“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’”
Explanation and Commentary of Matthew 26:39
This is a gut-wrenching scene, especially for those who love and cherish Christ. Here is an example of a sinless one making a request that is not of the will of God. We are taught first that, though God loves us, it is not always his will to answer our prayers. It is by faith that prayers are prayed which are granted, but faith is not positive thinking or certainty of God’s will in a situation. Christ had faith in his Father, but he did not have faith that what he was asking was the will of God. In fact, he said, “not as I will, but as you will.”
This also shows us that it is not necessarily a product of our sin that we don’t want to suffer, or that we would pray a prayer that is not in alignment with the will of God. A true believer should take comfort from the fact that God will do what is good and right for us, no matter what we are asking. It does not follow that we should never pray, assuming that God will do what he wants anyway. He has ordained it that he accomplishes his purpose in partnership with his people. He told Job’s friends that Job would pray for them and they would be forgiven for their sin against Job and God (Job 42:8).
As for Christ in the garden, it was not likely the pain and death that he was so repulsed by, although he could not have looked forward to it. Rather, it must have been both the separation from his Father in heaven for the first and only time in the eternal past, and the subjection to the sin and wickedness of man in his own body, having “become sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21).
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Matthew 26:39
#1 “Going a little farther,”
Jesus asked some of his disciples to stop and pray while he was praying. He went a little bit away to be alone.
#2 “he fell with his face to the ground…”
This is one of the first signs of his great distress to be at the culmination of his earthly ministry and what it was going to cost him.
#3 “and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible,”
This is one sign that in his earthly form Christ had laid down a portion of the omniscience of God. There were things only the Father knew (Mt 24:36).
#4 “may this cup be taken from me.”
Generally, in the Bible, when a cup is used as a prophetic symbol, it refers at least to suffering, and often to the wrath of God. Jesus refers to both when he thinks of drinking the cup prepared for him. It is a cup of suffering because it is the wrath of God for the sins of the world.
#5 “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
The temporary misalignment of wills between the Son and the Father came as a result of Jesus’ humanity. It was not a pretended role that he played on earth. Christ was fully human and fully God. In his full humanity, he was bound to submit to the will of God even when his own desire was contrary. We should have the same attitude.
Expert Overview of Matthew Ch. 14-28
Biblical Translations of Matthew 26:39
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
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.”
And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.