"And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops
of blood falling down to the ground." (Luke 22:43).
What does 'agony' mean?
1) a struggle for victory
1a) gymnastic exercise, wrestling
2) of severe mental struggles and emotions, agony, anguish"
(Thayer's Greek Lexicon)
Jacob's wrestling contest prefigured Christ's struggle in the Garden:
"Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the
breaking of day...And He said, 'Your name shall no longer be called Jacob,
but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.'"
"Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept, and sought
favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us - that
is, the LORD God of hosts. The LORD is His memorable name." (Hosea
The contender who wrestled with Jacob was now struggling on His
own account. This incident is a source of wonder and gratitude to
Christian believers, but is taken as compelling proof by skeptics
that He who here prays cannot have been God. Some 'Oneness'
Pentecostals join other Unitarians in denying that He who prayed was
God incarnate, others relegate His blood-spattered prayer to an
insincere pantomime carried out for the instruction of watching
And was Heard
"As He also says in another place: 'You are a priest forever according
to the order of Melchizedek'; who, in the days of His flesh, when He had
offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to
Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly
fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which
He suffered." (Hebrews 5:6-8).
The Bible says that He "was heard." In what was He heard? Not
in His first petition: "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup
pass from Me..." (Matthew 26:39), but in His second: "O My Father,
if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done."
(Matthew 26:42). He was saved from death, which did not triumph over Him,
in the face of the full force of the Father's wrath against sin poured
out upon Him. Sin had brought death into the world, but did not gain the
The Bible tells us that the Lord was without deceit: "And they made
His grave with the wicked - But with the rich at His death, because He
had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth." (Isaiah 53:9,
1 Peter 2:22). Could He who is "the Truth" be accused of
subterfuge?: "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the
life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'"
Jesus told us what He thought about play-acting. To say 'play-acting'
in Greek, you say 'hupokrisis', which "primarily denotes 'a reply, an answer'...then, 'play-acting',
as the actors spoke in dialogue..." (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary).
He didn't think too highly of it: "And when you pray, you shall
not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the
synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by
men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward." (Matthew 6:5).
When pressed to explain Jesus' prayers, some 'Oneness' Pentecostals assert
that He prayed for our benefit, for show not in earnest: to set an example.
Those who heard Him, they say, were watching someone pretend to carry on
a telephone conversation with the button pressed down. Hearing Him cry:
"O my Father," they make the astonishing claim that God is a
'hypocrite', in other words a stage actor, who puts on various masks and
disguises and pretends to carry on conversation. But would it not
be hypocritical for God to condemn people for hypocrisy if He excels in
that same character?
Finding it too shocking to repeat the claim that Jesus' prayers were
make-believe, pretend prayers, not all 'Oneness' Pentecostals go
there. Where, then? There is a 'Plan A' and a 'Plan B' with 'Oneness' Pentecostalism:
Plan A: Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three titles, offices or manifestations.
Plan B: The Father is Christ's divine Spirit and the Son is His flesh.
Christ's agonized prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is quite impossible for Plan A. How could one title or office
cry out to another? At this, the 'Oneness' Pentecostals drop 'Plan A' and explain that it was 'the flesh' which
prayed. Certainly one cannot understand Christ's prayer in the Garden without realizing He had humbled Himself
and taken on our nature. It's not His native estate to approach the Father as a humble petitioner; there was a time
when He "did not consider it robbery" to be "equal" to the Father:
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the
form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation,
taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in
appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of
the cross." (Philippians 2:5-8).