What Was the Cup That Jesus Had to Drink?

We are meditating on what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before Jesus was crucified. God gave Jesus a cup with which to drink, so the question we wish to answer is, what did the cup represent? Here’s what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane:

38Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39Going 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” (Matthew 26:38-39).

There are two things that were seen as a cup that Jesus had to drink to the dregs there in the garden. The first is that the cup was a picture of the wrath of God that was deserved by you and me:

Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger (Isaiah 51:17; read also Jeremiah 25:15-17).

We deserved spiritual death because of the sins and choices that we have made in our lives. In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam that when you eat of the fruit on the tree of knowledge of good and evil you would surely die. Adam did not die physically the day he ate, but spiritually he and everyone else born into the world, was separated from God and a barrier between God and man existed (Isaiah 59:2), a condition of death in the eyes of God. The prophet Ezekiel spoke about this punishment on sin, when he said, “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). Sin had to be judged or God would be accused of injustice. The punishment of sin must be maintained, God cannot just overlook sin and justice. For God to be love and just, the God of love came to pay the punishment in order that we may be freed from the penalty of sin.  Matthew tells us of the one prayer that the Father denied Jesus, “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (Matthew 26:39). Christ would have to endure the full punishment of separation from God on the cross: “Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) (Matthew27:46).

This God that we love and serve has made no other way of escape other than that His Beloved Son should go through this time of humiliation, pulling at His beard, spitting in His face, and flaying the skin off of His back, culminating in the torturous death of being crucified. There was no other way, no other solution. He didn’t tell man to wait until Mohammed. He didn’t change His salvation plan and tell man to go and see the Buddha. There was only ONE WAY and it involved God Himself becoming the substitute. Here we see the love of God revealed. God planned Operation Redemption. He Himself would pay the substitution ransom, the sacrificial price. Christ would drink the cup of God’s wrath. The price is free for us but it cost God His Son! He would take man’s place. The judgment was firm and just, the soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4), but Jesus, God’s Son, would take our place, the just for the unjust to bring us to God.

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the love of God said “no” to Jesus. It was not possible for there to be any other way but that He should take the cup and drink God’s wrath on sin to the dregs. If there was another way, don’t you think God would have taken it rather than watch His Son tortured and murdered?

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

When we truly understand all that God has done for us, the only response is love for the One who has made our freedom and deliverance from sin possible. Self-sacrifice is the “God way”. The way of the cross is the only way to God. We will look at the second thing the cup represented tomorrow.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 60, Jesus at Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-53). Keith Thomas