"My Father ... may your will be done." (Matthew 26:42)

He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." (Matthew 26:42)

What does Jesus mean by 'cup'?

Much of Jesus' prayer has been inappropriately translated, hiding its true meaning. Jesus does not even mention the word "cup" in his prayer.

The meaning of his prayer relates to his first prayer, and what is to take place. Let's review the Greek of this prayer and get to the bottom of its meaning:

After "my Father" - from the Greek ἐγώ (egō) and πατήρ (patēr), the translators say he said:
"if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away..."
However, the Greek texts do not say this. They do not even mention the word "cup." Rather, this prayer uses the Greek word αὐτός (houtos), which means "this", not "cup."

Yes, in the first prayer, the Greek word ποτήριον (potērion) is used. And yes, ποτήριον can mean "cup" in a narrow context when it refers to a drinking vessel.

That is not the context here, though. In this context, Jesus is using the word figuratively. According to the lexicon, its metaphorical translation refers to someone's "lot" or "fate."

The translators have also assumed "cup" because later in this second prayer Jesus uses the word πίνω (pinō), which can mean "to drink." But when πίνω is used in the figurative sense (as Jesus was), it means, according to the lexicon: to receive one's fate.

Besides, a person does not drink a cup. A person drinks liquid from a cup. The object of πίνω (to receive) in Jesus' prayer is αὐτός (houtos), which means "this" or "it".

There is no "cup" in the second prayer, and even if the Greek word translated to "cup" in the first prayer is used, "cup" was never the intended object being referred to in either prayer. In other words, Jesus was not praying about cups or drinking cups.

Rather, it is clear from the Greek that the intended object of both prayers is not literally a cup, but Jesus' coming fate.

Why is Jesus praying to do what God wills?

This is certainly to be expected. Jesus is about to be arrested, tried, and gruesomely crucified. He is about to undergo one of the most painful experiences ever to be committed onto a physical body.

And Jesus admitted that he was "troubled" by this coming fate, which is the reason he went to pray:
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." (Matt. 26:38-39)
Now let's understand the real meaning of Jesus' prayer:

After "My Father," Jesus uses the word εἰ (ei) which means "if" or "whether" according to the lexicon.

Then as mentioned above, he says αὐτός (houtos) which means "this," referring to his coming fate.

Then he says δύναμαι (dynamai), which means "cannot" or "will not" according to the lexicon.

This is followed by παρέρχομαι (parerchomai) which means to "pass away" or "be removed" according to the lexicon.

Then he says ἐάν (ean) and μή (mē) which mean "unless I" according to the lexicon.

This is followed by πίνω (pinō) as mentioned above, which can mean "to drink" or when used figuratively, "to receive..." according to the lexicon.

Then he says αὐτός (autos), which means "it" - a slight variation of αὐτός (houtos), but again referring to the object being assumed, that is, Jesus' coming fate.

This is followed by the Greek phrase γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου, which is being translated to "Your will be done." While this may be technically correct, it is not a pure translation of the meaning of γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου in this context.

Could this be better translated?

The better translation of this phrase in this context would be:
"I will do Your will"
or better in plain English:
"I will do as You wish" or "I will do what You want."
So as Jesus was coming to terms with his coming fate, he was also resolved that he would be doing whatever God wanted.

Thus, the better translation for Jesus' second prayer is:
"My Father, if this cannot come to pass unless I receive it, then I will do Your will."
In plainer English:
"My Father, if my fate is such that this must happen to me, then I will do as You wish."
Why was this issue so important that Jesus had to pray about it? Jesus' two prayers were spoken minutes before he was to be arrested. He knew the Roman guards were coming. How do we know Jesus knew he was to be arrested shortly? He said it to his disciples:
"Look, the hour is near, and the son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners." (Matthew 26:45)
In other words, this was the last opportunity that Jesus would have to avoid his coming arrest and persecution. As the guards had yet to come, Jesus could have very easily slipped away into the woods and escaped arrest, torture, and execution.

Was Jesus torn?

As Jesus indicated in his first prayer, Jesus was torn between doing what would be physically more comfortable - avoiding arrest and persecution - and what his Beloved Supreme Being wanted to take place. This he alluded at in his statement to his disciples when he found them sleeping after his first prayer and before this one:
"The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." (Matthew 26:41)
Many sectarian teachers preach that Jesus was God and he had everything handled. Their position simply does not agree with scripture, however. Everything Jesus said indicated that he was indeed struggling with the coming event and whether or not he should take off and avoid arrest completely. Simply the fact that Jesus was praying to God indicates that he could not have been God.

