With composure, Jesus speaks to Judas of his betrayal, to the disciples of their abandonment, and to Peter of his denial, but when He speaks to His Father of this cup, He falls on His face. What was in this cup? This cup contained far more than Jesus’ physical sufferings and social abandonment and rejection. It wasn’t the Priests’ fists and spit, the soldiers’ whips and mockery, nor the Roman’s cross that Jesus trembled at, but the Father’s cup. What was in this cup? In a word—hell. Listen to how the Old Testament speaks of this cup.
Thus says the Lord YHWH: “You shall drink your sister’s cup that is deep and large; you shall be laughed at and held in derision, for it contains much; you will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow. A cup of horror and desolation, the cup of your sister Samaria; you shall drink it and drain it out, and gnaw its shards, and tear your breasts; for I have spoken, declares the Lord YHWH. Therefore thus says the Lord YHWH: Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back, you yourself must bear the consequences of your lewdness and whoring. — Ezekiel 23:32-35
Thus YHWH, 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. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.’ So I took the cup from the YHWH’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the YHWH sent me drink it: … ‘Then you shall say to them, “Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.” And if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the YHWH of hosts: You must drink!’ —Jeremiah 25:15-28
This was the cup we deserved to drink. This is a cup that makes vodka comparatively like Capri Sun. It is a cup no mere man can stomach. Infinite hell was bottled and poured full into this cup, dregs and all. This cup is full of the wrath of God, 100 proof. This is a drink, only God could live through, but only sinful man should drink.
In hell, souls suffer the righteous wrath of a God they hate. On the cross, Jesus bore the wrath of the Father He loves. How much did Jesus love the Father? So much that He took this cup saying, “your will be done.” The cross indeed shouts God’s love for sinners, but more loudly it screams the Son’s love for the Father. But the pain of the cross was deep to Jesus not just because of His love for the Father, but also because of the Father’s love for Him. When you look at the cross with the resurrection, as you always should, then you see that the cross was part of The Father’s plan to glorify the name of Jesus above all names. It is true that God so loved the world that He gave His Son; it is more true that God so loved His Son that He gave Him the world. One of the glorious mysteries of the cross is that while Jesus was bearing the Father’s wrath for our sins He was simultaneously rendering up an obedience that perfectly pleased the Father. How pleased is the Father by Jesus’ obedience? Your saved! The presence of all us unworthies in heaven eternally enjoying the love of God is the evidence of how much the Father loves the Son. The throngs of heaven from every tribe, people, tongue, and nation are the Father telling the son, “I love you this much.”
But while on the cross the Son tasted only bitter wrath, so that we might taste sweet salvation. Jesus turns a cup of wrath into a cup of salvation, but He must first drink it and let it come to us through His own veins.
Now He gives to His people ‘the cup of salvation’ (Psalm 116:13) these two cups, one so bitter, the other so sweet, stand side by side: the one cup necessitated the other. One cup was emptied that the other might be filled to overflowing. The first cup guaranteed the second. Both cups are precious and bear the hallmark of sovereign grace. ‘what shall I render to the LORD for all His bounty to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD…’ (Psalm 116:12,13).—Frederick Leahy