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

Why Was Christ Overwhelmed with Sorrow in the Garden?

We are continuing our meditations on the last hours of Christ before His crucifixion (Scroll down for earlier meditations). When they arrived in Gethsemane, Christ went from them a stone’s throw distance and Luke tells us that He fell to His knees to pray (Luke 22:41). Matthew tells us that at times His posture was one of lying down with His face to the ground in impassioned prayer:

37He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 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 26:37-39).

The phrase, “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” is quite a descriptive phrase and leaves us wondering as to what was going on inside His soul. Whatever it was that He was going through, Jesus described it as being so overwhelming as to bring Him close to death (v. 38). Such was the intensity that He begged for prayer support, saying to the disciples, “Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). Mark, in his gospel, describes Jesus as being “deeply distressed and troubled” (Mark 14:33). The writer to the Hebrews also wrote about Jesus in the garden, saying, “he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death” (Hebrews 5:7). The English King James Bible translates the same verse with the words: “He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears.” Luke described Jesus as: “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling down to the ground” (v. 44). The Greek word translated anguish is where we get our English word agony. The Greek word is used in terms of someone fighting a battle with sheer fear.[1]

Jim Bishop, in his book The Day Christ Died, comments on Christ’s sweat being like drops of blood:

“Medically, this is called haematidrosis. It occurs when fear is piled upon fear, when an agony of suffering is laid upon an older suffering until the highly sensitized person can no longer sustain the pain. At that moment, the patient ordinarily loses consciousness. When that does not happen, the subcutaneous capillaries sometimes dilate so broadly that, when they come into contact with the sweat glands the little capillaries burst. The blood is exuded with the perspiration and, usually, this occurs all over the body.”[2]

I have read of this happening during the Second World War, when Germany was bombing London in what was known as the Blitz. The daily pressure of the bombing brought a number of cases where this occurred. The stress of fear was so great, that it caused some people to literally sweat blood.

There are some scholars that interpret this verse to mean: “his sweat was like drops of blood,” and that He didn’t actually bleed. They reason that Jesus was sweating so hard, it was “as if He were bleeding.” They say that He could have been sweating from the energy of His impassioned praying or because of stress. Passover falls in our calendar between the months of March and April, and it is usually cold in Jerusalem due to being situated higher in the mountains. Later on, Peter had warmed himself by the fire with those that had arrested Jesus in the courtyard of Caiaphas. If it was just sweat, why would blood be mentioned? This would have been difficult to see in the moonlight at a stone’s throw distance away, but perhaps when He came to wake up the disciples, they noticed that He had been sweating. If it were blood, it would have been evident by the color of His tunic when He came near. I leave you to decide which interpretation you find to be the most believable. Personally, I think that the scriptures mention drops of blood because He was literally sweating blood, due to the extreme aguish and stress that He was going through in the garden. At great cost to our Savior was our salvation won by Him.

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

[1] William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, The Gospel of Luke, Saint Andrew Press Publishers, Edinburgh, Page 271.

[2] The Day Christ Died by Jim Bishop. Harper San Francisco Publishers. Page 169.