What does Jesus' prayer mean? And why is he talking about drinking a cup?
Frankly, the prayer has been mistranslated, 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 words do not say this. They do not even mention the word "cup." Rather, his prayer uses the Greek word αὐτός (houtos), which means "this". The translators have assumed that when Jesus said "this" in the second prayer, he was referring to a "cup" because Jesus used the Greek word ποτήριον (potērion) in his first prayer. While ποτήριον can mean "cup," it is used figuratively here, and 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 Jesus' coming fate.
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.
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 cup [my coming fate] 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." (Matt. 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.
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." (Matt. 26:41)Many ecclesiastical sectarian teachers - who profess that Jesus is God - vehemently oppose the notion that Jesus struggled with his coming persecution. Their position simply does not agree with scripture, however. Everything Jesus said indicated that he was not God, but God's loving servant and representative. And simply the fact that Jesus was praying to God indicates that he could not have been God.
The translation and interpretation 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, which has been is mistranslated as:
"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matt. 26:39)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 favourable or unfavourable, are likened to a cup which God presents one to drink: so of prosperity and adversity."
So by the rest of 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.
He 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 phrase of this first prayer 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 the first 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."So this first prayer clearly communicates 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?
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 the 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 take-away from the entire event of Jesus' torture and execution.
It is not as if there is some magical "he died for my sins" thing going on here - as ecclesiastical Christian teachers teach. It is not as if God set up Jesus to be some kind of "sacrificial lamb" so that millions of people for many centuries could be as selfish as they want and just go into church and stare at the cross and then not be responsible for their selfish activities.
No. There is a fundamental communication going on here. The communication relates to love.
Just think of any kind of sacrifice. Think of 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 may not be true love, they do theoretically indicate love, yes? Caring for someone else more than we care for ourselves. This is love.
And in the case of Jesus, Jesus sacrificed his physical body for the Person he loved: The Supreme Being.
We must remember why Jesus was being arrested. It was because of his teachings. His teachings threatened the authority of the Jewish 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 it 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." (Matt. 23:37-38)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)