Chapter

Matthew 26:39

ESV 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.”
NIV 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.'
NASB And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.'
CSB Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
NLT 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.'
KJV And he went a little further, 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.

What does Matthew 26:39 mean?

Bible commentators have debated, downplayed, exaggerated, and otherwise argued over the meaning of Jesus' words in this prayer. After asking Peter, James, and John to watch with Him, Jesus moves a bit away from them and falls on His face (Matthew 26:36–38). This posture is used throughout the Bible, and history, by those taking the most humble and submissive position possible. In prayer, before God, this reflects a person making a request of great urgency. Jesus is also clearly exhausted in this moment. Other Gospels note the incredible stress He is experiencing (Mark 14:34; Luke 22:44).

The word cup is often used in Scripture to describe God's judgment or a time of great suffering. Jesus Himself asked James and John if they could "drink the cup" assigned to Him, meaning the suffering that He would soon endure (Matthew 20:22). Jesus knew He would soon experience God's judgment for the sins of humanity on the cross. He also knew He was nearing some strain, beyond human comprehension, of His communion with the Father (Matthew 27:46), for the first time in His eternal life.

As One fully human (Hebrews 4:15), Jesus seems overwhelmed and saddened to the point of death by this anticipation. He appears to pray, face to the ground, that God the Father would keep this from happening, if possible. Taken entirely out of context, this could raise questions about Christ's role in His own sacrifice. In some sense, Jesus does not "want" to experience these things. No human being "wants" to suffer humiliation, torture, and death. That's the point of His prayer: He is asking that "if" there is a possible way to avoid it, that He might avoid it.

Critically, though, Jesus immediately binds His request to submission. In virtually the same breath as He makes His appeal, He resolves to obey the will of the Father. Even more powerful than the anguish of His human emotions is Jesus' absolute commitment to obeying God. There is never a question as to whether Christ will follow through on His mission. This prayer is a cry to God, declaring both natural emotions and perfect faithfulness (Philippians 2:8).

This attitude when making requests to God is the perfect model for Christians, in all possible situations. It is good to ask the Father for exactly what we want; we are told to do this when we pray (Philippians 4:6; James 4:2). However, a Christlike prayer not only asks for something, but also commits to obeying God's will, even if the answer should be "no."
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