The Cup in Gethsemane: 1

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 13
DEAR MR. EDITOR,
IT is surely admonitory and, as being so markedly characteristic of the times, not less ominous to note, under what specious subterfuges Satan seeks to lower Christ. This is his real character as the untiring slanderer and subtle tempter; with many alas! the unsuspected and successful adversary of the truth—specially truth which more immediately bears on the immaculateness and impeccability of our Lord's humanity, and on His attitude and walk as the Son serving in the varied circumstances of His life and sufferings when here in flesh.
An instance and illustration of this has recently come before me in one of the many religious serials of the day. But the truth as in Jesus, and the honor due to Him are more, ought to be infinitely more to His own than names be they in other respects worthy. The subject discussed is the holy cry of the Lord Jesus in the garden, so impressively given us in Matt. 26:3939And he went a little further, 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. (Matthew 26:39), and in the two other Gospels of Mark and Luke. It is a subject surely which in its grave surroundings and associations of time, place, occasion, and person, may properly in approaching it claim from us the unshod foot of reverence and self-mistrust due from creatures such as we are. One has been used to conclude or take as granted beyond question that the “cup,” from which He the Lord could and indeed did shrink, must have involved a something more far-reaching and appalling than anything flesh is heir to. What a vision before which He quailed must have held within its infoldings, and foreshadowed what no mere creature, man or angel, could face; or surely He Who is above all would not. But in this our long-cherished belief it would seem according to this new school (is it new?) we have been all wrong and need that one teach us again, I will not say the “first principles of the oracles of God,” but what is to my mind foundation truth.
Let us hear then what it is we are asked to accept, and accept too as the only possible solution of words, otherwise presenting, as they say, insuperable difficulties and implying under any other interpretation a “weakness and ignorance” on the part of the Lord not to be thought of.
“I believe,” says Dr. Schauffler, of New York, that the prayer of Jesus was not at all for deliverance from the cross. I believe that what He most feared in the garden was that the suffering He was enduring on account of the sins [?] of the world would prove too much for His physical frame, and that He would die then and there under the burden. His soul was sorrowful ‘even unto death '; was there not the fear that He might actually die? So it seems to me that the cup, from which He prayed to be delivered was not the death on the cross, but death in Gethsemane itself. He was praying for grace to reach the cross, not for grace to escape it.”
“Dr. S.,” says the editor in his comment on the above, “claims that the advantages of this interpretation are obvious and very great. It delivers the prayer in the garden at once from ‘weakness’ and from ‘ignorance’.... and, above all, it meets the only possible meaning of that famous passage in Hebrews which unquestionably refers to this event: ‘Who in the days of His flesh,’ &c., &c. (Heb. 5:77Who 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; (Hebrews 5:7)).” The editor then proceeds to favor his readers with a quotation from the paper in which Dr. S.'s contribution first appeared, the editor of which, equally with himself, puts his imprimatur on Dr. S.'s interpretation. “It has long seemed to the editor of the Sunday School Times that the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane was from the fearful pressure on Him of the consequences of sin, as culminating in His betrayal by a trusted ‘friend,’ in the failure of His chosen followers to understand Him or to be His sympathetic helpers, and in His rejection by His loved people, and by the world He came to save. Under that pressure on Him in the physical weakness of His humanity, it seems as if He were to sink before the final crisis of His earthly hour came; that peril was the ‘hour’ and the ‘cup’ He then faced—the peril of failure in His earthly life-work: .... The ‘cup' spoken of at the garden gate when Judas and his band had come to take Him was another cup altogether—the cup of His trial and crucifixion, which He was always ready to accept, and did accept without flinching.”
Now I unhesitatingly reject such teaching as derogatory to the Lord in every part of it. It altogether shuts out the divine aspect of the cup, and substitutes for it a mere physical contingency which He had not counted for, and which moreover would have left Him helpless to finish the great work He came to accomplish. That the Lord did suffer other than substitutionally, and so as to surpass all conception of created beings, must be admitted; for indeed how could it be otherwise with one so holy as He in a scene such as this, and so defiled? The sights of human misery and suffering, the moral and physical degradation of man once created in the image and after the likeness of his Creator, the dire results of sin in all their hideous forms and degrees, ever confronting, ever before Him, must have told sadly and terribly on His tender heart, and on a nature so divinely attuned and so transcending (in sensitiveness to every form of suffering and wrong) aught which we could ever have attained to, fallen or unfallen. The supreme intensity of His love would necessarily render Him all the more susceptible to every slight, whilst not the less would His holiness make Him the more acutely alive to its every infraction. The whence and wherefore of His presence here as the “sent One” of the Father—the august and benign character of His mission and office as the Christ of God, the Messiah of prophecy, Israel's King, and the Savior of the lost, His dignity as “the Son” and “Immanuel” in the world He had made, amongst “His own people” and “His own things,” all added point and poignancy to His rejection—rejection, too, not so much at the hands of lawless, godless Gentiles, though this was so, but specially, of those to whom pertained “the adoption and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the law and the service of God, &c., and of whom as concerning the flesh He came, Who is God over all, blessed forever” (Rom. 9.). They were His chosen people, the children, the descendants, of those whom of old He had saved from Egypt, borne on eagles' wings and brought to Himself (Ex. 19:44Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. (Exodus 19:4)); and whom now though in other and lowlier guise, but really in person and grace and power, He was here again to emancipate and enrich, and bless beyond thought.
This and all the other accompaniments, incidents, and inflictions, of a life of such unparalleled devotedness, could not but make up a cup from which, had He not been the Holy One tempted in all things like us, sin excepted, as in His case of course it was, He might well have shrunk. But it is just because we hold that He was this, and not only other but higher and more in His personality and in His humanity—more and higher in every sense, as we shall presently see, that we indignantly resent as of Satan all such insinuations, under whatever, protest, as that when He, in the garden, cried, O Father, &c., it was “death then and there” He had in His view premature death, and consequent failure in the mission He came specially for; that He had it before Him not as a possibility only but as imminent; that as being helpless to save Himself He sought exemption at His Father's hand, and that His prayer was for strength to reach, not for grace to escape, the cross! Oh, the puerility as well as the sacrilegious presumption of such imputations! puerility indeed; for if mere physical dissolution, why the “if it be possible”? Oh, the blasphemy of attributing to Him a contingency attaching only to sin and sinners!
True, He was made a little lower than the angels (Heb. 2)—the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:55For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; (1 Timothy 2:5)), was made flesh (John 1),was made in the likeness of men—made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant (Phil. 2), was made like unto His brethren (Heb. 2), was tempted (Heb. 4) and to crown all, “being thus found in fashion as a man,” He further “humbled himself” to become “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2). But are we therefore to depreciate Him to our level, to think of Him only as one of ourselves, because He thus descended (Eph. 4), and to attach to Him, or His humanity, the tendencies, the frailties, the amenabilities, incident really to sin and the sinner, to humanity fallen? Is it to be so conceived of Him in presence of such scriptures as the following?— “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son; and they shall call his name Emmanuel, (God with us)” (Matt. 2). “Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise: when as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost, &c.” (Matt. 1:18-2018Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 1:18‑20)). “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:3535And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)). “A body hast thou prepared me” (Heb. 10). “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father “(John 1.). “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. He spake of the temple of his body” (John 2). “For it pleased all the fullness in him to dwell” (Col. 1:1919For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; (Colossians 1:19)). Fallen humanity an enshrinement of deity! Fallen humanity conceived of the Holy Ghost! And will anyone tell me when He being here was not “God manifest in flesh” (1 Tim. 3)? How then failure or fear of it?
(To be continued, D.V.)