What would you do? What would you say?
Pretty hard to fathom, right...
...to be a part of the most epic Thursday night in history…to be with Jesus at the Last Supper and the garden knowing what we know today.
Indeed, there are many ways to reflect on the Easter story this time of year. But perhaps one of the best entry points we can tap into is “the new cup”.
Let’s dive into Mark 14 starting in v. 32:
“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I pray.' He took Peter, James, and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.” ~ Mark 14:32-33
So right away, we see a glimpse of Jesus’ humanity. Clearly, Jesus is aware of what's about to happen and is starting to feel more weight on his shoulders.
Let’s read on.
“And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.’ And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’” ~ Mark 14:34-36
Again, we see evidence not only of Jesus’ agony…but also his desire to stay tethered to the will of his Father. So while this passage may seem like Jesus is desperate for a last minute detour from having to endure the cross, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
First off, when the text says “if it were possible, the hour might pass from him”, Jesus is asking God for continued strength to persevere…not for a supernatural fast-forwarding. He’s not confessing, “Okay, God. Let’s get this over with.”
Rather what Jesus is desperate for is a filled cup of strength to stay the course and finish well. This is why Jesus is steadfast in prayer during this three-hour stretch because he realizes the importance of staying connected to the Father...a desire further confirmed by his want for the disciples to be in prayer with him*.
Moments later, Jesus asks God to remove this cup from him. Again, it’s imperative to know Jesus isn’t asking for an alternative option. Many people assume Jesus’ agony is relative to the physical suffering he is about to endure.
But think about it: Jesus was fully aware of what was to happen over the next three days. Thus, it doesn’t make sense to think Jesus was fearful of death when you consider Jesus lived with the cross in mind his entire life. Surely, his agony had to be over something else.
This ultimately begs the question: What is the cup Jesus is referring to?
In the Old Testament, we’re given hints as to what this is:
“For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.” ~ Psalm 75:8
“Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.” ~ Isaiah 51:17
“Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.’” ~ Jeremiah 25:15
When we apply these Scriptures to the context of Mark 14:32-42, we realize “Jesus is not flinching at pain and death, but in fact, he’s shuddering before the cup of God’s wrath upon sin”1.
In other words, Jesus is beginning to taste death in all its bitterness “from a cup that has accumulated the fury of God against sins of all types (i.e. heinous crimes, adultery, careless words, dishonoring & deceptive thoughts)”2…and it’s this cup that Jesus ultimately drinks on the cross.
Think of this way: When Jesus died on the cross, God’s cup of burning anger was drained down to the dregs, the fullness of His wrath poured out onto His Son in our place (see 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Once Jesus consumed the cup of God’s wrath, it allowed a new cup to emerge: the cup of God’s fellowship!
Now we can celebrate this new cup by remembering the price Christ paid on the cross…and the “sweet, satisfying reality of God’s eternal fellowship in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit”2.
But perhaps the best part of this cup is the privilege we have to offer it to those who don’t know Jesus…to tell the lost and the broken: Come, drink this cup with us because Jesus drank that cup for us.
I don’t know about you, but I desperately want to be a believer who says these words often.
‘Til then, I wish you all a wonderful Easter…and encourage you to find peace and rest as you reflect on the ultimate sacrifice.
He is Risen!
1) McGuire, B. (2007, May 1). Christless Christianity. Vol. 16 No. 3 Page number(s): 21-24. Retrieved April 2, 2015, from http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=4