Mark:921 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Apparently, if one believes, then it is possible.

Matthew 26:39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."


5 Answers 5


Warning #1

We must exercise extreme caution when discussing the will and mind of divinity - the only one who understand s the mind of God is God Himself. If we understood God completely we would be God. The doctrine we are touching on here concerns what is described as the voluntary divine humiliation of Christ. See below.

Warning #2

The human mind and will is obviously quite different and much more limited compared to the divine will. Thus, I do not believe it is immediately possible to use Mark 9:23 to illuminate Matt 26:39.

Voluntary Divine Humiliation

Note that before His incarnation, Jesus enjoyed the full status of divine glory in heaven with God:

  • John 17:5 - And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world existed.
  • John 1:1, 2 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

From this exalted status, Paul describes the greatest humiliation of all time, when Jesus became a human as described in Phil 2:5-8:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross.

Note that this is clearly a process and decision taken by Jesus with the apparent support of the Father. This is stated again in John 10:17, 18 -

"The reason the Father loves Me is that I lay down My life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father.”

Again, it is emphasized that this was done voluntarily by Jesus. The great struggle that Jesus had in the Garden of Gethsemane was (among other things) to continue to go through with the decision to sacrifice Himself; not only for the great physical agony He knew He would experience but for the emotional and pain created by separation from the Father (Matt 27:46).

Thus, it appears Jesus made a deliberate choice to save humanity despite the personal cost, a very great cost with which He clearly struggled in Gethsemane (Matt 26:38, 39) - even seeking human companionship to help in His time of need (Matt 26:40).

Jesus did not have to do this - He could have abandoned humanity in its sin - or perhaps He was asking God if there were another way to redeem humanity without the terrible cost; BUT His great love for us, and His obedience to the Father's will, made Him decide to go through with this.

The Pulpit Commentary has some useful insights:

Let this cup pass from me. The "cup" is the bitter agony of his Passion and death, with all their grievous accompaniments (see Matthew 20:22, and note there). All heroism and manly endurance in the face of pain and death Christ exhibited to the full; but the elements of suffering in his case were different, and fraught with exquisite torture (see above, on ver. 28). Such was the anguish that it would have then separated soul and body - of such rigour that "his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground" - had not an angel appeared from heaven to strengthen and support the fainting human life (Luke 22:43, 44). Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. In this prayer are shown the two wills of Christ, the human and Divine. The natural shrinking of the human soul from ignominy and torture is overborne by entire submission to and compliance with the Divine purpose. So it is said that the Captain of our salvation was made perfect through sufferings, learned obedience by the things which he suffered (Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:8) By this passage the Monophysite and Monothelite heresies are clearly refuted, the two natures and two wills of Christ being plainly displayed.


John records, in reference to Jesus:

11He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 1:11-13 (NKJ)

John discerns, here, three notions of 'will': that 'of the flesh' and that 'of man', and that 'of God'.

The 'will of the flesh' is the natural inclination of a living being to preserve its life, i.e. by reflex, it will automatically endeavour to adapt to threats upon its existence. This is clearly something that God incorporated in His blueprint of Creation.

The 'will of man' is the spirit that drives a man to deploy his mind and flesh in the pursuit of his desires.

Jesus, the child of Mary's womb -- the man -- had to deal with these forces, as do all men. However, Jesus 'desire' was that the 'will of God' prevail.

The imperative to 'get the job done', for which he came, must have caused him the greatest agony one can ever imagine. Luke gives an inkling of this, when he writes:

44And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Luke 22:44 (KJV)

Clearly, there is no disharmony between the passages given by the OP. Jesus, the man, compelled by his desire that the 'will of God prevail', concluded that the cup should not pass from him.

The letter to the Hebrews records:

3For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
4Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

Hebrews 12:3-4 (KJV)

The writer of this letter fully comprehended the anguish of mind and flesh that Jesus had to endure in his journey to the cross.


Was it possible for Jesus not to take the cup of suffering in Matthew 26:39?


We must begin by affirming what we are told, from the lips of Jesus no less, who said, 'I am the truth'!

  • Jesus's will was not the Father's will - they differed. This is amply expressed by Jesus' own words, 'not my will but yours'. John 6:38, Matt 26:39, Luke 22:42
  • Jesus had to persistently choose God's will in every situation. To do his own will instead of God's will for him would be counted as sin. We are reminded in Heb of the importance of Jesus trusting in God's provisions for him.

Heb 5:7 ‘In the days of his flesh, he offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save him from death’.

Clearly this has nothing to do with Jesus' death on the cross - 'the days of his flesh' encompasses Jesus' whole life while under temptation including the lead up to the cross and the dreadful decisions Jesus would have to make.

