Does Sin matter to God? Why did Christ die?...

The Cup of Gethsemane

"O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matt. 26:39)

Jacob Marcellus Kik: The cup of gethsemane speaks to us about the agony of Christ in the Garden, agony that He endured because of our sin. Unconcern about sin characterizes the present generation. The enormity and heinousness of sin do not weigh upon the soul, or prick the conscience. Men openly flout the law of God. Transgressors exhibit callousness to the fact that they are affronting our holy God. This common attitude toward sin may in part be the fruit of liberal preaching, which has come from many pulpits during the past few decades. Because the pulpit has minimized sin, the people have minimized sin. Academic theological circles have recently awakened to the seriousness of sin, but this concern has not yet reached the pew, or the man in the street. The impress of twentieth century preaching still appears in a people indifferent to sin and its consequences.

How different from the scene in the garden, where our Lord accepted the cup full of sin! Alas, the pulpit has minimized sin by diagnosing it as a disease, easily cured by a better environment and improved culture. In order to eliminate sin, it would seem, all that men need is a few moral lectures by the minister and a few firm resolutions by the sinner. Thus sin has been minimized by denying the need of atonement, and by teaching the universal fatherhood of God, as sufficient to remove sin from the earth. As for the hereafter, it has been declared, the God of love will never condemn a soul to hell-fire.

Test youself! Ask "Does my sin deserve condemnation to eternal death?"
Anyone can test himself, to see whether he has fallen a victim to such preaching. Let him ask whether he feels that his sin deserves condemnation to eternal death in hell-fire. Of course many people know that they have sinned, and that they deserve some type of punishment. But surely their sins do not deserve the eternal wrath of God! They are sinners, but not sinners deserving hell- fire! Anyone with this attitude toward the hereafter has accepted man's estimate of sin, and man's estimate of sin falls far short of God's appraisal.

The Cup in the Garden

God's evaluation of sin appears dramatically at Gethsemane. In a certain sense we may well hesitate to enter that garden, and there behold the agony of Christ. No human mind can begin to fathom the anguish of our Savior, nor can any human tongue adequately describe what took place in that garden. Nevertheless, it is the cup of Gethsemane that gives us more than a glimpse into the enormity and heinousness of human sin. For this reason we must enter into the garden, and there think about the cup.

After the Last Supper, Jesus with three disciples retired to Gethsemane. Upon entering the garden He began to be sorrowful and sore troubled. Then He said to the disciples, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: remain here, and watch with me" (Matt. 26:38). Drawing apart by Himself, He prayed, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matt. 26:39). Upon returning to the disciples, He found them asleep. He pleaded with them to keep watch so that He would not have to bear His agony alone. Again He prayed, "O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from me except I drink it, thy will be done" (Matt. 26:42). Once more He found the disciples asleep, and urged them to remain awake. A third time He prayed, and so earnestly that His sweat became as it were great drops of blood failing to the ground. Then the mob burst into the garden and seized our Lord Jesus.

The cup that caused such agonized prayer must have contained something unspeakably awful. That cup filled Him with amazement. It caused Him to feel sore troubled. It brought on His soul the most deadly sorrow. It started blood to pour from His brow. So awful was the cup that Jesus pleaded with His disciples to watch with Him, so that by companionship they might alleviate His anguish. This loathsome cup caused Jesus to cry out three times, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." What, then, did the cup contain?

The Cup Full of Suffering

The cup, of course, was a symbol of the sufferings that awaited Christ on the Cross. To understand in part the depth of those sufferings we must know something about the Person of our Lord. Jesus was truly God. He had the attributes of God. This truth our Lord revealed through His miracles, in His teachings, and by His character. At the same time He was truly Man. He had a real body and a reasonable soul. Except for sin, His body did not differ from ours. He hungered and felt thirst. In body He grew weary. As someone has stated, "He was capable of being bruised with stripes, torn with scourges, pricked with thorns, pierced with nails, transfixed with a spear."

Part of the cup that Jesus had to drink was the most excruciating physical anguish. Of these bodily sufferings the Psalmist writes: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the jaws of death.... They pierced my hands and my feet" (Psa. 22:14-16). Physical affliction, however, was but a small portion of the cup that confronted Jesus in Gethsemane. Truly, any human soul would shrink from enduring the terrible agonies of crucifixion, but others have suffered in such fashion. The cup of Christ stood for anguish far more intense than physical pain.

To appreciate the awfulness of that bitter cup we must realize that it symbolized sufferings of soul. Jesus possessed a human soul, free from sin. His soul was moved as other souls are moved. Has your soul ever been stirred with pity? His more! Has your soul ever been stung with unjust reproaches? His more! Has your soul ever been taunted with bitter mockery? His more! Has your soul ever been sick through the venomous hatred of evil enemies? His more! Has your soul ever been deadened by the ingratitude of those whom you have benefited? His more! Has your soul ever become faint through the treachery of a trusted friend? His more! Thorns pricked His brow, but reproach and mockery penetrated His soul. Nails pierced His hands and feet, but desertion and treachery by friends entered into His soul. The spear transfixed His side, but the venomous hatred of enemies pierced His heart.

Often we count the wounds on the body of our Lord, but we forget the far more agonizing wounds in His soul. According to the Book of Proverbs, "The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmities: but a wounded spirit who can bear?" (Prov. 18:14). However, the wounds in the soul of Christ were but a portion of the cup that confronted Him in Gethsemane. Wounds like these are sufficient to make any human soul cry out, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me." Yet there were sufferings of our Lord in Gethsemane far more intense; yes, infinitely more intense, than sufferings of soul.

