"O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me,
except I drink it, YOUR WILL BE DONE."
"He was heard for His godly fear."
The remarkable passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews,
supplementing the Gospel narrative, says of Christ, the High Priest of the
Church—"Who in the days of His flesh, having 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" (Heb. 5:7, 8)
Two important questions arise—
What was the prayer?
How was it heard?
The prayer being addressed to "Him who was able to save
Him from death" has been interpreted by some to mean a request to be
delivered from the impending crucifixion. If so, the prayer was not heard.
Consequently this was not the request. A marginal note in the R.V. says
"Out of death." And some have considered that our Lord prayed that,
though He must die, death might be the speedy entrance to the life beyond.
Thus He prayed for the Resurrection and Ascension, and so was heard.
The Old Version renders the clause, "He was heard in that
He feared," and many interpreters have maintained that the prayer was
answered by our Lord being delivered from the oppressively agonizing fear
which had prompted the prayer—"Let this cup pass from me." But some of the
best scholars are of opinion that the word rendered fear never means the
fear of terror, but of reverence, and that the meaning of the clause cannot
be from but on account of this reverence. Dean Alford renders
"He was heard on account of His pious resignation;" and the R.V. "He
was heard for His godly fear."
Although no child of God would claim merit for
resignation, yet this is a condition of mind which may render it suitable
for God to grant our requests. It may be good for us to obtain what we ask
when willing to forego it, and not before. We are more likely to be heard
when we yield to His will than when we press our own. Our Lord
was our perfect Example. We often begin by making our own wishes
paramount, and gradually let them recede behind the will of God. But our
Lord, throughout this agony of prayer, desired supremely that the will of
His Father might be done.
But why is it said that the prayer was addressed to "Him
who was able to save Him from death?" As already explained, His
humanity shrank from the sufferings of both body and mind awaiting Him. Had
the cup not been to Him bitter, had the cross not been torture, had such a
death not been agony, He would not have been really human—the "Son of Man;"
and so He shuddered in view of it. But had He relented in purpose, and
willed for a moment that His human feelings might prevail over His Father's
will, He would not have been our perfect Redeemer and Example. "If he had
not felt the cross to be a dread, it had been no sacrifice. If he had
allowed the dread to penetrate to His will, He had been no Savior."
(Alexander Maclaren). He carried His human fear to One, able, if He chose,
to deliver Him from all that He apprehended. It was the prayer of the faith
that "God is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."
But while appealing to Him who was able to save Him from a death so
terrible, from drinking a cup so bitter, the burden of the prayer from
beginning to end was this—"Not my will, but Yours be done."
Thus the prayer in Gethsemane was that of "piety," of
"godly fear," of "pious resignation." It was an earnest, importunate
pleading for His Father's will, and therefore for help to accomplish it. His
humanity was shrinking, the flesh was weak, the devil was tempting, there
was an agony of conflict, the "hour of darkness" was striving against the
Light; and from the gloom of the deadly combat came forth from the first,
reiterated, prevailing over every suggestion of Satan, every desire of the
weak though sinless flesh, every prompting of the perfect though sensitive
humanity, this conquering cry—"Father! Your will be done!"
This prayer was answered. He was "heard for His godly
fear," heard in the one prevailing request which His godliness, His
reverence, His filial love dictated. He had come to the world for the very
purpose of carrying out the Father's purpose of love—"I delight to do Your
will!" And He was heard by being enabled to do it, by the strengthening of
His frail body, by the allaying of His human fears, by victory over the foe
in this fierce final struggle. His prayer was answered, not by escape from
the death in view, but by victory over it, and from all fear of it; so that
although He was still to be betrayed, condemned, mocked, scourged,
crucified, yet He was heard by deliverance from the agony then crushing both
body and spirit, and by invigoration to perform that will of God, the
accomplishment of which was the prayer of Gethsemane.
This had been His prayer when He predicted His death,
saying, "The hour has come, that the Son of Man should be glorified. Now is
my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour—but
for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Your Name." He prayed
that His Father might be glorified by strengthening Him to endure the hour,
to suffer the death, to realize the glory. Save me out of this hour, not
that I may escape it, but that I may endure it, and be delivered out of it
by accomplishing the purpose of it—Your Will. (John 12:23-28).
Throughout the whole of His ministry on earth our Lord
spoke and acted as the obedient agent of His Father. He "took on Him the
form of a servant," and as a servant He regarded the will of God as supreme.
"I came not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me." It was
impossible for Him to have any aim or wish that might interfere with His
dominant purpose. The will of the Father was the will of the Son, and the
prayer which was heard was for the strength needed for the execution of that
The first evidence of this was the angel sent from the
Father as the minister of such invigoration. "There appeared an angel unto
Him from heaven, strengthening Him." Here was a direct, immediate, visible
answer—the angel of invigoration, giving strength for the doing of the will.
