Matthew 26:39
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 you will.
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(39) He went a little farther.—St. Luke adds (Luke 22:41) “about a stone’s cast.” The eight were left, we may believe, near the entrance of the garden; the three, “apart by themselves,” further on; the Master, still further, by Himself. The three heard the words that came from His lips as with a half-consciousness which revived afterwards in memory, but they were then numbed and stupefied with weariness and sorrow. It was now near the dawning of the day, and their eyes had not closed in sleep for four-and-twenty hours.

If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.—We shrink instinctively from analysing or commenting on the utterances of that hour of agony. But, happily, words are given us where our own words fail. Thus it was, we are told, that “He learned obedience by the things that He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). He had spoken before to the very disciples who were now near Him of the “cup” which His Father had given Him to drink (Matthew 20:23). Now the “cup” is brought to His lips, and His human will at once shrinks from it and accepts it. The prayer which He had taught His disciples to use, “Lead us not into temptation,” is now His prayer, but it is subordinated to that other prayer, which is higher even than it, “Thy will be done.” In the prayer “If it be possible” we recognise, as in Mark 13:32, the natural, necessary limits of our Lord’s humanity In one sense “with God all things are possible,” but even the Divine Omnipotence works through self-imposed laws, in the spiritual as in the natural world, and there also ends cannot be obtained except through their appointed and therefore necessary means. God might have redeemed mankind, men have rashly said, without the sufferings and death of the Son of Man, but the higher laws of the Divine Government made such a course, if we may venture so to speak, morally impossible.

Matthew 26:39. And he went a little further — Luke says, He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, so that the apostles could still both see and hear him; and fell on his face — It seems he first knelt down, Luke 22:41, and then, as the ardour of his soul increased, prostrated himself on his face to the ground, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible — That is, if it be consistent with the salvation of the world; let this cup — Of bitterness and terror, pass from me — And it did pass from him soon; for when he cried unto God with strong cries and tears, he was heard in that which he feared, Hebrews 5:7. God took away the terror and severity of that inward conflict. That it was not the fear of dying on the cross which made our Lord speak and pray in the manner here related, is evident from this, that to suppose it would be to degrade his character infinitely. Suppose his sufferings to be as terrible as possible, clothe them with all the aggravating circumstances imaginable; yet if no more was included in them than the pains of death, inasmuch as his human nature was strengthened far beyond the natural pitch by its union with the divine, for Jesus to have shrunk at the prospect of them, would have shown a weakness which many of his followers were strangers to, encountering more terrible deaths without the least emotion. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt — Here we see, that though his prayer was most fervent, yet it was accompanied with due expressions of entire resignation.26:36-46 He who made atonement for the sins of mankind, submitted himself in a garden of suffering, to the will of God, from which man had revolted in a garden of pleasure. Christ took with him into that part of the garden where he suffered his agony, only those who had witnessed his glory in his transfiguration. Those are best prepared to suffer with Christ, who have by faith beheld his glory. The words used denote the most entire dejection, amazement, anguish, and horror of mind; the state of one surrounded with sorrows, overwhelmed with miseries, and almost swallowed up with terror and dismay. He now began to be sorrowful, and never ceased to be so till he said, It is finished. He prayed that, if possible, the cup might pass from him. But he also showed his perfect readiness to bear the load of his sufferings; he was willing to submit to all for our redemption and salvation. According to this example of Christ, we must drink of the bitterest cup which God puts into our hands; though nature struggle, it must submit. It should be more our care to get troubles sanctified, and our hearts satisfied under them, than to get them taken away. It is well for us that our salvation is in the hand of One who neither slumbers nor sleeps. All are tempted, but we should be much afraid of entering into temptation. To be secured from this, we should watch and pray, and continually look unto the Lord to hold us up that we may be safe. Doubtless our Lord had a clear and full view of the sufferings he was to endure, yet he spoke with the greatest calmness till this time. Christ was a Surety, who undertook to be answerable for our sins. Accordingly he was made sin for us, and suffered for our sins, the Just for the unjust; and Scripture ascribes his heaviest sufferings to the hand of God. He had full knowledge of the infinite evil of sin, and of the immense extent of that guilt for which he was to atone; with awful views of the Divine justice and holiness, and the punishment deserved by the sins of men, such as no tongue can express, or mind conceive. At the same time, Christ suffered being tempted; probably horrible thoughts were suggested by Satan that tended to gloom and every dreadful conclusion: these would be the more hard to bear from his perfect holiness. And did the load of imputed guilt so weigh down the soul of Him of whom it is said, He upholdeth all things by the word of his power? into what misery then must those sink whose sins are left upon their own heads! How will those escape who neglect so great salvation?And he went a little further - That is, at the distance that a man could conveniently cast a stone (Luke).

