew 26:38).

Often the custom was to stand for prayer (cf. Luke 18:11, 13), but Jesus knelt (cf. Daniel 6:6-10). The posture one took in prayer may have something to do with the gravity of the situation or the matter prayed for. In Daniel’s case, he risked his life to pray; for Solomon, it was the solemn occasion of the dedication of the Temple (cf. 1Kings 8:54). For Jesus, he knew he would be slain before the day’s end, but he felt he was already dying, perhaps due to the pressure of the occasion come to bear upon him.

Jesus prayed that the cup would be taken from him (Luke 22:42; Mark 14:36), which Mark defines as that the hour would pass from him (Mark 14:35), but what does this mean? Whatever cup or hour Jesus wanted his Father to remove, it could not have been the crucifixion, as many assume to be the case (without Biblical support). Neither would he have prayed to have the affairs leading up to that event removed. Jesus claimed he was born or came into the world for exactly that purpose (John 12:24, 27; 18:11). He even said that whether or not he would be crucified was a matter that was entirely his choice to make. In other words he had the authority to walk away and not die (John 10:17-18), if that were his desire. He didn’t need to pray to have it removed, as though it were something out of his control.

If this is so, it would be ludicrous to say Jesus prayed to the Father to remove the occasion of his death from him. Such a thing might be compared with me praying that God would save me from entering military service, when it was my idea to join the armed forces to begin with. The idea simply doesn’t make sense.

Moreover, the idea that Jesus feared the crucifixion or hesitated to embrace it doesn’t seem to fit the context of Paul’s later picture of the Church being Christ’s bride (2Corinthians 11:2). Doesn’t’ Jesus want to pay the dowry or the price for his bride (cf. 1Samuel 18:25-27). Nevertheless, in John 15:13 Jesus claimed that greater love can no man express but to give his life for his friends (the Church—the bride of Christ). If this is so, how could Jesus request to be saved from having to pay the dowry for his bride? The idea that Jesus did pray for such a thing in Gethsemane simply doesn’t make sense.

In my next study in Luke, I’ll discuss what Jesus actually did pray for.


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Posted by on July 1, 2018 in Gospel of Luke


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