Let this cup pass from me
It was the original poisoned chalice. Just minutes after pouring wine into a cup of blessing, Jesus prays to His Abba, Father regarding a very different cup:
Jesus kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:41-44)
In Matthew 26:39 we read the more familiar version of His prayer: “let this cup pass from me.” He took the cup of the upper room gladly, He fervently wishes away this cup.
Between these two cups we learn something of the “wonderful exchange” which takes place between Christ and the believer.
One cup was offered in the upper room. One cup was offered in the Garden of Gethsemane.
One cup is given to us. One cup Jesus drinks for Himself.
One cup is for the forgiveness of sins. One cup is full of wrath and judgement.
One cup brings life. One cup brings death.
One cup is described as a cup of blessing. The other cup is a cup of curse.
Yet Jesus takes the curses that we might have the blessings. He drinks what we deserve so that we receive what only He deserves.
And though this exchange is offered for free. It is unfathomably costly for Christ.
Consider how the bible speaks of this cup of judgement:
“In the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.” (Psalm 75:8)
“Thus saith the LORD God of Israel unto me; Take the wine cup of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it. And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them. Then took I the cup at the LORD’s hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me… Therefore thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue, and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you. And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup at thine hand to drink, then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ye shall certainly drink. For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my name, and should ye be utterly unpunished? Ye shall not be unpunished: for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Jeremiah 25:15-29)
“If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:9-10)
This is why Jesus was “exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” This is why He asks for the cup to pass from Him. This is why Luke’s gospel records that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44). Blood vessels are bursting all over His body as He contemplates drinking this cup. It is full of the furious wrath of God.
The cross is not a three-hour inconvenience for the Son of God. It means entering into the infinite abyss of sin and curse. The hell of the cross was not easier for Christ than the hell of the damned. The hell of the cross was worse. All hell was distilled in that cup. All hell converged on that cross. And for the holy Son of God it was not more bearable but infinitely worse. Therefore He wanted another way. Of course He prays that the cup might pass.
And yet, how strange that He should pray it. Here is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). But as that dreaded hour draws near, He seeks earnestly for another path. How terrible is the godforsakenness of the cross! And yet how necessary.
Often people question the necessity of the cross. Why should Christ have to die? Why doesn’t God simply forgive? Why this business with blood sacrifice? Surely there’s another way!?
These are all questions which, in principle, Christ Himself asks here in the garden. This is the very essence of His hour-long wrestling. And yet His Abba, Father provides no other way. There is no cup of blessing for us unless Christ takes the cup of curse. We cannot escape from the furnace of judgement unless Christ goes for us. The cup of wrath cannot pass from us unless it passes to Christ.
And here in the garden, Man steps in for man. Where Adam had failed in that first garden, Christ triumphs. He rises from prayer resolved “Thy will be done!” (v39). He has faced the prospect in all its horror – either He goes to hell or we do. And He comes to His decision: “Father, let it be me!”
Amazing love, how can it be?
That Thou my God shouldst die for me!