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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

14 November 2005

Jesus and the Father’s Will

Q: If Jesus Christ was not born with a sinful nature, then why did He ask God the Father in Gethsemane to nullify Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 by taking the cup (or cross) away from Him?

Jesus Praying in the GardenA: Why should it surprise us that someone, even Jesus, wanted to avoid excruciating pain, abandonment, and cruel death? What is sinful or shameful about asking our Father to grant physical protection and blessing? Jesus’ prayer in the garden exemplifies how He taught His Church to pray, when we say, “Thy will be done.”

The way in which Jesus prays shows how completely His will is that of His Father. Also, as you read the account from Matthew 26, I think that we see a reenforcement of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, not their negation.

Jesus never says, “I’m not going to do this.” I believe that, in part, we’re allowed this “window on His soul” in order to gain confidence that, while it may not always be easy or comfortable, the Father’s will is always best. We also have clear testimony that Jesus is no mindless puppet, nor is He a madman. He thinks and He feels — and He knows the approaching agony.

If any doubt that the Christ is true man, let them read these heartfelt petitions: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will (Matthew 26:39)” and “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done. (26:42)” This prayer for deliverance is exactly what we should expect from One about whom the Athanasian Creed [PDF, 21k] states is “man of the substance of His mother … of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.”

Yet He never rebelled or backed away from His commission. Instead, he twice defers to the Father, that He would be the “lamb that is led to the slaughter. (Isaiah 53:7)” Jesus’ prayer asking that the Father do be something different helps us to realize that the death of the Son was, indeed, the Father’s will. When Jesus is arrested (Matthew 26:47-56), Isaiah 53:8 comes to pass: “By oppression and judgment he was taken away.” Meanwhile, the Father’s rejection of the Son’s request to have the cup removed testifies to the abandonment Jesus later quotes from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1; see also Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34)”

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


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