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The Prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane and Hebrews 5:7

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews (5:7) NIV

Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be upon all.

The muslims always uses the aforementioned biblical verse to raise questions on the Christian faith since we believes that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the mankind and through Him we have the forgiveness of our sins.

The Islamic contention is that as the verse says that Jesus cried out to the Father who could save Him from death and Jesus was heard because of His submission to the Father and was finally saved from dying on the cross thereby consolidating Islamic position that Jesus did not die on the cross but was raised up alive to God as what the following verses say :-

And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise.” Qur’an (Surah Nisa verses 157-158), Pickthall 

If one may have a look at the biblical verse quoted above, he will get the same idea. But that is not the case for the book of Hebrews explicitly states that Jesus offered Himself for sins. So what Hebrews 5:7 is actually speaking ? 

I will deal with it.

Secondly I was on paltalk this afternoon (11/12/2011) in the Answering Christianity room and one respected muslim brother with the nick ‘ islamicbraveheart’ raised a question that if Jesus was aware that he will be saved, then why did He cry out to God to save Him ?

He asked this because I erroneously spoke to him that the author of Hebrews actually meant the eternal separation from God of Jesus by death in Hebrews (5:7)

So here I have two questions before me :-

Q1.What actually does it means by Jesus being heard of His prayers in Hebrews (5:7) ?

Q2. Why did Jesus cry out to God when He was well aware that He will be saved or resurrected ?

Lets have a look at few verse from the very book of the Hebrews which speaks of Jesus’ vicarious sacrifice :-

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Hebrews (1:3) NIV

“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews (2:9) NIV

Please see Hebrews 2:14-17;6:4-6; 7:26-27 ; 9:11-15, 25-28; 10:10-12, 19-22, 26-29; 12:2; 13:12, 20-21 too for confirmation that Jesus actually died according to the Hebrews author.

Now let us see the first question.

When Jesus during the time close to His crucifixion was at the garden of Gethsemane situated at the slope of Mount of Olives, He prayed in the following manner as recorded in the gospels :-

“ Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and 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.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.“Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
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 26:36-42 NIV

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22:39-44 NIV

Both Matthew and Luke gives their respective accounts of the event which are no different to each other rather both has given some additional information which are not contained in each other accounts.

Jesus was experiencing a terrible agony in His body as the sins of the whole world was laid upon Him. His blood actually became sweat and was falling on the earth.

Although He knew that He came for this very purpose (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:20; John 10:11) of making atonement for the sins but still being in flesh, the immense sufferings in the body led Him to pray that if that’s the will of Father, the cup (to die a vicarious death on the cross) may be taken away from Him.
But at the same time He did not seek to disobey the Father for later He said that let not my will of the cup to be withdrawn be fulfilled rather the will of the Father.

This case is quite similar to a case of pregnant lady who though is willing to give birth to a child but in the labor room experiences a terrible pain in an attempt to eject the child and sometimes it does comes in her heart during this moment that how good it would have that if she may have not fell pregnant so she had not to bear this intense pain.

And this can be well confirmed by the Lord's own statement when He spoke about temptation to Simon Peter,His disciple. Let us see what does He says to Peter :-

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

He in His Spirit was willing to die but the flesh (His human body) was hindering Him, i.e the pains through which He was passing in His body.

And since Jesus was sent to fulfill the will of the Father (John 5:30, 6:38) by the Father Himself, i.e to lay down His life as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity ( Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; John 3:16-17), He obeyed the Father by submitting Himself when He said “ Let not my will, but thy will be done ” as what we have seen above.

He did bother about the suffering and shame of cross for the joy He was supposed to receive after passing through it but gave Himself as an obedient Son to the Father :-

“ For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews (12:2) NIV

And now let us see the verse quoted at the top from the book of Hebrews in context :-

“ During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” Hebrews (5:7-9) NIV

Now I am in a position to answer the questions I have before me:-

Answer no 1- Jesus being heard of His prayers actually implicates that since He surrendered His will to the will of the Father as its written “ because of His reverent submission” and He remained obedient, God let Him to go through the agony of cross because of His prayer of submission to the will of the Father. His condition there was like that as if He might die there in the garden only for He spoke :-

My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.

God therefore sent an angel to empower Him in this circumstance so that the will of the Father may be fulfilled for which He prayed for.

Answer no 2 – He did cry out to God though being well aware of the future because of the terrible pain and suffering through which he was going at the Mount of Olives. His case quite resembles with the case of a pregnant woman whose illustration have I quoted above that she wishes to give birth to a child but it’s a human weakness that during those moments she does think at some instant how good it would have if she may have not conceived which consequently could have not let her to face the pangs of child birth.

Remember that He spoke of Spirit being willing but flesh or body is weak as I have explained above.

I wish to urge my muslim friends that before making an issue of something, please do endeavor to comprehend the case by looking at the context instead of randomly picking a verse and doing failed polemics.

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