What is the significance of Matthew 26:39?

Jesus threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”

Scripture indicates that much about the life and death of Jesus Christ was foreordained and thus foreknown long before it came to pass. Given that this was the central defining event in world history, this should not surprise us. What is somewhat surprising is that in this passage Jesus very clearly pleads with the Father to change his plan at the last minute—“if it is possible.” Jesus’ request obviously could not be granted, but what is significant is the fact that Jesus made the request in the first place. For Jesus knew and had been teaching his disciples for some time that the divine plan was for him to be crucified (Matt. 12:40; 16:21; John 2:19). Yet here he is asking God the Father to change his plan “if it is possible.”

Jesus’ request makes little sense if we assume that Jesus believed that the future was exhaustively settled in God’s mind and/or that God’s plans were unalterable. His prayer reveals that even with regard to the central defining event in world history, there was, in the mind of Jesus, an outside chance that his Father might yet change his mind.

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