The translation laid out here is not a theory or an opinion. It is simply what the scripture indicates from the original Greek text. As opposed to ecclesiastical professional translators who have tried to subtly distort his prayers to hide the fact that he was struggling with his coming crucifixion, the text says what it says.

The fact that Jesus was torn about his coming fate is doubly confirmed in his first prayer:
"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matthew 26:39)
Jesus is not speaking literally of a cup. As mentioned above, the "cup" comes from the Greek word ποτήριον (potērion), and its metaphorical meaning is, according to the lexicon, "one's lot or experience, whether joyous or adverse, divine appointments, whether favorable or unfavorable, are likened to a cup which God presents one to drink: so of prosperity and adversity."

So by the rest of the translation of this first prayer, we can see that Jesus is asking God to take away or remove his coming "fate" of being arrested, tried, and gruesomely tortured and murdered.

What is Jesus torn about?

Jesus is asking if God would allow him to escape arrest, in other words.

Yet we see in both prayers that even with this question, Jesus is committing himself to doing God's will. In the first prayer, the word πλήν (plēn) is translated to "yet," but means "moreover, besides, but, nevertheless" according to the lexicon. This means that is saying "more importantly..."

The next part of this prayer by Jesus uses first οὐχ ὡς ἐγὼ θέλω, which can translate to "not as I will," but also, because θέλω (thelō) means "to intend," "to be resolved," "determined," "to purpose," "to desire" or "to wish", it is better translated to "not what I want" or "not according to my wishes".

The last part of the phrase, ἀλλ’ ὡς σύ, correctly indicates "but as You will," or "but Yours," as in "not my wishes, but Yours."

So in this prayer, according to the Greek, Jesus is really saying something to the effect of:
"My Father, if it is possible, please remove my coming fate. More importantly, may I not do my will, but Your will."
In plainer English:
"My Father, if it is possible, please let this not happen to me. More importantly, I don't want to do what I want, but what You want."
This clearly indicates why Jesus is troubled. He is asking God to not let this happen to him, but at the same time, wants to do God's will. He wants to do God's will but also does not want to physically suffer. Who would want to suffer?

Why does Jesus make the same prayer three times?

Jesus then made the same prayer a third time:
So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. (Matt. 26:44)
Through his prayers, Jesus has realized that his arrest and persecution is God's will. God has answered his prayers. This is what God wants Jesus to do. Why is this important?

Because this illustrates that Jesus wants to please the Supreme Being. He knows that he can easily escape and avoid arrest. But he also comes to understand that this is what the Supreme Being wants to happen. So even though Jesus knows it will be physically painful, he is willing to undergo the pain of physical torture and execution because it will please the Supreme Being.

This is the important takeaway from the entire event of Jesus' torture and execution.

Is there some magical "he died for my sins" thing going on here as some teach? Did God set up Jesus to be some kind of "sacrificial lamb"? Was it Jesus' intent to suffer so that people thousands of years later could be released from the responsibility of their actions?

Consider any kind of sacrifice. Consider a person who goes to war for their country, or runs into a burning building. Are they not sacrificing their own comfort on behalf of someone else? Why would they do this? Theoretically, it is love. In the case of the soldier, it is love for country, and in the case of the person who runs into a burning building, it is love for that person in the building.

While these examples may not be true love, they indicate acts of love. Caring for someone else more than we care for ourselves. This is love.

And in the case of Jesus, Jesus sacrificed his physical body in the service of Someone he loved: The Supreme Being. But he was also communicating something important to all of us. That serving God was more important than the physical body.

What was Jesus' sacrifice meant to teach us?

What was the purpose of his allowing himself to be arrested and persecuted?

We must remember why Jesus was being arrested. It was because of his teachings. His teachings threatened the authority of the institutional temple high priests and the Roman government.

And what were his teachings about? They were teaching us about the Supreme Being. His teachings instructed us to love God and serve God. So by Jesus accepting his arrest and persecution, he was in effect standing up for his teachings, which God sent him to teach us:
"These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me." (John 14:24)
By Jesus accepting arrest and persecution, he was taking a stand for his teachings, which were coming from God. He was not going to run away. He loved God, and God's teachings were so important that he was willing to give up his physical life, and undergo severe suffering on behalf of those teachings.

It is understanding this that has the ability to save us. It is realizing the loving relationship that existed between Jesus and the Supreme Person that has the ability to purify our lives. Why? 

Because we can learn more about love for God and others. This has the ability to purify our consciousness. It has the power to encourage us to change our lives from being self-centered to beginning the path of re-developing our relationship with the Supreme Being and learning to love and please Him.

This is why Jesus' most important teaching was:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38)