Matthew 20:22-23. Here in this passage Jesus speaks of two cups, THE cup and My cup. These two metaphorical cups find their meaning and their power in the cross of Christ. “The cup” is the one that Christ will drink and “My cup” is the one that every follower of Jesus Christ will drink. These two cups take us onto holy ground. Let’s examine them one at a time.
The mother of James and John comes to the Lord and asks that her sons get places of honor in the Kingdom.
But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” (21:22) Jesus’ question is intended to stop any pride or any seeking of a place of honor, because the correct answer to Jesus’ question is, “No, Lord, we are not able to drink the cup,” but because they do not know what they are asking, they persist in their questioning.
But what is “the cup”? Jesus says, “Are you able to drink the cup . . . ?”
This is the cup that only the anointed King of glory, only the chosen one, only the Lord Jesus Christ can drink. This is THE CUP. This is the cup of God’s wrath poured out against sin. Jesus is the only one ABLE to drink THE CUP. Jesus is the only one WORTHY to drink THE CUP.
This is the cup that Jesus is about to drink in a few short days. Looming ahead of our great Savior is the terrible, awful cross where Jesus will accomplish His appointed work. There on the cruel tree our Lord will bear the crushing weight of the sin of the world and will experience the agony of God’s holy wrath poured out on Him as a means of atonement. He will drink the cup and pay the penalty of sin for all those who will trust in Him. There on Calvary’s hill Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice, will drain to the dregs THE CUP of God’s wrath.
“Are you able to drink the cup . . . ?”
This is the same cup that we see in Gethsemane. “If possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not My will, but Your will be done.” (26:39) Here in Gethsemane is the God-Man coming to full and final resolve to complete the mission He was given before the foundation of the world. Jesus knows that THE CUP cannot pass from Him, for He is the only one in all of human history who will ever be able to drink the cup to atone for sin. And so Jesus MUST drink the cup. This is the mission toward which He has irresistibly walked since His baptism. He will drink THE CUP for He and He alone MUST drink the cup of God’s wrath or no sinner would ever be able to approach our holy God and survive the consuming fire of His holiness.
And so Jesus drank THE CUP, and by drinking that cup, Jesus propitiated God’s wrath for all those who would trust in Him. When, in a moment in time on a cross outside Jerusalem, our Lord Jesus Christ drank THE CUP, His shout of victory rang forth: “It is finished!” The glorious Son of God drank the cup and thus God’s holy wrath was quenched for all those who trust in Jesus. No more condemnation. No more dread of punishment. No more guilt. All these have been finished because Jesus Christ drank the cup.
For the believer, this Scripture reminds us that, because our glorious Lord drank the cup, this terrible cup of God’s wrath for us, we will never experience His wrath. Instead, we are reconciled to God and have peace with Him and will forever praise the Lamb of God for His finished work on the cross.
If you are not a follower of Christ; that is, if you have never repented of your sins and willfully placed your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, then your situation is very different.
You are still under God’s wrath and judgment. For until you place your faith in Christ, you have no benefit from Christ’s atonement on the cross. The fact that Christ drank THE CUP of God’s wrath does not help you in the least. Jesus Christ drank the cup of God’s wrath so that all those who believe in Him would be forgiven of their sins. But for the rest, there is terrifying wrath and judgment.
If you are not a believer in Jesus, you need to know that the Bible has a lot to say about the wrath of God and has many pictures of the misery of those who experience God’s fury and His judgment. These are given as sober warnings so that you will fly to the One who has drained THE CUP to the dregs. Jesus drank THE CUP to atone for the sins of all His people, but for those who have never received Him and believed in Him, there is a terrifying expectation and experience of judgment. Jesus drank THE CUP, but in the book of Revelation we read of BOWLS of wrath poured out on the unrepentant as recompense for their sins. Bowls of wrath and endless ages of punishment will not be enough to atone for even one single sin from one sinner. And if you remain outside Christ, this describes you.
But Jesus drank THE CUP. He came from heaven to earth to satisfy the wrath of God by enduring the cross and drinking the cup. And THE CUP that He drank will avail for you, if you will repent of your sins and place your faith in Him.
This is THE CUP. But Jesus also talks about “My cup.” (Matthew 20:23) That will be the topic of our next study.
SDG RMB 2/5/2017