  • Jesus 'learned obedience through suffering'. Heb 5:8 So he clearly was not able to be obedient enough to cope with the extremely demanding trial and crucifixion until his preparation was completed. (This is not the place to examine 'learned obedience' - it has been covered in other answers)

What we must understand that by Jesus not being God (expressly affirmed in numerous NT passages and creating innumerable contradictions if thought otherwise) he has the ability to choose to obey, choose to submit, choose to trust in God's love, wisdom and power. The whole point of the 'word becoming flesh' is to set up this perfect human (from his miraculous birth) who could sin, but would choose not to! This is the only way that evil could be defeated fairly and without fudging it. For God to die for sin (an idea not stated anywhere!) would make Jesus' temptation a sham and a fake. The devil knew who Jesus was - he would have protested before God and rightly so, if Jesus was unbeatable!

We must exercise extreme caution when considering these passages and not be drawn into assuming concepts the inspired text does not affirm.

Matthew 26:39 ... "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

Jesus desperately wanted to avoid such a horrific final page of his life story. Yet, knowing that he had come to this point under God's will and plan of salvation for all. This is not Jesus' plan, he accepted God's plan for him.

Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this purpose that I have come to this hour.

Simply, if God caused Jesus to be crucified under duress on compulsion, then the whole deal was a complete dud. Jesus endured and succeeded by love, trust and humble obedience - not to a dreadful, harsh, mean, overbearing God. But a loving God who was known by Jesus in ways that most can barely yet imagine or apprehend.

No one knows the son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the son and those to whom the son chooses to reveal him. Matt 11:27


Yes, Jesus could have refused - indeed he was searching his options, but relented. There is no point whatsoever 'learning to be obedient' if there was no need for obedience. When we insist that traditional theology is more accurate, more truthful, more legitimate than the Biblical text, then contradictions begin when we think Jesus is God. This produces an untenable conflict within God - He has two wills. One Godly, wise, loving will and one that differs from this - namely Jesus' will which, to be blunt, was NOT God's will - Jesus said so himself.

Once all the traditional assumptions are swept away, Jesus cannot be God because he did not have God's will. He had to choose to DO God's will.

Because Jesus chose to obey - unto death on a cross, he proved his worthiness to be exalted to God's side - the first of many brethren who set their mind to put God first in all things!


General points

If Jesus is God then he should be able to save himself and not need to ask to be saved, otherwise at best, he is a lesser God/not equal to the Father. As we will see, he clearly prays to be saved, so why the need if he is equal/God?

On the basis that he is not God then he is reliant on God as things are not in his control, hence, not as I will, but as you will.

Jesus prayers to be saved

Hebrews 5:7

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;

Luke 22:44

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Matthew 26:36

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

[numerous passages of Jesus praying]

Jesus prayed like others did, who were also saved.

Jonah 2:7 (prayed and was alive)

When my life was fainting away (not dead), I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.

[If Jesus came to die for our sins, why did he so often pray to be saved? God or son of God it makes no sense]

The question really is, was he heard/saved

The problem you have with the above questions is that it causes considerable conflict with passages in the NT and a conflict between the NT & OT.

John 11:41, 42

41... Father, I thank thee that thou heardest me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always."

Mark 11:24

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Luke 4:10, 11

10 for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, to guard thee: 11 and, On their hands they shall bear thee up, Lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone.

John 11:41, 42

41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”

Psalm 20:6

Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed

Psalms 34:20, 22

20 He protects all his bones; not one of them will be broken ... 22 The LORD will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Psalms 9:13

O you who lift me up from the gates of death

Psalm 116:16

Truly I am your servant, LORD; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains.

Psalm 41:9-13

9 Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me. 10 But may you have mercy on me, LORD; raise me up, that I may repay them. 11 I know that you are pleased with me, for my enemy does not triumph over me. 12 Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever. 13 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.

Psalm 91:10-16

10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.”

[There is nothing in the OT that states Jesus would die or be sacrificed.]

Would God sacrifice Jesus

Matthew 9:13

But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Hosea 6:6

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Deuteronomy 12:31

You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.

Deuteronomy 18:10

Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft,

2 Kings 21:6

He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger.

Ezekiel 18:20

The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

Deuteronomy 24:16

Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.

[Based on the evidence very unlikely]


Based on the above, it's clear that Jesus prayed earnestly to be saved and was heard and indeed it was prophecies that he would be saved/protected.

There are clearly passages that imply that Jesus died for our sins mainly from Paul, but this doctrine came after Jesus and was taken on board by those in power hundreds of years later who decided what should be in the bible and destroyed anything that did not conform to their opinion.

See the links below for more details:


The original question asks:

Was it possible for Jesus not to take the cup of suffering in Matthew 26:39?

John 10:18 ESV

No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.

ἀπ’ἐμαυτοῦ of myself - reflexive pronoun.

So yes it was Jesus' decision. With delegated authority.

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