The Meaning of Surrender

(NAS) Mark 14:36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”

The difficult part of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is when He asks the Father, “…All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me….” What is going on here? It almost sounds like the Lord has doubts about His mission. Is it possible the assignment of salvation weighed in the balances as Jesus prayed? Was the Son looking for the Father’s approval of an opt-out strategy to the cross?

Here’s what’s happening. The fact that He is now God incarnate makes the pain real and understandable to the Eternal Son of God. Rest assured the plan of salvation through Calvary has never been in question since its conception between Father and Son sometime on the plains of eternity. But now, as Son of Man[1], He’s become fully man and could identify in all the aguish that a man’s body could suffer physically. He is flesh and blood and in this new physical element a surrendering to the Father’s will is what’s being presented. There is no question about doing the Father’s will. “Remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will” is a plea of His humanity in regards to suffering at the hands of sinful men. Jesus was not a fan of the macabre or lover of pain and death. He is a man like the majority of us with a threshold to torture and aversion to pain. Quickly that agony was becoming real to Him—shortly the cruelty would become too authentic.

Remember, after David numbered the people he was faced with choosing one of three consequences for his sin. What David didn’t want was suffering at the hands of men—and who could blame him! David chose to let God choose his option. Listen to the anguish in his voice in choosing:

(NAS) 2 Samuel 24:14 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the LORD for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”

Suffering at the hands of men was the choice Jesus made; the one that David could not choose. In fact, it is only Jesus that could ever make that choice. This was the will of the Father for Him. And, Jesus, knowing full well He was walking into real physical pain and torture, chose the Father’s will by surrendering to the judgment of man—the ersatz trials of religious and political leaders knowing cruel physical abuses were to follow.

It was necessary for Him to go to the cross of Calvary; there the divine learned the meaning of obedience as a man—His obedience to the Father was never in question. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way:

(NAS) Hebrews 5:8 “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation…”

Flesh and blood learned the meaning of suffering! His prayer in Gethsemane is one of humanity and association. Knowledge about the meaning of surrender was the needful experience making Him both an empathic and sympathizing High Priest who could thereafter make accurate intersession in heaven for those in need. I’m very much inclined to thank God for His prayer in the garden that taught the meaning of suffering— “not what I will, but what You will!”

J. Robert Hanson

[1] Some argue as to whether He was eternally Son of Man or became such at the incarnation. For now let’s set that argument to the side.


  1. In noting “only Jesus that could ever make that choice” I wish I would have added “as He alone is the first man to rely totally on the Father for His resource; thus opening the possibility to all men for doing the Father’s will.” But, I didn’t.

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