Here in Mark 14:32-42, we see that Jesus is extremely distressed. He takes His three closest disciples with Him to Gethsemane, tells them how sorrowful He feels and asks for their support. In verse 34 He says, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.”
The main thing we should notice at this point is that Jesus is experiencing extreme suffering. He was fully human, and He experienced suffering and felt emotional pain. He was “greatly distressed and troubled” (v. 33) and His soul was “very sorrowful, even to death” (v. 34). Jesus has had that bowling-ball-heavy heart. He’s had that sick-to-the-stomach feeling you get when something awful is about to happen. He knows that clouded mind you get when emotions are tense and that physical exhaustion that follows extreme emotion.
Why was Jesus so distressed? It wasn’t because He was about to be betrayed or arrested. And it wasn’t because of the public mockery or pain He was about to face. He was distressed over something far worse.
Why Jesus Was So Distressed
In verse 36 Jesus prays, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Here we get a glimpse into the Trinity – Jesus, though He was God, prayed to God the Father. He depended on the Father. He didn’t pray, “All things are possible for me. Please bless my efforts to remove this cup from myself.” And He submitted to the Father in saying “not what I will, but what you will.”
Jesus, in His humanity, did not relish the thought of what was coming to Him. He desired escape, but had a deeper desire for the Father’s will to be done. He submitted to what He calls “this cup.”
The cup is a powerful image throughout the Bible, generally meaning one’s lot in life given him by God. Here, however, it refers to something specific: the wrath of God. This is what Jesus was so sorrowful about. To understand Jesus Christ and Christianity, we need to understand God’s wrath. God’s wrath must be poured out on the wicked (Psalm 75:8).
The Wrath of God: Isn’t that an Old Testament Thing?
Now you might think, “Wait a minute … that’s Old Testament God! That God is wrathful, but New Testament God is merciful, gracious, loving, kind and forgiving. There is no more wrath.” But this is false. God was wrathful and He remains wrathful (read Romans 1:18). He doesn’t change, and we are not at liberty to make up a God that fits what we think is appropriate – He has revealed Himself in His Word.
The point is that Jesus had to drink the cup of God’s wrath. It wasn’t optional. It was the core of His mission. He was crucified not for fun, but because He had to absorb God’s wrath so that we can be saved. God is just and will not let sin go unpunished (Romans 6:23; John 3:16).
Jesus solved the problem of God’s wrath by absorbing it on the cross. He drank the cup that we filled up with our sin.
What It Meant for Jesus to Be the “Son of Man”
After Jesus finishes praying, He comes back to the disciples and says, “The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going” (v. 41). Throughout the book of Mark, Jesus often refers to Himself as the “Son of Man.” In the simplest terms, it means that He is born of man or is human – more specifically, Jesus uses it to insert Himself into prophecies like Daniel 7.
Jesus knows that He is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies about the Son of Man and He knows that the cup of God’s wrath is His destiny. So He goes to meet it, not stoically, not like Superman and not like it’s not going to be excruciating. He has to experience the suffering, He has to drink the cup, He has to submit to the Father’s authority because He is the Son of Man, the Messiah, the Savior.
What It Means for Us
Does your Christianity require that Jesus drink the cup of God’s wrath? Does your understanding of Christianity require this? There is a counterfeit Christianity at work that makes people think that if they believe in God, if they go to church and if they’re morally cleaner than other people then they are Christians. But what’s missing is Jesus Christ.
A lot of people have built a fake lifestyle and called it “Christianity” that doesn’t include Christ. And many people are going to think they’re Christians when Jesus returns, but they’ll find out that they were wrong (see “Does Jesus Know You?“).
Are you growing in your esteem for Jesus? Are you growing in a spirit of repentance? In devotion to God’s Word and an interest in God, knowing and understanding Him better? In loving people? Are you living according to what Jesus has said in His Word?
Why was Jesus so distressed in Gethsemane?
What is “this cup” that Jesus mentions in verse 36?
Why did Jesus have to drink the cup of God’s wrath?
Why did Jesus call Himself the “Son of Man,” and what does that title mean?
How would you describe Christianity? Does your belief require that Jesus drink the cup of God’s wrath?
Are you living according to what Jesus teaches in His Word?