Matthew 26:37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zeb′edee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.
So the Bible says that three times Jesus prays that the crucifixion would not happen. Why? I think the majority of Christianity has had a major blind spot regarding this. They cannot imagine that things can go in any other way than what led to the Christian religion. Jesus had to die, they think. Therefore, they ignore everything which disagrees with this and offer the lamest of solution to say that Jesus was 100% human and therefore afraid of death and not wanting to suffer and lay down His life for redemption of all mankind. I really cringe when I hear that sort of thing. Think of the legions of human beings which have been perfectly willing to lay down their life for far lesser causes – the freedom of the people of their country, or to save the life of one little child, or to die as a martyr for the cause of Christ. People have even prayed to God for such a thing, the precise opposite of Jesus’ prayer it would seem, “God if it be possible, let me have the smallest sip of that cup.” After all did not Jesus say, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Are all these people less human then because they would pray in such a way and have no fear of their own death? NO! Clearly being 100% human does not require any such thing!!!
I believe the cup referred to here is the cup of Socrates, the willing sacrifice of His life for the sake of truth and principle. There is no chance at all that Jesus will back down before the Sanhedrin from what He taught any more than He would do as others (zealots and maybe Judas) might want and call down a legion of angels to defend Him. Why then did Jesus pray three times to let this cup pass from Him? To say that this is a momentary weakness in which Jesus is expressing selfishness and cowardice is simply unthinkable to me. Logic instead requires me to reject usual rhetoric and conclude that Jesus prayed in this way because it was NOT required – not by God anyway. I cannot think but that Jesus laid down His life 100% willing, but it was not God who required this but the perversity of human beings who demanded this. It is we who refuse to change until we hit rock bottom where the innocent suffer because of our sins. It is we who will not leave our sins until we see the worst that they can do. It is we who have to see a 100% pure, innocent, and Godly person dying in agony on a cross before we will turn to God for salvation.
I mentioned other evidence ignored. I am talking about the way in which those who brought about the crucifixion are not in any way treated as heroes in the Bible. What does Jesus say of Judas, His betrayer? Matthew 16:24 "woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” The most logically consistent answer to why Jesus said this and why Jesus prayed three times that the crucifixion would not happen is that this is not the best that could be hoped for. It seems logical that it would have been better if Jesus could remain with us to teach us more.
Now obviously this doesn’t go very well with things like substitutionary atonement and such which I have repudiated elsewhere. I have suggested that this is taking such things in the Bible too literally. To be sure Jesus died for our sins, just as soldiers have died for the life and freedom of their countrymen. But this is no divine law of justice or a power of human sacrifice, but simply a time and again proven fact of what it apparently takes for sinful human beings to change their ways.
So what does this say for Easter? Is it a time for celebration? Yes. The cross remains a victory for God. That much I do not imply any change. But like any wake it is a time for sadness also (we can be both happy our loved one has returned to God and be sad that he has been taken from us). Likewise we can also regret just as Jesus did in His garden prayers for what has been lost in the crucifixion. We are not required to rejoice in the death, torment, and blood of Jesus any more than we are required to praise Judas for his betrayal. Yet in sadness and repentance we can celebrate a life well lived and a work of God well done.