Like a terminally ill patient, Jesus knows that death is around the corner. God has mapped out a path and written a ticket reading "End of Earthly Life." Our mortality is a frightening thing. Jesus faces it by doing what he always did: he took his concerns to God in prayer. While warning the disciples throughout this scene of the danger of temptation, Jesus walks into his valley of the shadow of death through the heavenly courts of God's presence. Unlike some who face death, he is not angry; nor is he stoic. He is not withdrawn, he is not bereft of hope. He simply is honest with God: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me." If there is any way I can avoid experiencing your cup of wrath for others, he prays, then remove it (on cup as wrath, Ps 11:6; 75:7-8; Is 51:17, 19, 22; Jer 25:15-16; 49:12; 51:57; Ezek 23:31-34). Like many who face death, Jesus would like to avoid dying now. If he were considering only his personal preference, he would rather not experience the pain of mortality and the horror of paying for sin.
But Jesus has a more fundamental concern: "Yet not my will, but yours be done." Here Jesus submits to God's plan and will. If it is time and this is the way to accomplish your desire, he says, then, Lord, take me. Jesus is committed to God's will, even above his own desires. If that means suffering, so be it. If that means death, so be it. By relying on prayer and communion with God, Jesus faces his dark hour as a shining light.
Almost as if in answer to the prayer, an angel ministers to Jesus. Its ministering presence strengthens him. Details about how this happens are not noted. What is clear is that Jesus does not face this moment alone.
Already committed to God's will, Jesus continues to pray with even more intense emotion. He prays more earnestly and is laboring so hard in his prayer that his sweat is like drops of blood falling to the ground. Such sweating indicates the intensity of Jesus' feelings and condition. In Notes: 22:39-46 The parallels are Mark 14:32-42 and Matthew 26:36-46, though Luke's version is the most concise. Luke lacks several of the details of the other versions (for a full list, Bock 1995: introduction to this passage). Another issue is whether verses 43-44 were originally a part of Luke. This textual problem is much discussed, and many omit the text. Fitzmyer (1985:1443-44) is but one outstanding example (also Stein [1992:559], who correctly explains in n. 55 why talking about such omissions is not heretical but is simply a discussion of the nature of the original text). External evidence does slightly favor omission, since p, p, corrected Aleph, B, A, T and W exclude the text, while original Aleph, D and the Byzantine tradition include it. Following the shorter reading rule would also suggest omission. But other internal features make inclusion more likely (Neyrey 1985:59-62). Does the "shorter reading" guideline apply when whole verses are being discussed? Justin Martyr a literary sense, the shedding of blood is already beginning. A deep dependence on the Father sometimes comes with great pain.
While Jesus is laboring hard in prayer, the disciples are asleep from sorrow. The rapidly spiraling succession of events has worn them down. Again, Jesus makes a spiritual picture of it all, asking them, "Why are you sleeping? . . . Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation." Surviving the pressure of suffering and rejection, overcoming the harrowing prospect of persecution and facing mortality require being on constant alert. Like the military guarding a country, disciples must maintain preparedness and communication with those in charge if they are to prevent defeat.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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