The Cup Jesus Refused To Drink

March 14, 1999 / No. 2932

Dear Radio Listeners,

Last Sunday we considered the cup which Jesus drank – the cup which was presented to Him of His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. The cup of which He said, “Shall I not drink it?” The cup which we saw was nothing less than the full and undiluted wrath of God against the sins of His people. The cup that He drank willingly and drained it and gave to us a cup of salvation in its place.

Today I would like to consider with you another cup of our Savior, a cup that He refused to drink.

It was after they had led Him outside of Jerusalem with a crown of thorns pressed down upon His head, and when they were crucifying Him on a hill called Golgotha – exactly then a hand reached out and gave a cup to Jesus to drink. But when He had tasted it, He refused to drink it. That act bears eternal weight and glory for the souls of God’s people.

Consider, then, the cup that Jesus refused to drink.

It was at the very moment that the deed was done – God’s Son stretched out on a cross and His hands and feet fixed to the cross by nails – that a cup of liquid was presented to Jesus. What was that cup? We read: “And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh.” Wine and myrrh, myrrh being a substance which would speed the process and make the effect of the wine quicker. Matthew, in his gospel account, tells us, “they gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.” Vinegar was a sour wine common among soldiers; gall was a sedative or stupefying drink made from gourds. Exactly what the liquids and chemicals were which made up this substance we cannot be sure. But we can be sure that the liquid was intended as an analgesic to relieve pain, and as a narcotic or sedative to dull the senses. Drinking this would have the effect of drugging a person, making a person less aware of his surroundings and pain. Jesus tasted it. But He would not drink it.

Still more. We know that this was a very significant part of our Savior’s suffering. For this had been foretold. Psalm 69:21: “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Also this was known to Christ as something that would happen at the cross. They would present a sedative, primitive perhaps, but nevertheless effective to drug and to dull His senses. But He would not drink it.

Why did they offer Him this cup? A number of possibilities are given. According to Jewish custom, when a Jew was being crucified, women would present a cup or sedative to him which they regarded as direct obedience to the Word of God in Proverbs 31:6, 7. There we read: “Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.” In that section of Proverbs, the son of the king is being warned of the peculiar danger of the abuse of alcohol and warned that it is not for kings to drink or abuse alcohol. Proverbs 31:4, 5, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine … lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.” But then the proverb goes on to instruct that there is a proper use of wine. Concentrations of alcohol may be given to those who are ready to perish. There are some who say that the vinegar was given to Christ in obedience to that Old Testament requirement. There are others who say that this was given then as an act of compassion, similar to giving pain medication administered to a dying man, an act of humanitarianism.

Why was it given to Jesus? Mark tells us in his gospel narrative that it was presented by the soldiers. Those Roman soldiers who had led Him away gave Him wine mingled with myrrh.

After Pilate released Jesus to be crucified, Jesus was in the hands of the soldiers. They gathered together the whole band, we are told. And they clothed Him with purple and put a crown of thorns upon His head and led Him to the place called Golgotha. It was then that the soldiers offered Him the drugged wine. And we learn from the original language that they gave it to Him repeatedly. They were continually, repeatedly, urging this upon Him, holding it up to His lips to drink this. But He refused to do so.

Why did the soldiers do this? Are we to understand this as an act of mercy, that they were touched with pity for a man who was going to be given such a horrible death? The answer to that is No. For the Scriptures are plain: No pity was shown to Christ. Psalm 69:20, “And I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.”

Why did they do so? They did so in order to make the crucified one manageable. They were experienced and hardened soldiers, perhaps experts by now in the death of crucifixion. They had seen firsthand how that a man, even a weakened man in physical exhaustion, when he was brought to the place of execution and at that very moment when he was stretched upon a cross and sees that his life is about to be taken away from him – such a man could, with a rush of adrenaline, resist the strength of ten men. So, to make their job easier, they would often drug their victim. We have to remember that the Lord had not eaten for a long period. This mixture would go immediately to His brain and have a soothing effect and make His arms as putty. It was not given out of compassion, but out of convenience. For the very next words that we read after they offer Him this wine mingled with myrrh are: “And when they had crucified him.” So, they think that to make the anticipated resistance less, and to make their job easier, it is now the moment that they should drug their victim.

“But,” we read, “He received it not.” He would not drink it.

As I mentioned a moment ago, the original Greek language suggests that the cup was pressed upon Him repeatedly. So also the original Greek language indicates the absolute refusal, the resolute, immovable refusal.

Now our Lord Jesus Christ was not in any way infected with the error of stoicism, the notion that it is noble and virtuous to endure pain without flinching. He was not stoical, austere. He was not just going to show indifference to this pain. No, He is not being stoical. There is not a human explanation for this conduct.

Why does the Lord refuse this? There are two parts to the answer. The first is this. To demonstrate to all who beheld Him, and to us, the absolutely voluntary nature of His suffering and death. No drug was needed to subdue Him. No inner fortitude of a stiff drink was necessary for Him to face what was coming. As His hands and feet were nailed to the cross and then the cross is lifted up so that He must hang there upon those nails, He does all of this willingly. No sedative was necessary to cause Him to submit to this. But He does this in love for the Father’s will. Isaiah 53: “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” Isaiah 50:6, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” It was nothing but His own willingness which brought Him to the cross. In the Garden He had said to those who came to capture Him, “Whom seek ye? I am He.” Willingly He gave Himself. He would drink the full cup of the wrath of God. And in order to drink that full cup of the wrath of God He absolutely refused to drink anything which would deaden His experience of that wrath of God against our sins.

