Again going a little beyond the three disciples, Jesus fell on His face and prayed to His Father. Except at the time when He quoted Psalm 22:1 as He cried out from the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46), Jesus always addressed God as Father. In so doing He expressed an intimacy with God that was foreign to the Judaism of His day and that was anathema to the religious leaders. They thought of God as Father in the sense of His being the progenitor of Israel, but not in the sense of His being a personal Father to any individual. For Jesus to address God as His Father was blasphemy to them, and “for this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18).
Although Jesus consistently called God His Father, only on this occasion did He call Him My Father (cf. v. 42), intensifying the intimacy. The more Satan tried to divert Jesus from His Father’s will and purpose, the more closely Jesus drew into His Father’s presence. Mark adds that Jesus also addressed Him as “Abba! Father!” (Mark 14:36), Abba being an Aramaic word of endearment roughly equivalent to “Daddy.” Such an address would have been unthinkably presumptuous and blasphemous to Jews.
Jesus implored the Father, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” By asking, “If it is possible;” Jesus did not wonder if escaping the cross was within the realm of possibility. He knew He could have walked away from death at any time He chose. “I lay down My life that I may take it again,” He explained to the unbelieving Pharisees. “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:17–18). The Father sent the Son to the cross, but He did not force Him to go. Jesus was here asking if avoiding the cross were possible within the Father’s redemptive plan and purpose. The agony of becoming sin was becoming unendurable for the sinless Son of God, and He wondered aloud before His Father if there could be another way to deliver men from sin.
God’s wrath and judgment are often pictured in the Old Testament as a cup to be drunk (see, e.g., Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:17; Jer. 49:12). This cup symbolized the suffering Jesus would endure on the cross, the cup of God’s fury vented against all the sins of mankind, which the Son would take upon Himself as the sacrificial Lamb of God.
As always with Jesus, the determining consideration was God’s will. “I did not speak on My own initiative,” He declared, “but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak” (John 12:49; cf. 14:31; 17:8). He therefore said submissively, “Yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” This conflict between what I will and what Thou wilt reveals the reality of the amazing fact that Jesus was truly being tempted. Though sinless and unable to sin, He clearly could be brought into the real conflict of temptation (see Heb. 4:15).
MacArthur New Testament Commentary