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The Bitterness in the Cup

Too often, the physical suffering of Christ is made the center of his final sacrifice. Passion plays are enacted, films like The Passion of the Christ are produced, and viewers think they have seen an accurate presentation of his suffering. But the truth is much greater than any image can portray.


The bitterest ingredient in the Lord’s cup was the soul-trouble which He experienced direct from the hand of God. There were indeed actings of His own holy nature which brought with them the deepest sorrow, as may easily be collected from the consideration that One who was inflamed with zeal for His Father’s glory, and who breathed the deepest love for holiness, could not but be affected with lively sorrow, when He discerned sin in all its deformity, and furthermore felt that though not His own personally, it belonged in a sense to Him, because it belonged as a personal property to those who were His. And if a mere sight of sin is often painful and well-nigh overwhelming to us though never called to feel its doom, what a hell it must have been to the holy nature of Jesus to see before Him and upon Him by imputation the sins of all the elect. This made Him the man of sorrows. But the most insupportable part of His sorrows was that He had to encounter the frown of an angry Judge, an agony and a desertion which constitute the ingredients of the second death. He tasted death for every one of the many sons who are to be brought to glory (Heb. ii. 9); enduring in a little space what soon overwhelms the lost with unending despair. This wrung from Him the cry in the garden already noticed, and made Him offer up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears (Heb. v. 7); pressing from Him the bloody sweat*, the preternatural character of which testified to a suffering which no other man suffered and no mere man could have borne. This desertion reached its climax on the cross: but faith was kept in lively exercise in His human soul amidst it all.

During those awful hours on the cross when made a curse for us, the Lord Jesus sustained that desertion, which was just the endurance of the death of the soul, when sin separates between God and the soul, and when God hides His face from us.

—George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 180–181.

* Traditional explanations of hematohidrosis notwithstanding, I don’t believe Jesus sweat actual blood, as Luke 22:44 is usually interpreted, but doesn’t actually say. The expression, “His sweat became like drops of blood,” is a simile, and neither the immediate context nor any other text gives us any reason to read it otherwise. In any case, the point is the same: The mental burden wrought by the sure knowledge of impending judgment was so extreme as to manifest physically. Jesus perspired profusely, not from heat or exertion, but from pure mental agony, anticipating the pouring out of God’s wrath in consequence of our sin heaped upon him.

Posted 2018·05·18 by David Kjos
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