Friend: If Jesus knew he would rise from the dead, wasn’t he being over dramatic, or lacking in faith when he asked the Father to take the cup away?
Me: That is a tough question! Let me think about that…
Text where it stems from: Matthew 26:36ff
This question deals with one of the more perplexing issues found in Scripture and the answer is determined by how we understand Christ, or in theological studies, Christology. When understanding Jesus’ cry in the garden (or any of his other human characteristics such as his hunger, tiredness, limited knowledge of the Father’s timing, and ultimately his death) we have to take into account what we read in Philippians 2:4-11:
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
In these verses we see that Jesus was just like us because he became a human being, or “emptied himself, by taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” This did not eliminate or mix with his divine nature (“the form of God”). Being the second person of the Triune God he could not give up his divine nature just like God the Father could not give up being the Father, or the Spirit the Spirit. Nor could Jesus separate himself from his divine attributes such as his omnipotence, or omniscience, and still continue to be God. However, because Jesus took on the human nature in addition to his divinity, voluntarily limiting himself to that which corresponded with his humanity, he could accomplish the loving rescue plan which the Father had given to him, which involved his own death. He could be tired and thirsty. He could be lonely. He had humbly become a man and set aside the independent control of his divine attributes which were rightfully his.
With this understanding of Jesus’ divine nature and his human nature, we now consider him in the Garden. Here he knelt, weeping. If he knew he would rise again, why the drama? As a human being, he had lived perfectly. His entire earthly life had been one of unhindered communion with God the Father. He never had any sin to disrupt their communion, nor had he ever experienced the correction of God for pursuing his own sinful desire. But this was about to change. Soon he would be hung on a tree and made to be a curse. He would bear the wrath of God for sins he had never committed. He would drink the cup of God’s justice down to the dregs. He would be cut off from the Father for the first time in his life (see Isaiah 53, Romans 8:3; Galatians 3:13; Romans 4:25).
At this point, we have to remember that we are speaking of the human nature of Jesus the Messiah. We are not speaking of his divine nature, which could not be cut off from the Father and the Spirit. The Triune God could not abandon one of the persons, but the man Christ Jesus could take our sins and carry them to his grave. There he, flesh and blood, would lie dead.
This is why he wept. This is why he was in agony. He was about to give up his life and his perfect acceptance and communion with the Father on behalf of sinners like you and I.
So from this perspective, the struggle in the garden which Jesus faced is not an evidence for a lack of faith, but rather a demonstration of his faithfulness in the midst of the most horrific fate possible, to feel the full wrath of God upon him.
This is a very brief look at a very complex issue. I highly recommend reading this book for a greater treatment!