On the night of Jesus’ arrest a cup, a time of trial, and a prayer merge.
About the cup . . .
At the Passover dinner Jesus said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luk 22:20).
Later that night before he is arrested he prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done” (Luk 22:42).
On the night that Jesus was arrested, he told the disciples to remember him by sharing a cup of wine. The cup was his blood poured out for us. This sacrifice of Jesus’ blood on the cross, as taught by the ancient prophets, would clean our hearts, allowing them to become a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. And for the first time, each individual could be guided directly by the Spirit of God.
Jesus knows his role in the ancient prophecies. He has told his disciples of the suffering that he is about to experience on the cross. But he appears to be afraid of what is to come. I imagine the torture and pain would scare anyone. So he asks God if there isn’t some other way. God says no. God says no to Jesus’s prayer.
About the time of trial . . .
Days or maybe weeks earlier, Jesus had taught the disciples to pray what we know now as The Lord’s Prayer, ” . . . do not bring us to the time of trial” (Luk 11:2-4).
Just before Jesus is arrested, he rebukes the disciples, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial” (Luk 22:46).
I think praying that we will not come into the time of trial is strange. Why aren’t we praying for wisdom and strength to overcome our trials, instead? But this is not what Jesus taught. He said to pray that God will not bring us into a time of trial (often translated “lead us not into temptation”). Then by example, we see Jesus praying this very thing right before he is arrested: “Remove this cup from me.”
About the prayer . . .
Jesus bookends his request by praying, “If you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” This is the same way that Jesus had taught the disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer:
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
I had not realized it, but it was the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus was praying that night just before his arrest. Not exactly the same words and much more specific, but exactly the same meaning.
Jesus shows us that we are to ask God to keep us away from the time of trial, but we are also to be willing to go through trials if it is the will of God. This willingness to experience sacrifice for the sake of God is the most difficult thing a follower of Jesus will ever do and that is why Jesus rebukes the disciples, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”
Are you and I asleep? Pray!