Incredibly, Jesus prayed three times and did not get His prayer answered: “Let this cup pass from me” and “take away this cup from me,” He cried. (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36). It was not possible. What exactly was in that mysterious cup that caused Jesus to shrink from drinking it? And what was in it that made it impossible for Him not to drink it?
It was not his physical suffering and pain, though it was intense. It was not the attacks of Satan and all his demons, though they were far greater than any man could endure. It was not even the social shame of dying on a cross, though it was a curse for a man to die on a cross. What was in that cup? Consider these three powerful ingredients in Gethsemane’s cup.
The first ingredient of this cup we can call divine fury and Jesus responded in extreme sorrow.
Matthew 26:37: And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
This cup represented God’s divine fury and wrath upon sin. As Jesus considered drinking the undiluted, fully concentrated divine wrath for the sin of the world, Matthew uniquely tells us He was hemmed in and surrounded by sorrow on every side. He stood at the precipice of death. The sorrows of hell surrounded him, and the sins of the world began to be laid upon Him. Immersed in sadness, He was like a man drowning, at the very door of death. Death’s waves and billows passed over him, and an intensity of sadness was crushing the breath from his lungs as God’s divine wrath was about to be fully laid upon Jesus.
A second ingredient of this cup was broken fellowship with His Father, resulting in horrified surprise.
Mark 14:33, And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed and to be very heavy.
This word, “sore amazed” is used only by Mark. It means to be alarmed, astonished, and greatly surprised, even horrified, sickened with disgust. This extreme alarm of His soul placed such pressure upon Him that He was about to die. The horror of broken fellowship reached its culmination during those three hours of darkness when Jesus cried out in utter loneliness, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me.” There on the cross Jesus suffered death and hell for all humanity. He experienced the utter separation from the Father, in abject loneliness, burning pain and darkness for you and for me.
A third ingredient of this cup was sin’s fulness which caused anguished struggle of sweat drops of blood.
Luke 22:44, 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.
Only Luke tells us of great drops of sweat mixed with blood, that began to fall from his body to the ground. Every pore of his sinless body became a bleeding wound as travail of soul overcame the Sovereign Son of God. Why? He who knew no sin was being made sin for us. Miraculously, He was taking the sins of the world in His body and was going to suffer the full weight of humanity’s rebellion against our Holy God. Remember also that it was cold, for Peter would soon warm himself by a fire. Yet, Jesus breaks into a bloody sweat as sorrow, surprise, and struggle sweep over his entire being. John Broadus well remarks, “The agony of Gethsemane, and the cry of the forsaken on Calvary, can be accounted for, in one of strong and sinless character, only when we remember how it is said, ‘Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf.’” (Commentary on Matthew, p.539)
Spurgeon, in his sermon entitled The Agony of Gethsemane, said: “He could have escaped from all this grief with one resolve of His will, and naturally the manhood in Him said, ‘Do not bear it!’ and the purity of His heart said, ‘Oh do not bear it, do not stand in the place of the sinner;’ yet infinite love said, ‘Bear it, stoop beneath the load’; and so there was agony between the attributes of His nature, a battle on an awful scale in the arena of his soul.”
Drinking the cup’s ingredients of sin’s fulness, broken fellowship, and His loving Father’s divine fury was the reason He was surrounded by intense sorrow, surprise and struggle.
If you are not a believer, realize that He was about to endure and drink an infinite ocean of inexpressible anguish in order to save us from our sin, and there is no other way for us to have salvation. He had to drink that cup, and this shows us that the only way for us to be saved is to come to Jesus and His cross. May you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved!
For the believer, Gethsemane’s cup reminds us to never forget the extreme agony Jesus endured because of the awfulness of our sin. We are masters of smugly minimizing sin and glossing over it as if it is no big deal. May we repent! As Jesus so suffered for us, let us arm ourselves with the same mind and serve and love Him with all of our hearts. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!