So, the second part of our answer is that the Lord refused this cup to ensure His complete sensitivity to all the realities of the sufferings which were to be His in the next six hours on the cross. You see, Jesus did not simply make it through those sufferings. But willingly, He was going to suffer for each and every sin that we had ever committed and consciously replace it with His own loving obedience. All the faculties of His mind and soul must be alert and sharp. No anesthetic for His body, no sedative for His mind. He refuses it. No insensitivity, no passing out under the wrath of God and waking up and not knowing what had happened.

What a wonderful, wonderful Savior is ours! Therefore, to the repentant children of God the Lord Jesus Christ says in this refusal, “Behold, I refuse the cup of drugged wine. When the wrath of Almighty God and His fury against your sins come upon Me, I do not seek to avert its full blows from My own soul. I do not shrink away, but consciously I come under it all.”

Once again, we must remember that the Lord Jesus Christ knew exactly what was coming. He was very clear, in His own mind, exactly what He must do upon the cross. And He is also very clear in His own mind when He goes under all of those sufferings. No cup of sedatives, no turning aside. But all the sufferings which are necessary to redeem us He consciously endures. He does not side-step, but endures it all. He would not drink it! What a wonderful Savior!

Let us consider then anew the ocean of the love of Christ for His own. The rich treasure of all eternity is the love of Christ for God’s children. And how little value we put upon that love. So often we ask the question, “Where is the love of God for me?” We look at our life and ask the question, “Where is the evidence that He loves me?” What is the matter with us? What oceans of love are reflected in the obedient Son of God who dies upon the cross for all of His own. As a child of God, do you feel that you are abandoned, you are hopeless, you are separated from the love of God? Look at the cross!

His physical agony is about to be heightened to the point that we cannot even begin to imagine its horrors. He is nailed to the tree. But that is nothing. Now is the moment that He must plunge His soul under the punishment which we earned by our sins. Shall He deaden the blow? Shall He soften it just a little bit? No! No, He must represent us. Anything left over will crush us. If the smallest flake of the wrath of God due to us for our sins falls upon us, it will burn through us and consume us. He must not miss any of it. He must bear it all. Therefore He refused to miss any of it. He pushed the cup of sedative away from Him. Why? Because, having loved His own, He loved them unto the end. What love! What divine, what pure, what never-ending love for us! There, at the cross, is the evidence of the love of God.

But then we ought to confirm anew the confidence that there is no wrath, no unsatisfied justice of God left for us. No wrath of God against us. Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Why? Verses 3 and 4 of Romans 8, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” All our sin and all the wrath which was owed to us for those sins, Christ drank. And He showed that He drank them all, that He endured them all, when He refused a cup which would have left so much as an ounce of that wrath unendured by Himself.

Let us confirm our faith anew that we have the pardon of sins in the blood of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we worry about this. What if at death we suddenly would discover that not all of our sins are paid for, perhaps all of our sins are not paid for? What if I would discover that there was just one sin left over, one sin for which Jesus had not earned forgiveness? I would be consumed to an eternity of death. If all is not forgiven, then I am not forgiven! I am not forgiven at all if all my sins are not forgiven. But they are all forgiven – for He refused the cup of drugged wine.

Finally, let us commit ourselves in submission to drink whatever cup the Lord presses to our lips. Whatever cup the Lord gives to us, no matter how dreadful and how afraid you are – that cup of chastisement, that cup of trial – no matter what it may be, let us not refuse it.

Perhaps the Lord gives to you today a cup of loneliness, a cup of childlessness, an operation, an abandonment, a mental horror, a physical pain. Perhaps it is a cup of burden that no one else knows about. Perhaps it is the cup of the unfaithfulness of a friend. Perhaps it is a cup of a deep, bitter hurt. Perhaps it is the cup of rejection. Is one of these cups being pressed to your lips by God and does your Father say, Drink ye all of it? Take it. For this much you know, that although you cannot see into your own cup or know its depth or purpose, there is not one drop of the wrath of God in it. You can take it and drink it because there is not a dram of the fury of God. But it comes in the love of God. There are spiritual nutrients now in your cup. Though your cup is a cup of pain and loneliness and fear and trial, God is using that to work in you the spiritual vitality of trust and obedience and faith. May your cup then be that cup which brings to you spiritual medicine. It may be bitter, but it is necessary. And it comes to you without the wrath of God.

Whether the cup pressed to your lips is a cup of spiritual nutrient or spiritual medication, take it. There is no wrath of God in it. It is a healing ointment unto you. Do not spit it out. Whatever the Lord gives to you in your cup that you must drink, that you must experience in your life, whether it is strong medicine to destroy sin within you, or whether it is difficult trials which will teach you to put your trust in God, take the cup and drink it. There is no wrath, there is no death, there is no curse, there is no condemnation in that cup. There is nothing in it that will hurt you.

Why? Jesus drank all of that – curse, death, and what would hurt you, the eternal wrath of God – He drank it all. I know He did. For when another way was offered to Him, a way of taking the edge off that, of shielding Him from some of that, He would not take it. He would not drink that cup.

Oh, praise God for the Savior’s refusal to drink that cup.

Let us pray.

Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word so rich and so true. Press it upon our hearts. Amen.