Tag Archives: Easter

What Cup?: A Closer Look at Jesus in the Garden

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If you’re familiar with the Easter story, you’ll remember the poignant scene of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Here’s Matthew’s account.

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.’ And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’ And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.’ Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners’” (Matthew 26:36-43 NAS).

Three times Jesus prayed the Father would “let this cup pass.” What did He mean by that?

Most people will say that Jesus was praying to avoid the pain of the cross and the separation from the Father. They summarize it like this: “Jesus was God, but He was also man. His spirit was willing, but His flesh didn’t want to suffer on the cross. He prayed the Father would give Him a way out, but He didn’t. In the end, Jesus obeyed the Father and suffered and died for our sins.”

I’ve always taken issue with this stance. First, Jesus told the disciples they should pray to avoid temptation. He said their flesh was weak, not His.

Second, Jesus had just spoken of His coming death and resurrection that very night during His last supper with the disciples.

“And He said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God'” (Luke 22:15-16 NAS).

He also instituted communion, a prophetic symbol of His coming death:

“And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood’” (Luke 22:19-20 NAS).

Would He, just hours later, pray the Father would allow Him to avoid that very suffering?

 

The Plan

After dinner, on His way to Gethsemane, Jesus warned His disciples:

“’For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, “AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS”; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment’” (Luke 22:37 NAS).

Jesus was quoting Isaiah:

“Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12 NAS).

The cross was God’s plan to redeem His people to Himself. Jesus, as part of the Trinity, was a willing participant in that plan. His entire life and ministry was focused on fulfilling that purpose. Why, then, would Jesus pray for a way out at the last minute?

 

The Power

After Jesus prayed in the garden, Judas betrayed Him. One of the disciples defended Jesus by striking the slave of the high priest. Jesus responded:

“Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” (Matthew 26:53-54 NAS).

Again, Jesus pointed His disciples to the Scriptures which prophesied His death and resurrection. However, He also referenced His ability to call upon the Father and receive help. Since angels did not appear from Heaven to prevent His crucifixion, we know that He did not pray for that.

What, then, did Jesus pray for in the garden?

What was the cup He prayed would pass Him by?

 

The Cup

I think the answer is in Luke’s account of that evening:

“Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:43 NAS).

Luke was not speaking in literary terms. Hematidrosis is a real medical condition in which a person sweats blood. It’s associated with extreme fear or stress. As God, Jesus would have no cause for fear, though He could have experienced stress as He awaited His fate on the cross. However, Scripture tells us that Jesus would have felt a lot more than His own emotions.

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:5-7 NAS).

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NAS).

It was our sins and illnesses that weighed heavily on Jesus that night in the garden. How His heart and body must have ached with the vileness of the world! How long could His human body withstand their burdens? What if Jesus had passed out or slipped into a coma? What if He had died before He could reach the cross?

I believe it was this very scenario that Jesus prayed to avoid. The responding angel then “strengthened” Him—not to give Him courage but to give Him physical strength to withstand the coming abuse prior to His crucifixion.

Jesus’ prayers were not to avoid the cross but to fulfill it. 

This explains how Hebrews 5:7 can be true:

“In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety” (Hebrews 5:7 NAS).

Jesus knew His purpose, and He never wavered. He came to earth willingly that He might preach the gospel, die a sinner’s death on a cross, and raise Himself on the third day. (Tweet This) When our sins wore heavily on Him, He prayed for strength to carry on and fulfill His purpose. Aren’t you glad we have such a Savior? Isn’t our God worthy of praise?


Additional Reading About Easter

Words from the Cross
A Savior We Can Relate To
Hosanna
The Name of Jesus


I’ve included Isaiah 53 below. I encourage you to read through it with new eyes. Take a moment to stop and appreciate this prophetic word that foretold the death of Jesus—a sinner’s death for a perfect God. Then celebrate that Easter didn’t end with the cross but with an empty tomb! Hallelujah!

“Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:1-12 NAS).

A Savior We Can Relate To

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This month, I’ve been sharing some in-depth Bible studies with you to help you prepare your heart for Easter and the rest of the year. Now that it’s Easter weekend, I’d like to share one of my favorite passages regarding Jesus—from Isaiah 53.

 

The Person

Yes, the book of Isaiah is in the Old Testament, but God gave the prophet Isaiah an amazing glimpse into the person of Jesus. According to the prophecy, Jesus (referred to as the “arm of the LORD”) would:

  • Lack handsomeness and splendor so that we would not be attracted to Him for His appearance
  • Be a man of sorrows
  • Be acquainted with grief
  • Be despised and forsaken of men.

Have you ever felt plain or invisible? Have you suffered sorrows and grief that set you on a different path? Have you been hurt by others? I know I have!

That’s why I love Isaiah 53 so much—because it tells me that Jesus understands what I’ve been through. We can relate to Him on a personal level.

 

The Plan

As Isaiah prophesied, Jesus would:

  • Carry our sorrows and griefs
  • Be pierced and crushed for our sins
  • Be scourged so that we could be healed
  • Be oppressed and afflicted but not defend Himself
  • Be assigned with the wicked but be taken care of by a rich man in death
  • Be innocent of violence and deceit
  • Be poured out to death
  • Be a guilt offering for the guilty (us)
  • Justify us through His sacrifice.*

Jesus’ death wasn’t an accident—it was the reason He was born! It was His plan all along.

 

The Method

What really gets me is how Jesus accomplished His plan. As a writer, I can imagine dozens of ways Jesus could have done things differently. He could have limited His time on earth by miraculously growing up in a matter of days. He could have chosen a different era to be born, one with modern conveniences like flushing toilettes, hot showers, and automobiles. He could have ruled the world, acting as an earthly king with thousands of servants. He could have sequestered Himself to avoid the unwashed public. And He could have kept our sins in a box, careful not to get too close.

