Gethsemane, Matthew 26. 36–39

“My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death”, v.38. In recording the Saviour’s words to His three disciples, both Matthew and Mark use the same Greek word of emphatic strength, perilupos (deeply grieved). But Jesus alone knew what would lie in the awful depths of that grief. This would be expressed in the cup that He would drink, in the cruelty that He would endure, and in the curse that He would bear.

“This cup”, v.39. The significance of the symbol is underlined by the strength of the demonstrative “this” as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. It was unique in its character; never before and never since has there been such a cup like it. It was the Saviour’s cup, and His alone. The unique character of “this cup” is revealed through Scripture, where we find:

1. Its Conception seen in Eternity

  1. The pre-creation planning of the cup: “Christ … was foreordained before the foundation of the world”, 1 Pet. 1. 20; “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”, Acts 2. 23.
  2. The pre-creation plea of Deity: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”, Isa. 6. 8, denoting the heartcry of the Triune God, the words having a deeper meaning than the immediate context of Isaiah 6.
  3. The pre-creation pleasure of Christ: “Then said I, Here am I, send me”, Isa. 6. 8; “Then said I, Lo, I come … I delight to do thy will, O my God”, Psa. 40. 8; Heb. 10. 9.

2. Its Consumer seen on Earth

  1. In the amazing mystery of the incarnation, 1 Tim. 3. 16, our blessed Lord wonderfully identified Himself with history and humanity; thus He was perfectly qualified to bear our griefs and carry our sorrow, Isa. 53. 4.
  2. In His sufferings and sympathy, “For in that he himself hath suffered … he is able to succour”, Heb. 2. 18.
  3. In His humanity, His pathway of sorrow would reach its ultimate depth in drinking the cup. He was born into Manhood in order to die; here is the unbreakable bond between the cradle and the cross, declaring the divine design, “that he by the grace of God should taste death”, Heb. 2. 9, to bring “many sons unto glory”, v.10, and to “destroy him that had the power of death”, v.14.

3. Its Contents seen at Gethsemane, Matt. 26. 39

  1. “He went a little further”. However great the extremities to which we may be called to go, in the problems, pressures and perplexities of life, He was able and willing to go a “little further”, thus to undertake in our every need.
  2. “He … fell”. At first He would kneel, Luke 22. 41. But by and by, as the intensity of His feelings increased overwhelmingly, “he … fell on his face” in the entire prostration of His agony.
  3. He said, knowing fully all that lay before Him, John 13. 1, namely, the horror and awfulness of sin, 2 Cor. 5. 21, the forsaking by “lover and friend”, Psa. 88. 18, and by God Himself, Psa. 22. 1; 88. 14. In this dark hour of agony, He will reveal to man the determined pathway, from which He will not turn aside, “not my will, but thine”, Luke 22. 42.

4. Its Consumption seen at Calvary

On the cross, Jesus drinks the cup; the verb gives the intense fulness of the action, “drains completely”. The significance of this is embraced both by the Hebrew text, “he hath done this”, Psa. 22. 31, and by the Greek text, “It is finished”, John 19. 30. This displays a completed work, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do”, 17. 4; “this man … offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down”, Heb. 10. 12.

Of the seven cries from the cross, two stand out in expressing His drinking of the cup:

  1. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”, Matt. 27. 46. He knew that the answer lay in the purity and holiness of His God, “But thou art holy”, Psa. 22. 3. Here was holiness that must turn away from the black enormity of man’s sin that He would bear in that dread awful hour.
  2. “It is finished”, John 19. 30. The symbol of “this cup” is seen in the reality of what He drank to the uttermost, the deep mystery of darkness, the loneliness, the wrath and judgment, the bearing of our human sin and guilt. All this is in the embrace of His sacrificial death. “Thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin”, Isa. 53. 10; “he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin”, 2 Cor. 5. 21.

5. Its Consequences seen at Pentecost.

  1. The birth of the church. “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost”, Acts 2. 4; “the Lord added to the church daily”, v.47; “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body”, 1 Cor. 12. 13; “the … church of the firstborn”, Heb. 12. 23.
  2. “No condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”, Rom. 8. 1; “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? it is God that justifieth”, v.33.
  3. The contrast of the cup. For Him it was a cup of sorrow that He alone must drink, John 18. 11; for the church it is a “cup of blessing”, 1 Cor. 10. 16.

6. Its Consummation will be seen in eternity.

  1. The fulfilment of the Saviour’s prayer. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me … may behold my glory”, John 17. 24.
  2. The fulfilment of the Saviour’s purpose. “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse for it … that he might present it to himself a glorious church”, Eph. 5. 25-27; “to the praise of his glory”, 1. 12.
  3. The divine purpose. “That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace”, 2. 7.
  4. The divine pathway from the cradle to the cross anticipated enduring “the cross, despising the shame”, Heb. 12. 2. Thus the vain philosophies of men, their bloodless, crossless religions, the doctrinal code and creeds of denominations will not suffice in the light and value of “this cup”.

Deep were Thy sorrows, Lord, when heaven frowned—Gethsemane!
Bloodlike Thy sweat, Lord, falling to the ground—so heavily;
Dark was the night, but heaven was darker still.
O Christ my God!—is this the Father’s will?


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