The Cup of Suffering and Judgment

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Matthew 26:39

As the hour draws near for Jesus’ crucifixion, we glimpse an amazing scene. Jesus, who had spoken of the inevitability of his death several times (for example, Matt. 20:17-19) actually asked his Heavenly Father to take away “this cup.”

The phrase “of suffering,” which does not appear in the original Greek of Matthew 26:39, was added by the translators of the NLT to elucidate the meaning of “this cup.” They drew from Jesus’ own statement in Matthew 20:22 about his “cup of suffering.” But, in the Old Testament, drinking the cup was also an image of divine judgment. The cup was filled with God’s wrath upon those who had consistently sinned against him (see Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:17; Jer. 25:15-16). So, as Jesus looked ahead to the cross, he envisioned, not only his physical suffering, but also his taking upon himself the wrath of God. He would be, indeed, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:36).

As the sinless Son of God, Jesus naturally dreaded the horror of the cross. Thus he asked for “this cup” to be taken from him. But, in the end, he accepted the will of his Father, and chose to suffer and die for the sin of the world. He would drink the cup that was rightly yours and mine, so that we might drink the cup of salvation.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you respond to the depiction of Jesus in the garden? Do you find this scene unsettling? Moving? Confusing? Reassuring?

PRAYER: Gracious Lord, how can I thank you enough for drinking the cup of suffering, the cup of judgment? You did what I could never do for myself, taking my sin and guilt so that I might be forgiven. Your choice to accept the Father’s will, like your decision to put aside your divine privileges in becoming human, was costly to you. Yet you chose the way of obedience, the way of sacrifice, the way of suffering, the way of love. For your faithfulness in the garden, I praise you, dear Lord. For choosing to drink my cup of judgment, I thank you and offer my life to you in gratitude.

All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Amen.

A P.S. from Mark

I have explained the meaning of the cup in a blog series on the message of Jesus. See especially Part 16.