What was Jesus referring to in Gethsemane when He asked the Father, “Let this cup pass from me,” (Matt 26:39)? What was in the cup? Consider these texts from the Old Testament:
- Job 21:20, “Let his own eyes see his decay, and let him drink of the wrath of the Almighty.”
- Psalm 11:6, “Upon the wicked He will rain snares; fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.”
- Psalm 60:3, “You have made Your people experience hardship; You have given us wine to drink that makes us stagger.”
- Psalm 75:8, “For a cup is in the hand of the Lord, and the win foams; it is well mixed, and He pours out of this; surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.”
- Isaiah 51:17, “Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the Lord’s hand the cup of His anger; the chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs.”
- Isaiah 63:6, “I trod down the peoples in My anger and made them drunk in My wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”
- Jeremiah 25:15, “For thus the Lord, the God of Israel, says to me, ‘Take this cup of the wine of wrath from my hand and cause all the nations to whom I send you to drink it.’”
- Jeremiah 49:12, “For thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, those who were not sentenced to drink the cup will certainly drink it, and are you the one who will be completely acquitted? You will not be acquitted, but you will certainly drink it.”
The Bible uses the imagery of a cup to illustrate God’s wrath against the wicked. If God’s wrath is poured out upon someone, they are said to ‘drink’ this cup. This imagery is what we find in Matthew 26, as well as Revelation.
- Revelation 14:10, “He also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.”
- Revelation 16:19, “The great city was into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the win of His fierce wrath.”
Paul elaborates on this wrath-drinking work of Jesus Christ: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith” (Romans 3:23-25, emphasis mine). A propitiation is a sacrifice that appeases wrath. This was Christ: His sacrifice on the cross appeased the just wrath of God meant for His people. In His blood means it was in His death that this happened – Christ had to die. How might this propitiatory work benefit someone? Simple: through faith. Belief on Jesus Christ is promised by God to be followed by forgiveness.