Fell on his face - Luke says "he kneeled down." He did both.

He first kneeled, and then, in the fervency of his prayer and the depth of his sorrow, he fell with his face on the ground, denoting the deepest anguish and the most earnest entreaty. This was the usual posture of prayer in times of great earnestness. See Numbers 16:22; 2 Chronicles 20:18; Nehemiah 8:6.

If it be possible - That is, if the world can be redeemed - if it be consistent with justice, and with maintaining the government of the universe, that people should be saved without this extremity of sorrow, let it be done. There is no doubt that if it had been possible it would have been done; and the fact that these sufferings were "not" removed, and that the Saviour went forward and bore them without mitigation, shows that it was not consistent with the justice of God and with the welfare of the universe that people should be saved without the awful sufferings of "such an atonement."

Let this cup - These bitter sufferings. These approaching trials. The word cup is often used in this sense, denoting sufferings. See the notes at Matthew 20:22.

Not as I will, but as thou wilt - As Jesus was man as well as God, there is nothing inconsistent in supposing that, as man, he was deeply affected in view of these sorrows. When he speaks of His will, he expresses what "human nature," in view of such great sufferings, would desire. It naturally shrunk from them and sought deliverance. Yet he sought to do the will of God. He chose rather that the high purpose of God should be done, than that that purpose should be abandoned from regard to the fears of his human nature. In this he has left a model of prayer in all times of affliction. It is right, in times of calamity, to seek deliverance. Like the Saviour, also, in such seasons we should, we must submit cheerfully to the will of God, confident that in all these trials he is wise, and merciful, and good.

Mt 26:36-46. The Agony in the Garden. ( = Mr 14:32-42; Lu 22:39-46).

For the exposition, see on [1364]Lu 22:39-46.

Mark saith, Mark 14:35,36, He went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from, me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. Luke saith, Luke 22:41,42, He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. Here are three distinct forms of words, but all agreeing in one and the same sense. Matthew saith, He went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed. He at his first motion carried but three with him, Peter, James, and John; now he leaves them, but not far, Luke saith, about a stone’s cast.. Fervent prayer loves privacy, and Christ by this teacheth us that secret prayer is our duty. He fell on his face; Luke saith, he kneeled; he possibly at first kneeled, then fell on his face. We read in Scripture of sitting, standing, kneeling, and prostration used in prayer; the first and last rarely; standing and kneeling were the most ordinary postures. David prayed sitting in his house, 2 Samuel 7:18. Abraham fell on his face, Genesis 17:17. So did Moses and Aaron, Numbers 16:22,45. Prostration was ordinarily used in great passions; hardly otherwise in prayer.

Saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. Mark first tells us the sum of his prayer, then saith he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. Luke saith he said, If thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. Luke’s if thou be willing expounds Matthew’s if it be possible. A thing in itself may be possible which considered in its circumstances is not so: thus, as it is in Mark, all things are to God possible; but yet it is not possible for God to alter any thing which he hath decreed, or said shall come to pass; because God is not as man, one that can lie, or repent. But it will be objected, Did not Christ know that it was not possible? Did not he himself, Matthew 26:54, say,

thus it must be? I answer, It is one thing what he knew as he was God, and of counsel with the Father; and another thing what he prayed for as man. Besides, our Saviour’s saying, if it be possible, doth not suppose that he knew it was possible; it signifieth no more than this, Father, my human nature hath an aversion from this heavy stroke, so as, if it were possible, it craves of thee a discharge from this curse: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. The first clause is but the expression of the natural (but not sinful) infirmity of his flesh; the latter a perfect resignation of his will to God. In the first he tells his Father what his natural flesh would crave, if it might consist with the will of God. In the second he begs that, whatsoever his flesh craved, yet the will of God might be done. And herein he sets us a perfect pattern for our prayers for deliverance from temporal evils, viz. with a submission to the will of God. By this our Saviour doth not declare himself ignorant or uncertain of the Divine will: only as, though the person that died was God man, yet the human nature only died; so, though the person that prayed was God man, yet he only prayed as he was man. And he went a little further,.... Luke says, Luke 22:41, "about a stone's cast", about fifty or sixty feet from the place where they were,

