Peter’s sermon to Cornelius reminds us, “To Him all the prophets bear witness that every one who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name,” Acts 10:43. The “Him,” of course, refers to Jesus Christ our Savior.
The forgiveness of sins is no small thing, but we take it so for granted that we often forget the price paid for forgiveness. In Matthew 26 Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and Luke records, “He began to be sorrowful and troubled.” (v. 37) “Then He said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’” (v. 38) Then in verse 39 we have these words, “And going a little farther He fell on His face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou will.’”
Luke relates this story but includes the remarkable detail that Jesus “sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.” Jesus is about to pour out His life for our redemption and He understands the responsibility and the cost of this sacrifice. His agony is so intense that He is bleeding before anyone has laid a hand on Him. In this pain and agony He calls out if it is the Father’s will remove this cup of wrath from Him.
To understand what this cup of wrath is that Jesus would like to pass up but can’t, we turn to the Old Testament. In the book of Habakkuk we read, “You are filled with shame instead of glory. You also—drink! And be exposed as uncircumcised! The cup of the LORD’s right hand will be turned against you, and utter shame will be on your glory.” (2:16) (See also Ezekiel 23:31-34)
The cup of wrath is God’s judgment for sin. To drink of the cup is to receive the full weight of God’s righteous judgment for sin. Jesus is not broken in the Garden because of the physical torture that is about to fall upon Him, but because of the knowledge that He is about to receive the full force of the Father’s wrath against sin and this is what He carries to Calvary’s cross.
No one in history has ever faced such wrath because no one in history, outside of Jesus, has ever carried the entire sins of the world on his shoulders. When Jesus hung on the cross every sin of every person who ever lived, who now lives or will live was carried to that cross with Jesus. And the Father’s wrath against sin fell full force upon Jesus almost crushing Him under the load of judgment.
As Jesus hung on that cross He began to drink from the cup. He drank deeply from that cup and received horror, desolation, separation, shame and death for sin. He took the punishment that should be ours and received it freely upon Himself so that we might be delivered and spared from such agony as having to drink from the cup of God’s wrath.
Think about the pain of the Father having to pour out punishment upon His own Son with the entire wrath of His righteous anger against sin. We cannot even imagine the agony of the Father who is unable to comfort His Son against the very wrath that He Himself is pouring out upon His Son. Hour after hour Jesus hung on Calvary’s cross drinking all the cup of wrath until it was finished.
Let me say something here that is important for us to grasp, and that is we will never understand or truly appreciate the agony and sacrifice Jesus faced on the cross. We watch movies like the Passion of Christ and see graphic details about His torture and physical agony on the cross, but that is not the whole cross event. Jesus’ drinking of the cup of wrath that should be ours to drink, as our substitute, is the core of the cross. If we only think of physical agony we miss the whole meaning of the cross event.
Do you really think Jesus died as our example? Do you think you can duplicate the cross event and drink all the cup of the wrath of God that is stored up for you? We belittle the cross when we believe that Jesus is some sort of superhero that points out to us through His life and death that we also can do what He does. Really! Do we think we can come to the cross and experience what He experienced?
Jesus is our substitute doing for us what we are totally incapable of doing for ourselves—procuring salvation. It is at the cross where we are confronted with the enormity of our sinfulness and our total lack of resources and powers to do anything about it. It is at the cross where we fall on our knees and rejoice that Jesus drank fully the cup of wrath for sin and through His sacrifice I may have forgiveness of sins.
It is at the cross where I am helpless and it is at the cross where I find salvation in the substitutionary death of Christ. It is at the cross where Jesus took upon Himself the wrath of the Father that He did not deserve that I may receive grace that I do not deserve.
You and I are totally deluded if we think Jesus hung on Calvary’s cross to be an example of how we are to hang on Calvary’s cross as well. He hung on that cross so we don’t have to feel the weight of God’s wrath. He took our place in judgment crushed under the weight of the sins of the world that we could be declared righteous by faith.
It is at the cross where we discover unconditional love that accepts us, holds us, comforts us, assures us and strengthens us for the lives we live. Chris Tomlin in his song At the Cross says it so nicely, “where your love ran red, my sin washed white.” Amen.
* Folks, the persecution of Christians has not stopped. If anything it’s increased. The main stream media doesn’t talk about it much anymore but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Pray and stay informed and inform others. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…