Question: I’ve heard several speakers lately say that Jesus was afraid that Satan would kill Him prematurely in the Garden of Gethsemane before He could get to the cross. And that’s why He cried out, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” the “cup” being a premature death in the Garden. Is that true?
Response: Hardly. Dying on the cross as the sacrifice for sin was the culmination of Christ’s purpose in being born into this world. The prophets had foretold it and Christ himself had confirmed it (Matthew:16:21; John:12:32-33). Nothing and no one could have killed Him or otherwise prevented the fulfillment of His mission.
Jesus is God. Neither man nor Satan could take His life. He declared, “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John:10:17-18). How, then, could He have been afraid that Satan might take His life? Christ is also perfect, sinless man—the one and only God-man. As man, He would not for a moment have been in fear of Satan slaying Him, for He was walking in perfect obedience to and under the complete care of His Father. To suggest such a fear indicts Christ with the rankest unbelief. Furthermore, Christ is God and infinitely stronger than Satan!
Remember, also, that after asking if the cup might pass from Him, Christ said, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke:22:42). If the “cup” He wanted to escape was death in the Garden, then by saying “nevertheless...thy will be done,” Christ was suggesting that it might be the Father’s will for Him to die in the Garden at the hands of Satan rather than to pay for our sins upon the cross, which is unthinkable.
Nor was the “cup” the physical pain of being crucified. Many had bravely endured crucifixion and Jesus was no coward. The “cup” from which He shrank was the awful separation from God which His justice required as the penalty for sin: that His holy soul would be made “an offering for sin” (Isaiah:53:10)—He would literally be “made [to be] sin for us” (2 Corinthians:5:21). His prayer, therefore, was an earnest request from Son to Father: “Might there not be some other possible means of saving sinners?” The Father’s answer was “No.” We know, therefore, that Christ’s death upon the cross as our sin-bearer was and is the only way of salvation. Horrible beyond comprehension, what He endured we will never know. He fully paid that penalty for us.