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Theology > Jesus > Christ's Death > Prayer in Gethsemane 


Gethssemane was a garden located east of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives just past the brook called Kidron. The word itself means “oil press” and, therefore, indicates that the garden was in an olive grove. John records that Jesus and His disciples often met in this place (18:2), and it is here Jesus went to pray before the ordeal of Calvary. Gethsemane is mentioned in all four Gospels, though John does not give the details of the prayer of agony (Matt. 26:36-46; Mk. 14:32-42; Lu. 22:39-46; Jo. 18:1-11).

The focus of the prayer of Christ was in terms of a “cup.” Fervently He prayed that it might not be His to drink, but, as throughout His life on earth, He acquiesced to the will of the Father. According to the Scriptures Jesus prayed three times concerning the cup, with each session of prayer lasting perhaps an hour.

The cup of which Jesus speaks had been referenced by Him earlier in His ministry. He had known of the cup and He knew that it was His to drink; in the Garden Jesus speaks to Peter: “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (Jo. 18:11).  What is the meaning of the cup?

The cup—“this cup”— refers to the wrath of the Father, a holy wrath that is directed toward sin. While He was on the cross the Son experienced the Father’s wrath or anger against the sin of the world. Enduring the divine wrath when He had committed no sin was a bitter cup indeed. But because He endured God’s wrath, the believer in Him will not experience the wrath that he deserves (see: Propitiation). The association of a cup with God and His wrath is found throughout the Old Testament and also in the New Testament:

Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup (Ps. 11:6);

In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is fully mixed, and He pours it out; surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down (Ps. 75:8);

Stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury; you have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, and drained it out (Isa. 51:17; see: v. 22);

Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it (Jer. 25:15; see: vs. 16-29).

He himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation (Rev. 14:10);

And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath (Rev. 16:19).

In one sense, it was a bitter cup because it was the cup of His identification with sin, He who was the Sinless One becoming sin and in some inexplicable way enduring wrath for that sin, in order that there might be salvation; in another sense, it was a blessed cup because He was doing the Father’s will—fulfilling the Divine necessity—and accepting the bruising that the Father was pleased to place on Him.

Both perspectives find support in the Old Testament: sin and wrath (Isa. 51:17; Jer. 25:15); blessing and salvation (Ps. 16:5; 116:13). It is instructive to note that the cup at the Lord’s Supper is referred to as “the cup of blessing” (I Cor. 10:16).

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