“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”Luke 22:42
Jesus has gone to the Mount of Olives to pray, after the Last Supper with three of His Disciples. Meanwhile evil is encircling Him and we are about to see his arrest following His betrayal by Judas. It is a moment widely portrayed in painting (Mantegna is a beautiful example) but what is happening? Here are three things I take from it:
Overall this is a scene where Our Lord is preparing Himself for what is to come. His “sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 42:44), anticipating the spilling of His blood on the Cross. We’ve all had those moments in life when you are about to face something momentous and there is a pause before you say, “right, here goes” or “this is the moment of truth”. Jesus, even when contemplating the horrors that await Him, is still thinking of his Disciples and protecting them from temptation.
(2) Jesus as Human:
Jesus is praying to the Lord in advance of a sequence of events, that is already mapped out, taking effect. The “cup” he refers to could be His life in which case He is asking the Lord to take it from Him, as has been ordained. But a “cup” can also mean the Lord’s anger or wrath (Isaiah 51:17). If this interpretation is true, Our Lord is asking, momentarily, to be spared God’s anger, which He was about to taste on behalf of all humanity. Either way in this moment, you can’t fail to be deeply moved by Our Lord’s position on earth as partly human but with a divine destiny and the full cost of His task.
(3) The Power of Open Prayer
The Lord prays apart from his disciples, He alone can face what is about to happen to Him. As His anguish intensifies, angels from Heaven appear to Him to support Him. Prayer: pray constantly. As times get tough, pray harder. He rouses his Disciples (14:46): in prayer be awake and alive to temptation. Never give in to evil.