Here we enter still more deeply into the mystery of Gethsemane. Here we find the reason for the amazement, the horror, and the deadly sorrow that possessed the soul of Jesus as He beheld the cup in the garden. Here we discover the reason for the sweat of blood. This reason the words of the prophet Isaiah reveal most clearly, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:6).

The Cup Full of Sin

The cup from which the soul of Jesus shrank with horror was a cup filled with the sin of the world. In that cup were the guilt and the pollution of sin. In that cup He could see the totality of sin, with all its length and width and depth. Just think! The world's sin with all its length and width and depth! One may talk about the brutality of a Joseph Stalin. In that cup was the brutality of a thousand Stalins. One may shrink from the filthiness of sexual deviates. In that cup was the filthiness of a thousand sexual deviates. The sin of atheism, of idolatry, of profanity, of Sabbath breaking, of disobedience to parents, of murder, of adultery, of stealing, of bearing false witness, and of covetousness - your sins and mine - they were all in the cup that confronted Jesus in Gethsemane.

A person may well feel oppressed by the weight of his own sin and guilt. But think about the weight of the whole world's sin and guilt. All of that sin pressed upon the soul of Christ in the Garden. As the soul of our Lord sank lower and lower under the weight of the world's sin, He cried out imploring the Heavenly Father to remove that cup. While God's love for the world kept Him from removing the cup, He sent an angel to strengthen His Son, whose heart was breaking under the terrific load of the world's sin.

Becoming sin for sinful men, however, was but a portion of the cup in Gethsemane. There He took upon Himself the sin of the world, and in His own body He soon would receive the wrath of God against sin. This truth is portrayed by the prophet Isaiah, "We did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.... Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief" (Isa. 53:4, 10). As Paul writes to the Galatians, "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of [disobedience to] the law, being made a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). Here we enter still more deeply into the mystery concerning the cup in the garden.

The Cup Full of Wrath

God, as it were, did not see His Son but rather saw our sin, which Christ was soon to bear in His own body on the cursed tree. In righteousness the Father forsook His Son, and permitted Him to endure the just punishment for our sins. No wonder that on the Cross our Lord was to cry out, "Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani?" "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:3). In His wrath against sin God deserted His Son who had taken upon Himself the sin of the world. All this wrath against sin filled to overflowing the cup that confronted Christ in Gethsemane. Who can wonder that He cried out to the Father, imploring Him to remove the cup full of wrath?

There was one, however, who did not desert Christ in Gethsemane, or on the Cross. That was Satan, the prince of darkness. What tortures Satan inflicted on our Lord at Calvary we do not know. But we can well imagine that the devil would tempt Jesus by insinuating that His death was all in vain. Undoubtedly the devil would point out that the world did not share His concern about sin, and did not desire Him as Redeemer. The bitter mockery of Satan and of those under his control must have caused the cup to overflow. All of this our Lord could see in His vision of the cup in Gethsemane.

The Cup Full of Mercy

In Gethsemane, as on the Cross, one thought sustained the soul of our Dying Redeemer. That one thought was the will of the Father to save men from sin. When Jesus prayed, "Not my will but thine be done," He knew that through His vicarious sufferings on the Cross, the Father willed the salvation of untold multitudes. Not merely hundreds or thousands or even millions, but a multitude that no man could number, a multitude like the stars in the heavens and the sand on the seashore.

It was the love of Christ for sinners that sustained His soul as He beheld the cup full of sin, suffering, and wrath. He knew that the only way the just and holy God could forgive sin was through the atoning Death of His Son on the Cross. In submitting Himself to the will of the Father, Christ manifested His love for us sinners.

In the cup at Gethsemane we behold God's evaluation of sin. To the agonized plea that the Father remove the cup, God had to turn a deaf ear. Though His Beloved Son felt sore amazed, and sorrowful even unto death, God did not remove that cup. He well knew that it was filled to overflowing with sin, shame, suffering, guilt, and wrath. But so great was the love of God for us sinners, and so great was His hatred of our sins, that He allowed His Son to drain the cup to its last bitter dregs. So the cup of Gethsemane gives us at least a glimpse of how our sins appear in the sight of our holy God.

What is your evaluation of your own sins? Do you think that at the end of this life, when you approach the Great White Throne of God (Rev. 20), you can glibly say to the All-Holy One, "I have sinned; please forgive me"? What if the living God refused to heed the agonized plea of His Son, do you think that He will grant your plea? If the sight of the agony and the sweat of blood on the face of His dear Son did not move the Father to take away the cup, why should the Lord God give heed to you? Are you more deserving than His Son? Who are you that God should remove the cup full of wrath against your sin?

Ah, but remember the love of God! If you humbly kneel beneath the Cross, and acknowledge that Christ has taken the cup in your stead, then God will forgive your sin, freely, justly, and forever. At the Cross the holiness of God was vindicated, His justice was satisfied, and His love was manifested. The ground of your salvation is that in your stead Christ took the cup full of sin, guilt, and wrath. He did so in order that your sin might be forgiven, and remembered against you no more for ever.

Do not minimize sin, the sin of the world, or the sin of your soul, by thinking that sin can be forgiven without the Savior's taking for you the dreadful cup. But rejoice in the marvelous love of God the Father and the Son, the love revealed in the cup of Gethsemane.

Sermon preached by Jacob Marcellus Kik, Editor: Bible Christianity, ca. 1955

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