In the Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane was indisputably the flashpoint for the Crucifixion of Christ. To the Disciples it was a brief time of immense confusion. To Judas it was an opportunity to fulfill that desire of betrayal within his soul. To the ruling religious leaders it was the opportunity they had sought for to ensnare Jesus. To Jesus it was the beginning of carrying the filth of the entire human race on his shoulders and for Him to become the doorway to forgiveness. To the Father it was the diamond in His plan of salvation for all who would respond to the call of repentance.

When we examine Jesus’ request to the Father during His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane we find that Mark’s and Luke’s versions have a more specific verb that gives us a glimpse into the relationship Jesus had with the Father while Jesus was tenting among us. There is no account of the specific words of His prayer in the Gospel of John and Matthew uses a more generic verb in the prayer. Let us look at what these verbs are and what we can learn from these.

The 3 Verbs

Here are the verbs from each of the 3 Gospel accounts and Strong’s numbers for their dictionary forms.

  • Matthew: παρελθάτω (Aorist Imperative Active, 3rd Person Singular) and παρελθεῖν (Aorist Infinitive Active) both from παρέρχομαι G3928
  • Luke: παρενεγκεῖν (2 Aorist Infinitive) from παραφέρω G3911
  • Mark: παρένεγκε (Aorist Imperative Active, 2nd Person Singular) from παραφέρω G3911

Matthew’s Account

Matthew’s term has the cup as the subject. It is an imperative, commanding the cup to do something. In this case, the verb is παρέρχομαι and the origins of it are παρά and ἔρχομαι. The verb ἔρχομαι is a middle voice version of another primary verb meaning to come or to go or to come and go. The middle voice means to do something for one’s own benefit or to one’s self. For example, in English our verb to shave is inherently reflexive or middle voice, unless an object other than the self is specifically mentioned either directly or in context. The long form is to shave oneself. A sample sentence: I shaved this morning means I shaved myself this morning. So the middle form has the feeling of the thing coming and/or going by itself or for its own benefit. The verb παρά means near. Sometimes it can be translated away from, but the main feature is that it was and/or will be away from, but it will come or is or was close. So in Matthew’s account, Jesus commands that the cup come and/or go to or from near Him. Which of these combinations is meant depends on the context. All three accounts use ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ, meaning off me. Consider the second time Jesus prays about the cup in Matthew 26:42 saying, my Father, if this is not possible to go near except that I drink it, Your will be done. So this explains Matthew’s choice of verbs. He is focusing on the cup itself. This stands in contrast to Luke and Mark’s emphasis on the Father dealing with the cup, by carrying it. We could then read Matthew’s account as saying, my Father, if it is possible, this here cup must go near, off me…

Luke’s and Mark’s Accounts

Luke and Mark both use verbs that are forms of the base verb παραφέρω and its origins are παρά and φέρω. We have already seen what παρά means. The verb φέρω means to bear or to carry. We could then read Luke’s account as saying, Father, if You Yourself are willing, to carry near this here cup, off me…

Interestingly, Mark does use the verb παρέλθῃ (Aorist Subjunctive Active, 3rd Person Singular) from παρέρχομαι at the end of the previous verse. Here Mark is telling that Jesus had prayed once already if it is possible, may this hour go off me.

While Luke’s infinitive form is more polite, Mark’s is the imperative, telling the Father He must do something. Jesus then submits His will to the Father’s, but this verb sets up what Jesus wanted. It was not as polite as a request and stands in contrast to Luke’s politer infinitive version of the same verb. So in Mark’s account we find the fullest prayer. We can read it as And he was saying, Abba Father, all things are possible to You. Carry near this here cup, off me…

All three in parallel

saying, my Father, if it is possible, this here cup must go near, off me… [Matthew]

saying, Father, if You Yourself are willing, to carry near this here cup, off me… [Luke]

And he was saying, Abba Father, all things are possible to You. Carry near this here cup, off me… [Mark]

When we examine the form of address in Mark’s account we understand why Jesus would use the 2nd person imperative, telling the Father He must do something for Him. Jesus calls Him Abba, Father. So this is as a child to his daddy demanding something, but then submitting his desire to what His Father wants. Through this, Jesus embedded in history the example for us of prayer.

Our Prayer

We come to the Father as our Daddy and we as His children. When we face something so stressful we must retire ourselves to a place of solitude, though it does not have to be isolation. After all, Jesus took the three disciples with him away from the others. Then we pray for it to pass off of us, but we may need to pray again more specifically about more specific elements, just as Jesus did first about the hour, then about the cup. The hour was a period of time, but the cup was a thing Jesus was to drink from as the action that set His will to go to the Cross. In the same way, we might start generally and if we feel necessary, get more specific. All the while we listen for the purpose of doing what we hear. When we hear the Father’s will is some other way, we submit to it and agree to do it. If we do not want to, then we force the flesh to stay put and pray harder to submit your will to the Father’s will, until you are successful. Why would you think it would be easy if it were so difficult even for Jesus our Lord?

