Matthew Lent Series # 2 Matthew 26:36-46
April 9, 2017 “Drinking the Cup of God’s Wrath”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
I want us to focus this morning on Jesus’ prayer, asking His Father to take away the cup which He was to drink from. He repeated this request three times.
Why was Jesus so persistent in his prayer for this cup to be taken away? What was in this cup that made Jesus shrink back from it” And what does it mean for us, that Jesus did drink the cup?
It’s clear from the context of all the suffering that Jesus was about to endure that this cup was the cup of God’s wrath against sin. The Bible often speaks of the cup of God’s judgment or anger against sin, evildoers, and wickedness.
So here in the garden we have the sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ the Righteous One, who is facing the awful mission of drinking the cup of the Father’s wrath! Jesus, who had never tasted even one sin, whose pure eyes cannot even look upon evil, who never committed even one transgression against the Father, was now faced with the horrible task of becoming a sin offering for us, by drinking down all of the Father’s intense fury against sin and evil!
John Calvin comments that here Jesus came face to face with the hardest temptation, with the most powerful trial and ordeal. Jesus is struck with unaccustomed terror, and He sweats drops of blood in His agony. He was being called not only to lay aside the delights of a perfect union with His Father, but to feel the full hot burning of the Father’s wrath and curse. Jesus was not recoiling at the extreme physical suffering of being scourged, nor at the agonizing slow death of being crucified – as horrible as those were (Think about watching the movie The Passion of the Christ) but rather the Son of God was shrinking back from the sight of the dreaded tribunal of God Himself coming down upon Him. He was flinching at the prospect of the Divine Judge Himself, armed with vengeance beyond understanding, putting the cup of wrath in His face, and making Him drink it.
Growing up, I knew and felt the love that my earthly father had for me. But one day I used a racial slur in his presence, and just for that moment, I felt the wrath of my father toward to, in his look and his voice. It was an awful moment for me. How much more awful was it for the Son of God to feel His Father’s anger directed toward Him?
Can any of us comprehend Jesus’ emotions here, for what he is about to face? His anguish in Gethsemane was deeper than we can imagine. Three times Jesus prayed in deep distress, as He knew what the Father was asking of Him.
Jesus was profoundly troubled. Gethsemane was the critical moment in Jesus’ life, when the full meaning of His submission to the Father’s will confronted him.
As Jesus was praying, it was as if He saw hell opened before him, and He staggered at the angry abyss. He knew he would feel the full measure of God’s wrath against sin on himself, and he would be utterly forsaken by His Father. None of us can fully comprehend what Christ went through, though we get a little glimpse of it here in the garden and later on the cross, when Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?
The commentator Lenski notes: “The agony of Gethsemane will always remain full of mystery for us because of the mystery of the union of Christ’s two natures. We have no conception of what sin, curse, wrath, and death meant for the holy nature of Jesus. Since He was sinless and holy He should not die; and yet, because He was sinless and holy, He was the only one who could die for our sin.”
Furthermore, His death was far different than any martyr’s death. Why could some Christians go to the stake with joy and singing, while Jesus went to the cross with such trembling? What was the difference?
Lenski continues: “The martyrs died after Jesus’ death had removed their sin and guilt; the sting of their death was removed through His death. But Jesus died, being made sin for us, being made a curse for us, and the sting of death penetrated him with all its damnable power…. Jesus actually stepped into the death that was to atone for the world’s sin. All that is horrible, unspeakable, hellish, and damnable, in our guilt, rose up to meet him, and His whole nature shrank from the contact.”
As Jesus faced the prospect of the cross as our sin-bearer, we get a glimpse at how we should look upon sin and death. Here in Jesus’ agony, we get a picture of our guilt made visible.
Jesus kept sin at the greatest distance from Himself. All evil would be burned up as it came near Him, as a paper airplane would be burned up as it came near the sun. Yet how do I treat sin? To my shame, I sometimes welcome sin and evil and rebellion into my heart and life as it they were my friends!
Lord, have mercy upon me! Help me and help us to hate sin and evil as our Lord does!
Now some people find the idea of God having wrath to be distasteful. But think about it. If God loves all that that is right and good, and all that conforms to His holy character, then it follows that he would hate everything that is opposed to his moral character. If God is to be holy, righteous, and just, then He must also have anger and wrath toward sin and evil. Otherwise he would delight in sin and evil or be untroubled by them.
Wayne Grudem writes that “God’s wrath mean that he intensely hates all sin.” (And the Son of God would of course share in that hatred of sin.)
John Stott defines the wrath of God as “His steady, unrelenting, unremitting, uncompromising antagonism to evil in all its forms and manifestations.”
Now consider the words of John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (Think about that verse in light of Jesus drinking the cup of God’s wrath for our sake, for God’s glory)
Grudem continues: “Jesus became the object of the intense hatred of sin and vengeance against sin which God had patiently stored up since the beginning of the world.” At the cross the fury of all God’s stored up wrath against sin was unleashed … against God’s own precious Son. It was as if all the sin of history had been stored up like water behind a mighty dam, and now the full weight of all those sins came bursting through a cross-shaped breach in the dam, directed and focused solely on Jesus.