The reality of the invigoration was evident in the
behavior of the Sufferer in all that followed. The agony had not at once
become less, but power to endure it had increased. The prayer was not
feebler by weariness, but stronger in importunity. "Being in agony he prayed
the more earnestly." This was itself an answer, in the evidence of strength
bestowed; not rendering the Father more willing to hear, but solacing the
Sufferer in such utterance of His deepest desires, and in the increased
assurance that the Father who helped His infirmities so to pray, would
assuredly "hear Him for His godly fear."
The infirmity of the humanity was now exchanged for the
strength communicated in answer to the prayer. The form was no longer
prostrate but erect. The cries were hushed. No more tears were shed. Calm
had succeeded conflict. The spirit ever willing was now directing the flesh
no longer weak. Jesus rose from prayer, woke the sleepers, warned them of
the danger, and advanced to meet the foe. "Rise up, let us be going; behold
he is at hand who betrays me." There was no idea of escape. "Let us be
going," not away from, but towards the traitor. The hand which had shrunk
from the cup when not actually presented was now stretched out to receive
Capture might have been avoided. Amid the shadow of the
great trees, behind the rocks, or in the caves and tombs, hiding-places
might have been found, until at dawn of day Christ and His disciples might
have reappeared amid the admiring crowds at Jerusalem, whom a few miracles
might have aroused to an enthusiasm which their rulers would not dare to
provoke. Apart from Divine knowledge, His human faculties, all awake as He
was, must have detected the moving lights and increasing murmur of the
crowd. But there was no attempt at flight or concealment. He Himself
advanced to meet His captors, and was the first to speak.
Judas was now approaching, "and with him a great
multitude, with swords and knives, from the chief priests and the scribes,
and the elders." There were also present some of the Roman Guard from the
Tower of Antonia, whose special duty was to keep order in the Temple, and so
were sent to secure the one charged with gathering disorderly crowds there,
and promoting sedition. A small rabble of men leagued against twelve legions
of angels! Soldiers of the decaying Empire to bind the Lord of Heaven and
earth! Priests of the perishing temple to drag to death the everlasting High
"Jesus, knowing all things that should come on Him, went
forth, and said unto them, Whom do you seek? They said, Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus said unto them, I am He." He was ready for their wicked will, made
ready in answer to prayer. So sublime was His fortitude, such dignity
combined with such sorrow in His demeanor, that they, surprised, confounded,
self-condemned, in a moment of terror, shrank backward on the rocky, sloping
ground—stumbling in confusion against each other and lying prostrate, so
that escape even then would have been easy. "They went backward and fell to
the ground." Without the need of any miracle to effect this, they were
overawed by the majestic dignity and courage which proved that His prayer
had been heard.
Rallying after brief discomfiture, the motley crowd again
advanced. For a moment they were irresolute, Judas also "stood with them."
They seemed uncertain whom to seize. The calmness of Jesus was again evident
in His repeated inquiry, "Whom do you seek?" "They said, Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus answered, I have told you that I am He—If therefore you seek Me, let
these go their way." His composure was seen in thoughtful care for others.
"You have said you seek only Jesus of Nazareth. I have repeatedly told you I
am He. My name alone is in your warrant, and you cannot detain my friends.
Let them go where they will."
The officers still hesitated. Could it be that the
'dangerous criminal', the formidable conspirator and leader of sedition, was
thus, without an attempt at resistance or concealment, offering Himself to
bonds, and probably to death? Might not one of His confederates be
pretending to be the Chief, so that the object of pursuit might meanwhile
escape? The doubt was removed by Judas, who now gave the sign, preconcerted
to avoid mistake. "And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master;
and kissed Him."
The answer to the prayer was revealed also in the Lord's
address to Judas. The quiet, sad, pathetic, but searching question—"Judas,
are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"—proved how calm and strong He
Still more was the fact that our Lord "was heard" evident
from those precious words, "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I
not drink it?" He had first prayed that the cup might pass from Him, if
possible. This was not possible. Then—"If this cup may not pass from me
unless I drink it, Your Will be done." The unconditional prayer was
this—"Your Will be done"—Whatever the cost, however painful the process. So
His prayer was really heard by the being strengthened to do that Will for
which He prayed. He no longer says, "Let the cup pass from me," but "Shall I
not drink it?"
Thus it was that Christ was "heard for His godly fear."
His repeated, paramount, agonizing prayer was for the accomplishment of His
Father's Will. His "godly fear" was this godly longing for the will of God.
He "was heard" in the invigoration He needed. The angel from Heaven
strengthened Him. The "other Comforter" possessed His soul. His Heavenly
Father was consciously near. The frail body was upheld by the willing human
spirit, both now made invincibly strong by the indwelling of the Holy
Thus he was enabled to drive away the tempter, to meet
the betrayer, to advance towards the cross, to drink the cup; and thus His
prayer was answered, "Your will be done." "He was heard." Thus let us desire
an answer to the prayer of our grief and our best consolation, in grace
sufficient to bear the burden, to drink the cup, to carry the cross, to
suffer and to do the will of our Father.