In this complex interaction between Jesus and the Father, we see the greatest cornerstone of our entire prayer life. Jesus wanted the Father to carry the cup, but submitted to taking the cup Himself to the Cross for the sins of the entire human race. And having been found in the figure of man, He lowered Himself, having become one listening to do, even as great as physical death, even death of the Cross. [Philippians 2:8]

More to the Story

Grief Unto Death

In both Matthew and Mark Jesus prays 3 times. He says in both accounts, My soul is surrounded by grief even up to death! Where would we be if Jesus had died of grief at that moment? If he had had a heart attack, where would the world be today? That is the amazing power of the Father, that He kept Jesus from death until the right moment. Then He let Him die.

In Luke Jesus prays only twice. After the first time an angel appears and ministers to him. After that he prays to the point of his sweat being like drops of blood.

Three Sleepy Disciples

Jesus tells the sleepy three disciples the same phrase, The spirit is impassioned, but the flesh is without vigor. Both Matthew and Mark comment that their eyes were heavy. Luke excuses the three disciples’ sleep as a reaction to sorrow.

The further responses of Jesus were interesting in each account. Matthew and Mark have Jesus saying Are you sleeping still and taking your rest? – then saying either behold (Mt.) or that is enough and behold (Mk) and then rise up and let’s go! Luke says having risen up, pray that you might not enter into temptation, the same that he told the other disciples when they first arrived to the place.

Mount of Olives

Luke places these events at the Mount of Olives, whereas Matthew and Mark at the garden of Gethsemane, which is on a slope at the base of the Mount of Olives. In Zechariah 14:4, when the LORD has begun battle against the nations of the Earth who have attacked Jerusalem, the LORD will stand on the Mount of Olives and split the mountain to create a valley of escape. He will save His people at the Mount of Olives. Following this, Jerusalem will be inhabited and at peace. All on the Earth will either honor the LORD at Jerusalem on the Feast of Tabernacles or will be struck by a plague with their flesh falling off. You can see the significance of the Mount of Olives in the plan of salvation.

Jesus Utterly Aghast!

Even between Matthew and Mark there are subtle differences in Jesus’ reactions. When he takes the three disciples to separate them and tells them to stay put, Jesus experienced some extreme emotions, according to Mark, which Matthew slightly alters. In Mark it says He become utterly aghast and thoroughly soaked in loathing. Matthew tones it down to grieved and thoroughly soaked in loathing. Mark is not afraid to state that Jesus had this great stunning shock (became utterly aghast). Jesus obviously envisioned the turning point and what it entailed in the cosmic scheme of things. Though He knew it before, some experience or taste of it had opened up to Him at this very point. This explains why Jesus prayed that the Father would carry the cup near, off Him as a possibility. This also makes His submission so much more significant when He submits to the Father’s will, after such an intense emotional reaction to what He saw.

How Ready Are We?

How willing are we to follow Jesus in a similar path? James and John thought they could. Peter declared boldly he could. They certainly did in their Martyrdom, save John. Are we ready to stand at a gaping mouth of suffering and although we might be stunned in shock, would we submit our will to the Father and enter in. If it were His will, could we obey? Are we ready for such devotion and humility? These are the things prayer really demands from us.

Greek Text

Mark 14:35-36

35Καὶ προσελθὼν μικρόν, ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, καὶ προσηύχετο ἵνα, εἰ δυνατόν ἐστιν, παρέλθῃ ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ ἡ ὥρα. Καὶ ἔλεγεν, Ἀββᾶ, ὁ πατήρ, πάντα δυνατά σοι. 36Παρένεγκε τὸ ποτήριον ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ τοῦτο· ἀλλ’ οὐ τί ἐγὼ θέλω, ἀλλὰ τί σύ.

Matthew 26:39

39Καὶ προσελθὼν μικρόν, ἔπεσεν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ προσευχόμενος καὶ λέγων, Πάτερ μου, εἰ δυνατόν ἐστιν, παρελθέτω ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ τὸ ποτήριον τοῦτο· πλὴν οὐχ ὡς ἐγὼ θέλω, ἀλλ’ ὡς σύ.

Luke 22:42

42λέγων, Πάτερ, εἰ βούλει, παρενεγκεῖν τὸ ποτήριον τοῦτο ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ· πλὴν μὴ τὸ θέλημά μου, ἀλλὰ τὸ σὸν γενέσθω.