Jesus became a propitiation in our place; He became the perfect sacrifice that bore God’s wrath, so that we might receive God’s favor.
This is at the heart of the atonement. Before we could know that our sins were forgiven and we were reconciled to God, first God’s justice and wrath had to be satisfied.
Analogy: Think about the worst thing you have done, or could do, to destroy the relationship you enjoy with your dearest friend. (Imagine that a congregation discovered that its pastor had been committing adultery with church members, embezzling the church funds, and had transferred the church building and property to himself. Wouldn’t that congregation be justifiably angry with their pastor?) Think about facing the fiercest anger of a person you have betrayed. That gives you a tiny sliver of what Jesus faced for us.
Here’s another way of thinking and feeling what it meant for Jesus to drink the cup of wrath, which I have borrowed from another pastor’s sermon. In the garden, as Jesus wrestles with this horrible task of drinking the cup of the Father’s wrath, He imagines being nailed to a cross in a few hours. And as Jesus looks up to his Father, His Father looks back, but this time Jesus sees eyes of burning anger and wrath. And His Father speaks to him in an accusing, furious voice:
“Son of Man! Why have you sinned against me? Why have you heaped scorn on my glory?
I look at you and see only sin and evil and rebellion! You are consumed with yourself and puffed up with pride! You rob me of my glory, and you worship yourself! You are a greedy, lazy, gluttonous slanderer and a gossip. You are a lying, conceited, ungrateful, cruel adulterer.
You practice sexual immorality; you make pornography, and fill your mind with vulgarity.
You exchange my truth for a lie and worship the creature instead of the Creator.
You hate your brother and murder him with the bullets of anger fired from your own heart.
You oppress the poor and ignore the needy. You persecute my people. You put on a cloak of outward piety, but inside you are filled with dead men’s bones — you hypocrite! You are lukewarm and easily enticed by the world. You covet and can’t have what you want, and so you murder. You are filled with envy and rage and bitterness and unforgiveness.
You blame others for your sin and are too proud to even call it sin.
And you have a razor tongue that lashes and cuts with its criticism and sinful judgment.
Your words do not impart grace. Instead your mouth is a fountain of condemnation and guilt and obscene talk.
You have no self-control. You are a betrayer who stirs up division and factions.
You’re an anxious coward. You do not trust me. You blaspheme against me.
You are an un-submissive wife. And you are a lazy, disengaged husband.
You’re a pimp and a drug dealer. You practice divination and worship demons.”
And as the Son is crushed and devastated by the fierce wrath of His own Father, His father lashes out with this: “I hate these things inside of you. I’m filled with disgust and indignation, for your sin consumes me. Now, drink my cup! Drink all of it!
And Jesus does. He drinks the cup of His Father’s wrath for hours. He swallows every drop of the scalding liquid of God’s hatred of sin, mingled with his white-hot wrath against that sin.
This is the Father’s cup: omnipotent hatred and anger for the sins of every generation past, present, and future; omnipotent wrath directed at His own beloved son, hanging on a cross.
The Father can no longer look at his beloved Son. He can no longer watch the one who is his heart’s joy and treasure, the mirror-image of himself. The Father looks away.
And on the cross Jesus pushes himself upward and cries out to heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And there is silence and there is separation. The Son is cut off from His Father.
On the cross, our Savior would drain God’s cup of burning anger down to the dregs. There, God poured out his wrath, full strength and undiluted, on his Son. Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for us so that he could extend the cup of God’s fellowship to us. We don’t get God’s wrath anymore; rather we get to enjoy God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Because Jesus drank the cup of God’s curse, we get to drink the cup of God’s blessing! This is the cup we drink. This is the cup that we offer to those who don’t know him yet, imploring them in God’s mercy, “Come, drink this cup with us, because Jesus drank that cup for us.”
In drinking the cup of God’s wrath, Christ was glorified. How so? In His unique ability to absorb God’s full wrath; He left nothing in the cup. James Hamilton writes that “Jesus exhaustively received the wrath of God. His greatness is seen in both His ability to satisfy the demands of God’s justice, and in His own righteousness whereby He is a sinless sacrifice.”
From the song Jesus Thank You: “You the perfect Holy One crushed Your Son, Who drank the bitter cup reserved for me…. “Your blood has washed away my sin, Jesus thank you. The Father’s wrath completely satisfied, Jesus thank you. Once your enemies, now seated at your table, Jesus thank you.” Though we were by nature “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), we who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior have been delivered from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10; Rom. 5:10).
Is Jesus your Savior? Are you relying on Him to be the One who absorbed the wrath that you deserved? Do you love Him more, realizing all that He did for you? Put your full hope and trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the One who completely satisfied the Father’s wrath!