Jesus detaches himself from his three companions and prays audibly that he might be exempt from ‘the hour’ and ‘this cup’. Both refer to his betrayal, impending arrest and execution. Back in 10:38 Jesus had referred to ‘the ‘cup’ with which he would drink – a cup of suffering and wrath. His prayer to his Father here shows that this cup is a cup that ‘belongs to God’ – a cup of divine judgement.
His ‘Abba’ prayer reveals a unique, close Father-Son relationship, yet this closeness does not mean the Father takes away the cup, or that the Son refuses to drink it. Jesus’ mission is a triune partnership: the obedient Son, sent by the Father, empowered by the Spirit.
A joint mission that is now leading straight towards Jesus’ voluntary, self-giving confrontation with all the physical, spiritual and political powers allied against him.
So while Jesus appears to face this fate alone (the disciples fail to ‘get’ what is going on and are asleep every time Jesus returns), behind the scenes, and despite appearances, his Father is with him.
The looming cross will be no accident or merely a verdict of ‘sinners’ (vs 41). Against all logic and expectation, it will reflect the astonishing decision, planning and self-giving action of God.
No wonder Paul later would talk of the mystery of God’s salvation being revealed.
The cross? No-one sees it coming but the Son of Man.
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”