But that’s not how Jesus operated! He lived in a difficult time, full of turmoil and lacking all modern conveniences. He walked everywhere, slept on fishing boats, fasted in the desert, and had no real home to lay His head. (See Mark 4:8, Matthew 4, and Matthew 8:20.) He lived among a people who wanted something from Him but did not understand Him, yet He was moved by their illnesses, their hunger, and their plight. (See Matthew 14 and 20.)

Jesus wasn’t afraid to get dirty. He didn’t put on gloves before touching the untouchables. He didn’t avoid the smell of humanity by breathing heaven’s air from a special air bubble. Nor did He sanitize our sins before taking them upon Himself.

He let our burdens burden Him.

He let our pain hurt Him.

He let our sins wound Him.

He let our death claim Him.

When He was buried, our sins and sorrows were buried with Him. When He rose from the grave, He made a way for us to be reconciled with the Father.

 

The Celebration

If you’re struggling to relate with God, or you’re wondering what this whole Easter-thing is all about, I encourage you to reacquaint yourself with Jesus through the eyes of Isaiah.

See Him not only as the Righteous One but as the man of sorrows, the one oppressed and afflicted, the one who understands your pain and your sins better than anyone else ever could. This is the man—this is the God—who didn’t mind getting dirty for your salvation.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5 NAS).

Happy Easter!

 

[Click to Tweet: Jesus didn’t mind getting dirty for my salvation.]

 

*Read Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John for an account of Jesus’ time on earth, including His birth, life, death, and resurrection.

Featured Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash.

Words from the Cross

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I love my red-letter Bible. When I want to read what Jesus said, I just flip to the New Testament and read the red letters. Although all the Bible is true and profitable for teaching, I find the words of Jesus to be particularly powerful and humbling—especially His last words on the cross.

As believers, we often study the words of Jesus, but it seems we neglect His “last words.” Perhaps that’s because they seem too desperate, too pitiful for our King to have uttered. But what did Jesus mean when He shouted from the cross? What was so important to Him that He used His last breath to say it? Shouldn’t it be important to us, as well?

As you prepare for Good Friday and the coming Easter Sunday, I encourage you to research and meditate on these special words of our Lord.

 

Forsaken

As believers, we have a general understanding of what happened to Jesus leading up to His death. He was beaten, stripped, and mocked, and then nailed to a cross and left to die. He was the ultimate sacrificial lamb, with all of humanity’s sins and ailments weighing heavily on Him.

Then, as Jesus was nearing death, He cried out with a loud voice:

“My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 NAS).

Many commentaries and Bible studies explain this unusual question by citing the holiness of God the Father. Since Jesus took on the sins and sicknesses of the world, He became unholy, and the Father turned His back on Him, if only for a moment. Jesus was forsaken that we would be forgiven.

However, there is another important element here: Jesus wasn’t just shouting a question—He was quoting Scripture! Psalm 22:1, to be exact. In the days of Jesus, what we now call the Old Testament had not yet been parceled out into book, chapter, and verse. To indicate a specific section, such as a Psalm, a person would cite the first line or two. Then everyone who knew the Psalm would recall the rest of the passage and understand the bigger message.

So, when Jesus was shouting “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?,” He was referencing all of Psalm 22.

I encourage you to research Psalm 22 this week. When you do, pay special attention to these areas:

1 – The prophecy – Several verses give us a prophetic description of Jesus’ time on the cross, including “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;” “a band of evildoers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet;” “they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

2 – The trust – Even in His agony, Jesus declared that He still trusted the Father: “O LORD, be not far off; O You my help, hasten to my assistance;” “In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.”

3 – The plea – Jesus called those around Him to worship: “You who fear the LORD, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.”

 

Committed

The records of Matthew and Mark indicate that Jesus cried out again, but only Luke records what Jesus said:

“And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last” (Luke 23:46 NAS).

Here again, it seems that Jesus was quoting Scripture, this time Psalm 31:5. The rest of that verse reads, “You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.” How was David, the author of Psalm 31, ransomed? By Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus is the true Ransom and Sacrifice for us all.

As you read through Psalm 31, notice the following:

1 – The prophecy 

The description of David can be taken as a prophetic description of Jesus at the time of His death: “My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing; my strength has failed because of my iniquity, and my body has wasted away.” Surely, it was our sorrows and iniquities that burdened Jesus.

“As for me, I said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from before Your eyes’; nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications when I cried to You.” Could Jesus have been referring to His earlier declaration of being “forsaken”?

2 – The trust – Jesus knew that the Father is merciful and in control: “You have not given me over into the hand of the enemy;” “My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.”

3 – The plea – David ends the Psalm pleading with the “godly ones” to “love the LORD,” stating that He “preserves the faithful.” The last line is “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD.” Was Jesus encouraging His followers with His last breath?

 

These last words of Jesus are anything but desperate or pitiful! They are words of prophecy being fulfilled as Jesus hung on the cross. They are words of trust, obedience, love, and worship. And they’re an exhortation to Jesus’ followers—including us today—to trust in God in the most difficult of circumstances.

This Easter, as you remember the death and resurrection of Jesus, follow His lead. Remember to put your trust in God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) and to worship Him wholeheartedly. Finally, “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD” (Psalm 31:24 NAS).

 


Here’s a lyric video of Chris Tomlin’s song “Resurrection Power.” I pray it seeps into your heart, reminding of you of why Jesus did what He did—to give you life!