and fell on his face, and prayed; partly to show his great reverence of God, the sword of whose justice was awaked against him, the terrors of whose law were set in array before him, and whose wrath was pouring down upon him; and partly to signify how much his soul was depressed, how low he was brought, and in what distress and anguish of spirit he was, that he was not able to lift up his head, and look up. This was a prayer gesture used when a person was in the utmost perplexity. The account the Jews give of it, is this (g),

, "when they fall upon their faces", they do not stretch out their hands and their feet, but incline on their sides.

This was not to be done by any person, or at any time; the rules are these (h):

"no man is accounted fit , "to fall upon his face", but he that knows in himself that he is righteous, as Joshua; but he inclines his face a little, and does not bow it down to the floor; and it is lawful for a man to pray in one place, and to "fall upon his face" in another: it is a custom that reaches throughout all Israel, that there is no falling upon the face on a sabbath day, nor on feast days, nor on the beginning of the year, nor on the beginning of the month, nor on the feast of dedication, nor on the days of "purim", nor at the time of the meat offering of the eves of the sabbath days, and good days, nor at the evening prayer for every day; and there are private persons that fall upon their faces at the evening prayer, and on the day of atonement only: they fall upon their faces because it is a time of supplication, request, and fasting.

Saying, O my father; or, as in Mark, "Abba, Father", Mark 14:36; "Abba" being the Syriac word he used, and signifies, "my father"; and the other word is added for explanation's sake, and to denote the vehemency of his mind, and fervour of spirit in prayer. Christ prayed in the same manner he taught his disciples to pray, saying, "our Father"; and as all his children pray under the influence of the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry "Abba, Father". God is the Father of Christ, not as man, for as such he was without father, being the seed of the woman, and made of a woman, without man; nor by creation, as he is the Father of spirits, of angels, and the souls of men, of Adam, and all mankind; nor by adoption, as he is the Father of all the chosen, redeemed, and regenerated ones; but by nature, he being the only begotten of the Father, in a manner inconceivable and inexpressible by us. Christ now addresses him in prayer in his human nature, as standing in this relation to him as the Son of God, both to express his reverence of him, and what freedom and boldness he might use with him; what confidence he might put in him; and what expectation he might have of being heard and regarded by him; and what submission and resignation of will was due from himself unto him,

If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; meaning not only the hour, as it is called in Mark, the present season and time of distress, and horror; but all his future sufferings and death, which were at hand; together with the bearing the sins of his people, the enduring the curse of the law, and the wrath of God, all which were ingredients in, and made up this dreadful bitter cup, this cup of fury, cursing, and trembling; called a cup, either in allusion to the nauseous potions given by physicians to their patients; or rather to the cup of poison given to malefactors the sooner to dispatch them; or to that of wine mingled with myrrh and frankincense to intoxicate them, that they might not feel their pain; see Gill on Mark 15:23, or to the cup appointed by the master of the family to everyone in the house; these sorrows, sufferings, and death of Christ being what were allotted and appointed by his heavenly Father: and when he prays that this cup might pass from him, his meaning is, that he might be freed from the present horrors of his mind, be excused the sufferings of death, and be delivered from the curse of the law, and wrath of God; which request was made without sin, though it betrayed the weakness of the human nature under its insupportable load, and its reluctance to sufferings and death, which is natural; and yet does not represent him herein as inferior to martyrs, who have desired death, and triumphed in the midst of exquisite torments: for their case and his were widely different; they had the presence of God with them, Christ was under the hidings of his Father's face; they had the love of God shed abroad in them, he had the wrath of God poured out upon him; and his prayer bespeaks him to be in a condition which neither they, nor any mortal creature were ever in. Moreover, the human nature of Christ was now, as it were, swallowed up in sorrow, and intent upon nothing but sufferings and death; had nothing in view but the wrath of God, and the curse of the law; so that everything else was, for the present, out of sight; as the purposes of God, his counsel and covenant, his own engagements and office, and the salvation of his people; hence it is no wonder to hear such a request made; and yet it is with this condition, "if it be possible". In Mark it is said, "all things are possible unto thee", Mark 14:36; intimating, that the taking away, or causing the cup to pass from him, was: all things are possible to God, which are consistent with the perfections of his nature, and the counsel of his will: and all such things, though possible in themselves, yet are not under such and such circumstances so; the removal of the cup from Christ was possible in itself, but not as things were circumstanced, and as matters then stood; and therefore it is hypothetically put, "if it be possible", as it was not; and that by reason of the decrees and purposes of God, which had fixed it, and are immutable; and on account of the covenant of grace, of which this was a considerable branch and article, and in which Christ had agreed unto it, and is unalterable; and also on the score of the prophecies of the Old Testament, in which it had been often spoken of; and therefore without it, how should the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be? they would not have been the Scriptures of truth. Besides, Christ had foretold it himself once and again, and therefore consistent with the truth of his own predictions, it could not be dispensed with: add to all this, that the salvation of his people required his drinking it; that could not be brought about no other way in agreement with the veracity, faithfulness, justice, and holiness of God. This condition qualities and restrains the above petition; nor is it to be considered but in connection with what follows:

nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt; which shows that the request was far from being sinful, or contrary to piety to God, or love to men, or to true fortitude of mind; the pure natural will of Christ, or the will of Christ's human nature, being left to act in a mere natural way, shows a reluctancy to sorrows, sufferings, and death; this same will acting on rational principles, and in a rational way, puts it upon the possibility the thing, and the agreement of the divine will to it. That there are two wills in Christ, human and divine, is certain; his human will, though in some instances, as in this, may have been different from the divine will, yet not contrary to it; and his divine will is always the same with his Father's. This, as mediator, he engaged to do, and came down from heaven for that purpose, took delight in doing it, and has completely finished it,

(g) Gloss. in T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 34. 2.((h) Maimon. Hilch. Tephilla, c. 5. sect. 14, 15.

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, {s} let this {t} cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

(s) Let it pass me, and not touch me.

(t) That is, which is at hand, and is offered and prepared for me: an idiom which the Hebrews use for the wrath of God, and the punishment he sends. See Geneva Mt 20:22.

Matthew 26:39. Μικρόν] belongs to προελθών: after He had gone forward a short distance. For μικρόν comp. Xen. Cyrop. iv. 2. 6 (μικρὸν πορευθέντες); Hist. Gr. vii. 2. 13 (μικρὸν δʼ αὐτοὺς προπέμψαντες).

ἐπὶ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ] The article was not necessary before πρόσωπ. (in opposition to Fritzsche, who takes αὐτοῦ as meaning there). Comp. Matthew 11:10, Matthew 17:6, and elsewhere. Winer, p. 116 [E. T. 152]. Bengel appropriately observes: “in faciem, non modo in genua; summa demissio.”

εἰ δυνατόν ἐστι] ethical possibility according to the divine purpose. Similarly the popular expression πάντα δυνατά σοι is to be understood, according to the sense in which Jesus uses it, as implying the necessary condition of harmony with the divine will.

τὸ ποτήριον τοῦτο] i.e. this suffering and death immediately before me. Comp. Matthew 20:22.

πλὴν οὐχ, κ.τ.λ.] The wish, to which in His human dread of suffering He gave utterance, that, if possible, He should not be called upon to endure it (ἔδειξε τὸ ἀνθρώπινον, Chrysostom), at once gives place to absolute submission, John 5:30; John 6:38. The word to be understood after σύ (θέλεις) is not γενέσθω, but, as corresponding with the οὐχ (not μή, observe), γενήσεται, or ἔσται, in which the petitioner expresses his final determination. It may be observed further, that the broken utterance is in keeping with the deep emotion of our Lord.

For ὡς, which, so far as the essential meaning is concerned, is identical with the relative pronoun, comp. Hermann, ad Hom. h. in Cer. 172.Matthew 26:39. μικρὸν, a little space, presumably near enough for them to hear (cf. Luke 22:41).—ἐπὶ πρόσωπον, on His face, not on kness, summa demissio (Beng.).—πάτερ, Father! Weiss in Markus-Evang. seems to think that the one word Abba was all the three heard, the rest of the prayer being an expansion and interpretation by the evangelist. But if they heard one word they could hear more. The prayer uttered in such a state of distress would be a loud outburst (cf. μετὰ κραυγῆς ἰσχυρᾶς, Hebrews 5:7), at once, therefore before the disciples had time to fall asleep or even get drowsy.—τὸ ποτήριον τ., this cup (of death).—πλὴν, etc., howbeit not as I wish, but as Thou, expressively elliptical; no doubt spoken in a calmer tone, the subdued accent suggestive of a change of mood even if the very words did not distinctly reach the ear of the three. Grotius, from theological solicitudes, takes θέλω = θέλοιμι, “vellem” (“more Hebraeorum, qui neque potentialem neque optativum modum habent”).39. went a little further] The paschal full moon would make deep shadow for the retirement of Jesus.

