Sabbath, June 6, 2020
Lesson 23 – Drinking the Bitter Cup
“The awful moment had come–that moment which was to decide the destiny of the world. The fate of humanity trembled in the balance. Christ might even now refuse to drink the cup apportioned to guilty man. It was not yet too late. He might wipe the bloody sweat from His brow, and leave man to perish in his iniquity. He might say, Let the transgressor receive the penalty of his sin, and I will go back to My Father. Will the Son of God drink the bitter cup of humiliation and agony? Will the innocent suffer the consequences of the curse of sin, to save the guilty? The words fall tremblingly from the pale lips of Jesus, ‘O My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.’” –The Desire of Ages, p. 690.
Carrying the sin of the world
- Where did Jesus go with His disciples as the hour of His greatest suffering approached?
Matthew 26:36, 37 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. 37And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
“… As He neared Gethsemane, He became strangely silent. He had often visit- ed this spot for meditation and prayer; but never with a heart so full of sorrow as upon this night of His last agony…. Now He seemed to be shut out from the light of God’s sustaining presence. Now He was numbered with the transgressors. The guilt of fallen humanity He must bear.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 685.
- What did the Redeemer ask His disciples to do as He felt the burden of the sin of fallen humanity weighing down on Him? What was the meaning of His request for them to watch with Him?
Matthew 26:38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
“Upon Him who knew no sin must be laid the iniquity of us all. So dreadful does sin appear to Him, so great is the weight of guilt which He must bear, that He is tempted to fear it will shut Him out forever from His Father’s love. Feeling how terrible is the wrath of God against transgression, He exclaims, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.’…
“Often they had passed the night with Him in this retreat. On these occasions, after a season of watching and prayer, they would sleep undisturbed at a little distance from their Master, until He awoke them in the morning to go forth anew to labor. But now He desired them to spend the night with Him in prayer. Yet He could not bear that even they should witness the agony He was to endure. ‘Tarry ye here,’ He said, ‘and watch with Me.’” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 685, 686.
“Christ was now standing in a different attitude than He had ever done before. Hitherto He had stood as an intercessor for others; now He longs for an intercessor for Himself. Could His human nature bear the strain?” –Christ Triumphant, p. 267.
- With the weight of sin upon Him and the sufferings of the cross before Him, what did Jesus ask of His Father? What would the consequences have been for humanity if Jesus had not drunk the cup of pain and suffering?
Matthew 26:39 And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
Mark 14:35, 36 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
John 6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
“As Christ felt His unity with the Father broken up, He feared that in His human nature He would be unable to endure the coming conflict with the powers of darkness…. Now the tempter had come for the last fearful struggle. For this he had been preparing during the three years of Christ’s ministry. Everything was at stake with him….
“That those whom He had undertaken to save, those whom He loved so much, should unite in the plots of Satan, this pierced His soul. The conflict was terrible. Its measure was the guilt of His nation, of His accusers and betrayer, the guilt of a world lying in wickedness. The sins of men weighed heavily upon Christ, and the sense of God’s wrath against sin was crushing out His life.
“Behold Him contemplating the price to be paid for the human soul. In His agony He clings to the cold ground, as if to prevent Himself from being drawn farther from God…. From His pale lips comes the bitter cry, ‘O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.’ Yet even now He adds, ‘Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.’” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 686, 687.
Watch and pray
- What did Jesus repeat to Peter when he and the other disciples were overwhelmed by weariness and sleep? Because of the weakness of the flesh, what happens to everyone who does not fight for Christ to be at the cen- ter of his life?
Matthew 26:40, 41 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Romans 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
“The human heart longs for sympathy in suffering. This longing Christ felt to the very depths of His being. In the supreme agony of His soul He came to His disciples with a yearning desire to hear some words of comfort from those whom He had so often blessed and comforted, and shielded in sorrow and distress. The One who had always had words of sympathy for them was now suffering superhuman agony, and He longed to know that they were praying for Him and for them- selves…. If He could only know that His disciples understood and appreciated this, He would be strengthened.
“Rising with painful effort, He staggered to the place where He had left His companions. But He ‘findeth them asleep.’ Had He found them praying, He would have been relieved. Had they been seeking refuge in God, that satanic agencies might not prevail over them, He would have been comforted by their steadfast faith.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 687, 688.
- Why were the disciples unable to stay awake and pray for the Father to give Jesus the strength He needed to endure the coming test? How severe was the agony of God’s Son?
Matthew 26:42, 43 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. 43And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
Mark 14:40 And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him.
“They did not intend to forsake their Lord, but they seemed paralyzed by a stupor which they might have shaken off if they had continued pleading with God. They did not realize the necessity of watchfulness and earnest prayer in order to withstand temptation….
“Again the Son of God was seized with superhuman agony, and fainting and exhausted, He staggered back to the place of His former struggle. His suffering was even greater than before. As the agony of soul came upon Him, ‘His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’ Now He was like a reed beaten and bent by the angry storm.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 688, 689.
Accepting the Father’s will
- While the disciples were completely oblivious to His unbelievable agony in carrying the sins of mankind, how many times did Jesus pray the prayer of submission to His Father?
Matthew 26:44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
“Three times has He uttered that prayer. Three times has humanity shrunk from the last, crowning sacrifice. But now the history of the human race comes up before the world’s Redeemer. He sees that the transgressors of the law, if left to themselves, must perish. He sees the helplessness of man. He sees the power of sin…. He has left the courts of heaven, where all is purity, happiness, and glory, to save the one lost sheep, the one world that has fallen by transgression. And He will not turn from His mission. He will become the propitiation of a race that has willed to sin. His prayer now breathes only submission: ‘If this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.’” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 690-693.
- How far did Jesus go in demonstrating His willingness to carry out His Father’s will? What great lesson may everyone learn from His agonizing ex- perience in Gethsemane?
Luke 22:43, 44 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 44And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Matthew 26:45, 46 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.
Philippians 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Hebrews 5:7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.
“‘And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’ ‘And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him.’ The conflict is ended; Jesus consents to honor His Father by doing His will and bearing His curse, the consequence of humanity’s transgression. He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Here was what was involved in Adam’s disobedience and what the obedience of the Son of God means to us….” –Christ Triumphant, p. 24.
“Willingly and cheerfully Christ gave Himself to the carrying out of the will of God. He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Shall we feel it a hardship to deny ourselves? Shall we draw back from being partakers of His sufferings? His death ought to stir every fiber of the being, making us willing to consecrate to His work all that we have and are. As we think of what He has done for us, our hearts should be filled with love.” –Counsels on Stewardship, p. 302.
For additional study
“Think of what Christ accomplished during His earthly ministry. How earnest, how untiring, were His efforts! He allowed nothing to turn Him aside from the work given Him. Are we following in His footsteps? He gave up all to carry out God’s plan of mercy for the fallen race. In the fulfillment of the purpose of heaven, He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross…. He grappled with temptation, overcoming in our behalf. The Son of God, pure and unsullied, bore the penalty of transgression, and received the stroke of death that brought deliverance to the race.” –The Colporteur Evangelist, p. 38.