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Drinking the Cup of God’s Wrath

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Luke 22:45–46

What Jesus experienced in the garden of Gethsemane is beyond our ability to fully comprehend. But the model He gives us is very clear: When we come before the Lord in times of anxiety, pain, uncertainty, and decision, our foremost desire should always be for His will to be done.


As we set sail today on our Wisdom Journey, we are traveling back up the Mount of Olives to the garden of Gethsemane. The word Gethsemane means “oil press.” And like an oil press squeezing out the last drops from the olives, so the pressure upon Jesus at this moment is incredibly, eternally, significant.

The Gospels of Matthew and Mark record exactly what Jesus prayed there in the garden. I want to point out two aspects of this agonizing prayer of the Lord.

The first aspect I want you to notice is the Lord’s surrender. In Matthew 26:39, Jesus prays, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Then notice verse 42: “Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.’”

Twice Jesus says, “My Father.” Through all this lonely experience, Jesus, the man, never loses the sense of His trust and dependence upon the Father. He continues to address Him by this precious title, “My Father.”

And this is a tremendous example for us, because Jesus never said, “Where are You?” or “You must not love Me anymore!” We tend to draw the wrong conclusions from our Gethsemanes. We assume that pain and suffering are evidences that God is either absent or that He does not care.

A mark of Christlike maturity is being able to pray in your garden of Gethsemane experience with the confidence of “My Father! I know You are mine! I know I can still trust You. I know You have not left me alone!”

A second aspect of Jesus’ prayer is the Lord’s honest struggle. Again, in verse 39, Jesus prays, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Then, compare it with verse 42 again: “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

What is this “cup” that is causing the Lord such agony of soul? The Bible uses this imagery often in the Old Testament to refer to the wrath of God. For example, the psalmist writes this in Psalm 75:7-8:

But it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. 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.

The wrath of God against the sin of the world is what Jesus means by the cup. As fully man, Jesus certainly is dreading the terrible physical suffering the cross will bring Him. But that suffering would be nothing compared to experiencing the righteous wrath of God that would be poured out on Him as He bore the sin of the world.

It would be necessary, as He bore in His body our sin (1 Peter 2:24), that God the Father would turn away from Him, severing the intimacy of the Godhead. No, the Trinity would not, even for a split second, be reduced to something less than the triune God, but for those few hours on the cross, fellowship would be lost while God the Son became sin for us.

The Son of God knows He will experience the wrath of God on our behalf. And since He is a man, He can suffer its full penalty, which includes death. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). But because He is God, He can pay for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2) and in a matter of hours pay an eternity of debt for you and me.

If there is any way possible, Jesus wants to avoid the unimaginable agony before Him. But, clearly, His greater concern is accomplishing the will of His Father.

Beloved, when you are praying in your own garden of Gethsemane, when you are surrounded by sorrow, you are tempted to try to conform your heavenly Father’s will to yours—to try to convince Him to see things your way. What a blessing here to see the model of our Lord, who surrendered His will to His Father’s.

In summarizing the model Jesus gives us here in the garden, three words come to mind. The first word is realize. Realize that Gethsemanes are experiences for every believer to go through. In his second letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (3:12). Suffering is a part of everyone’s life, simply by virtue of living in this world. But on top of that, believers who seek to live godly lives for the Lord are guaranteed persecution. There is simply no avoiding pain, suffering, and persecution.

But then, the apostle Peter adds this good news for us in 1 Peter 5:10:

After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

We need to realize that our Gethsemanes are inevitable and yet temporary. And they do, in the end, strengthen and establish us in the faith.

The second word is remember. Remember that a close walk with Christ does not lead you away from Gethsemane but takes you through it. Walking with God does not erase the potential of pain. Fellowship with the Father does not help us avoid sorrow; it helps us walk through it. In fact, staying close to Christ in a crisis has a way of transforming the garden of Gethsemane into a classroom where some of the deepest lessons can be learned.

Realize, remember, and—one more key word: recognize. Recognize that when you are agonizing in the garden, close friends can be reassuring, but they cannot serve as replacements for your heavenly Father.

In fact, just look at the Lord’s closest disciples, Peter, James and John, whom the Lord invited to join Him in the garden. These are His closest friends on earth. But look at Matthew 26:40-41:

And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

That encouragement apparently was not enough:

And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (verses 43-46)

Two times He asks His friends to pray with Him and certainly pray for Him. Two times He urges them to stay awake. And both times they go to sleep.

But listen, beloved, when you are experiencing a trip to Gethsemane, no one—not husband, wife, father, mother, friend, or associate—will completely understand. Only one will. Jesus knows exactly what it is like. He knows what you are going through. He understands.

So, here in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus looks ahead and sees all the agony of the cup that He will drink dry on our behalf. And He concludes His time here by saying to His Father, “Your will be done.”

From this moment forward, there is no sound or sense of hesitation. Jesus walks forward, showing us all how to walk through Gethsemane as well.

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