O my Father] St Mark has the Aramaic Abba as well as the Greek word for Father.

this cup] See note, ch. Matthew 20:22. Were these words overheard by the sons of Zebedee? If so, the thought of their ambition and of their Master’s answer would surely recur to them (ch. Matthew 20:20-23).

not as I will] In the “Agony,” as in the Temptation, the Son submits Himself to His Father’s will.Matthew 26:39. Ἐπὶ πρόσωπον, on His face) not only on His knees[1147]—the deepest humiliation.[1148]—ΠΆΤΕΡ ΜΟΥ, My Father) Jesus prays as a Son.—εἰ δυνατόν ἐστι, if it is possible) cf. Matthew 26:53, from which verse it also appears how promptly and perfectly Jesus surrendered Himself to the will of the Father.—τὸ ποτήριον, the cup) offered by the Father, brimful with the whole draught of suffering.—θέλω, I will) This Will of Jesus that the cup might pass away from Him, was not absolute without reference to His Fathers Will. Cf. the latter part of John 21:18.[1149]

[1147] Which Luke records.—V. g.

[1148] Such as occurs in His history, nowhere else.—V. g.

[1149] Where Peter’s flesh is represented as not willing (ὅπου οὐ θέλεις) that which his spirit would be willing to bear. The not-willingness is not absolute without reference to God’s will and glory. His flesh would wish to escape, only if so were God’s will.—ED.Verse 39. - He went a little further. Deeper into the wood, beneath the gloomy shadow of the olive trees, yet so as not to feel absolutely alone. St. Luke names the distance, "He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast." By some clerical error the genuine reading, προελθὼν, "having gone forward," has been altered in most of the best manuscripts into προσελθὼν, "having approached." There can be no doubt that this latter reading is erroneous; and it is well, as occasion bids, to call attention to possible mistakes in the most important uncials. Fell on his face, and prayed. He prostrated himself on the ground in utter abasement and desolation, yet in submission withal. In this terrible crisis there is no resource but prayer. The shadow of death enveloped him, wave and storm rolled over his soul; yet out of the deep he called unto the Lord. In the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 5:7, 8) some affecting details are added, "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear, though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered." O my Father (Πάτερ μου). The personal pronoun is omitted in some manuscripts, but it has high authority. Only on this occasion and in his great prayer (John 17.) does Christ so address the Father, his human nature in the depth of suffering retaining still the sense of this paternity. St. Mark has, "Abba, Father," as if he spake for the Hebrew race and the Gentile world. If it be possible; i.e. if there is any other way in which man may be saved and thou be glorified; if there is any other mode of redemption. It is the cry of humanity, yet conditioned by perfect submission. Let this cup pass from me. The "cup" is the bitter agony of his Passion and death, with all their grievous accompaniments (see Matthew 20:22, and note there). All heroism and manly endurance in the face of pain and death Christ exhibited to the full; but the elements of suffering in his case were different, and fraught with exquisite torture (see above, on ver. 28). Such was the anguish that it would have then separated soul and body - of such rigour that "his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground" - had not an angel appeared from heaven to strengthen and support the fainting human life (Luke 22:43, 44). Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. In this prayer are shown the two wills of Christ, the human and Divine. The natural shrinking of the human soul from ignominy and torture is overborne by entire submission to and compliance with the Divine purpose. So it is said that the Captain of our salvation was made perfect through sufferings, learned obedience by the things which he suffered (Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:8) By this passage the Monophysite and Monothelite heresies are clearly refuted, the two natures and two wills of Christ being plainly displayed. The three apostles saw only some part of their Master's intense agony, and heard only some broken utterances of his supplication; hence there are some slight variations in the synoptical accounts. St. Mark doubtless derived his account immediately from St Peter; the other synoptists from some other source.
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