Sunday, February 14, 2016


Meditations on the Cross, 3

Three of the Gospel writers - Matthew, Mark and Luke - record the words of Jesus' agonized prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, though in slightly different forms.  Matthew and Mark tell us that He prayed is prayer three times, but perhaps we can imagine that this was simply a way of telling us that He prayed it over and over.

Mark's record reads:  "Abba!  Father!  All things are possible for You; take away this cup from Me ..."

Luke adds the words:  " ... if You are willing ..."

All three record that He said:  " ... yet not My will, but Yours be done!"

What was this "cup" whose removal Jesus pleads for?  The Old Testament prophets often speak metaphorically of various "cups," but the cup most frequently mentioned in their writings is the cup of God's anger for sin, whether the sin of the nations or that of His own people Israel.  Even the Psalms speak of it.

"For a cup is in the hand of the LORD, with foaming wine fully mixed; He pours from this and all the wicked of the earth drink from it and drain it to its dregs" (Psalm 75:8).

"Drink and expose yourself; the cup in the right hand of the LORD will come around to you, and bring disgrace upon your glory" (Habakkuk 2:16).

Over and over the prophets speak of God's rage as "the cup," sometimes threatening, sometimes offering to withhold it.  (See in context, Isaiah 51:17ff, Jeremiah 25:15ff; 49:12; 51:7.)

So as Jesus lies on His face in the Garden and prays in agony for the cup to be removed, is that what is on His mind?  Is He contemplating facing the full force of God's wrath on Himself?  The fact that He is asking for it to be taken away would seem to imply that there in the Garden He was already beginning to feel its force.

Peter tells us, "He bore our sins in His own body on the tree" (2:24).  Paul says. "He (God) made the One who did not know sin to be sin (or a sin offering) for us" ( 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Was the God-Man in His human frailty recoiling from what in His divine knowledge He was repulsed by?  Was the cup Jesus speaks of, the full force of God's wrath on sin - the sin that He would bear?

It is impossible for us to understand the anguish - the emotional suffering through which He was only beginning to go at that point.

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