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Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.

“Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”

John 18: 11

FOLLOWING OUR Lord’s instituting and celebrating the Memorial of His death with His Apostles, they proceeded to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. There, our Lord for one hour, suffered His greatest trial (Matthew 26: 36-46). After that hour, Judas, one of the Twelve, came with a great multitude and betrayed Jesus with a kiss. When they arrested Jesus, the Apostle Peter drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Jesus spoke the words of our text, and then healed the ear of the servant (Luke 22: 51). What a wonderful lesson of non-violence! It reminds us of the instance when the Apostles James and John asked Jesus if they should command fire to come down and destroy a Samaritan village when they would not receive Him. He rebuked them and said, “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9: 56).

The word “cup” in Bible symbols is used in a variety of senses, one of which is that of experiences: (1) of bliss (Psalm 16: 5); (2) of woe (Matthew 20: 22); or (3) a combination of both of them (Psalm 23: 5). The meaning of “cup” as used in our text, “the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it,” refers to the peculiar experiences of shame and disgrace which Jesus knew He would face in the final thirteen hours of His earthly life.

Jesus’ Gethsemane Experience

But let us first consider the “cup” which Jesus experienced in Gethsemane. When Jesus consecrated His life to God at thirty years of age, and was baptized in the Jordan River four days later, He was begotten of the holy spirit and became a new creature. During Jesus’ three and a half-year ministry, His new spirit-begotten mind, heart and will developed until every one of His graces of character became unbreakably perfect. The hour in Gethsemane was the ultimate test of His New Creature. The Apostle Paul refers to this Hebrews 5: 7: “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.”

Jesus had two fears: (1) that He had not lived up to His consecration perfectly, and thus had failed in some respect; and (2) that He would not be able to maintain His perfection during the crucial trials He was about to face. Satan was undoubtedly permitted to work on those fears, making them even more intense. What if Jesus had failed to carry out His consecration faithfully unto death? It would have meant: (1) God’s disapproval; (2) shipwreck of God’s Plan; (3) failure to win the Church as His Bride; (4) the human family remaining unredeemed and under the curse; and (5) the end of Jesus’ existence, with no hope for a resurrection. No wonder that the sorrow almost killed Him. No wonder that He “sweat . . . great drops of blood” (Luke 22: 44). No wonder that three times He sought comfort from His three closest Apostles. No wonder that three times He asked His Heavenly Father, if possible, to remove the cup.

Finally, the Father said “enough,” and He opened Jesus’ eyes of understanding, assuring Him that He had maintained His perfection, and that He would prove faithful unto death. The Father undoubtedly led Jesus’ mind to various Scriptures that gave Him the necessary assurance, such as:

Psalm 16: 8: “I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”

Isaiah 53: 9: “And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.”

That assurance enabled Jesus to become calm, ready and resigned to drink the cup of physical exhaustion, mental sorrow and physical violence that awaited Him.          

Jesus’ Final Thirteen Hours

From the Jewish standpoint, to die as an excommunicate was the chief of all evils, the death penalty being that of hanging by strangulation (Galatians 3: 13). And prior to, and until the execution was carried out, the people were to think, feel and express the limit of human indignities toward the condemned. From the Roman standpoint, to die as a rebellious outlaw was the chief evil, the death penalty being that of crucifixion. During the crucifixion, the condemned was given as much humiliating treatment as possible. As a Jew, the viewpoint and treatment that Jesus would receive from the Jews was the worse of the two.

Whereas Jesus’ trial in Gethsemane was that of His New Creature, the trial following Gethsemane was that of His humanity. We read in Isaiah 53: 3 that He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Following His arrest, He was dragged to Annas, a former high priest; next to Caiaphas, the high priest and son-in-law of Annas; and then before the Sanhedrin, where He faced an unjust trial, resulting in a false and unjust sentence. Jesus was blindfolded, spit upon, slapped, kicked, had hair from His cheeks and head pulled out and was taunted. This was prophesied in Isaiah 50: 6: “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”

Jesus was then brought before Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, where He received another unjust trial and false and unjust sentence. The Roman soldiers whipped Him on His back, chest, stomach, legs, feet, face and head. They put an old faded purple robe on Him, a crown of thorns on His head and a scepter of reeds, and proceeded to mockingly honor Him by bending their knee and hailing Him. They then took the reed and smote Him on the head and spit on Him.

Jesus’ Crucifixion

Jesus’ clothes were put back on, and He began the three-quarter mile procession to Calvary, being forced to carry His own cross. A soldier preceded Him, carrying a white board with His crime written upon it; next came Jesus and four soldiers; and finally the two robbers. When they arrived at Calvary, the crosses were laid on the ground, Jesus and the robbers were stripped of their clothes and were then nailed to the crosses. This is prophesied in Psalm 22: 16: “For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.” The crosses were lifted up and dropped into their holes, causing excruciating pain. Again, we read in Psalm 22: 17: “I may tell all my bones.” Each one of His bones, having been disjointed, could be counted as separate and distinct. But with all the pain and mocking, Jesus forgave His tormentors. Following His death, the soldiers pierced His chest and heart (Psalm 22: 6-8, 12-15, 18).

But Jesus’ most sorrowful experience as a human being was when He felt abandoned by God, as we read: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27: 46) (Psalm 22: 1). The Father temporarily withdrew His favor and communion from Jesus, for the penalty of Adam’s transgression was not only death, but also alienation from God, a necessary part of Jesus’ suffering as the sin-bearer for Adam and the human family. Furthermore, Jesus being a perfect human being made all His sufferings more intense than that of a member of the fallen race, for His physical and mental sensibilities were far more keen than ours are.  

Exaltation Followed Suffering

Why was Jesus permitted to drink such a bitter cup? We answer: (1) God desired to develop in Jesus the greatest character possible for a creature to possess; (2) God intended to grant Jesus the Divine, immortal nature; and (3) God planned to give Jesus the highest office in the universe, next to Himself – to be His Vicegerent throughout the universe for all eternity. Before granting such a high exaltation, God needed to prove Jesus’ loyalty under the hardest of trials, and to prove to all His creatures the worthiness of Jesus’ great reward.

Considering Jesus’ superlative example, we may gain and apply valuable lessons to our own lives: (1) to appreciate God’s great sacrifice, in giving up His only-begotten Son unto suffering and death for the benefit of all; (2) to appreciate Jesus’ willing sacrifice on behalf of Adam and the human family; (3) to recognize that all our experiences are under God’s supervision; and (4) to accept our experiences in the same spirit as Jesus did – willingly, humbly, meekly and faithfully. Hallelujah! What a Savior!