And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what you will.
The mystery of our Lord's suffering is beyond our power of accurate analysis. We cannot fathom the depths of sin and grief which he experienced. We must not suppose that, because we are so familiar with this narrative, we know all its significance. At the most we have only felt one wave of the sea of sorrow which sobbed and swelled in his infinite heart. Only one phase of this manysided subject will engage our attention. Leaving the atoning nature of the sufferings of our Lord, we will now regard him as the Representative of his people, their Forerunner in this as in all things. The "cup" is a figure familiar enough to all students of Scripture.
I. THE CUP OF EXPERIENCE may be represented by the cup which was the symbol of the mockery and shame and grief the Savior suffered.
1. The phrase reminds us that our joys and griefs are measured. A cup is not illimitable. Full to the brim, it can only hold its own measure.
(1) Our joys are limited by what is in us, and by what is in them. If a man prospers in the world, his wealth brings him not only comfort, but care, anxiety, and responsibility, so that he may occasionally wish himself back in his former lowlier lot. And family joys bring their anxieties to every home which has them. No one drinks here of an ocean of bliss but he thanks God for a "cup" of it, measured by One who knows what will be best for character. This is true even of spiritual joys. The time of ecstasy is followed by a season of depression. The Valley of Humiliation is passed, as well as the Delectable Mountains, by Christian in his pilgrimage. Nowhere on earth can we say, "I am satisfied;" but many, like the psalmist, can exclaim, "I shall be satisfied."
(2) Our griefs are limited also. They are proportioned to our strength, adapted for our improvement. Even in the saddest bereavement there is much to moderate our grief if we will but receive it: gratitude for all our dear one was and did; gladness over all the testimonies of love and esteem in which he was held; hope that by-and-by there shall be the reunion, where there shall be no more sorrow and sighing, and where "God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes." God does not let an ocean of sadness surge up and overwhelm us, but gives us a cup, which we may drink in fellowship with Christ in his sufferings.
2. The phrase in our text suggests not only measurement, but loving control. Our Lord recognized, as we may humbly do, that the cup was filled and proffered by him whom he addressed as "Abba, Father." In one sense the events in Gethsemane and on Calvary were the results of natural causes. Integrity and sinlessness called forth the antagonism of those whose sins were thereby rebuked. Plain-spoken denunciations of the ecclesiastical leaders aroused their undying hate, and no hatred is more malignant than that of irreligious theologians. Judas, disappointed and abashed, was a ready instrument for evil work. Yet, behind all this, One unseen was carrying out his eternal purpose, fulfilling his promise, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." Hence Jesus speaks not of the plot accomplished by his foes, but of the cup given him by the Father. We are at an infinite remove from him, yet, as the same law which controls worlds controls insects, so the truth which held good with the Son of man holds good also with us. We may recognize God's overruling in man's working, and accept every measure of experience as provided and proffered by our Father's hand.
II. THE PURPOSE OF ITS APPOINTMENT. That it comes from our "Father" shows that it has a purpose, and that it is one of love, not of cruelty. It is not like the cup of hemlock Socrates received from his foes, but like that potion you give your child that he may be refreshed, or strengthened, or cured.
1. Sometimes the purpose respects ourselves. Even of Jesus Christ, the sinless One, it is said he was "made perfect through sufferings;" that as our Brother he might feel for us, and as our High Priest might sympathize, being "touched with the feeling of our infirmities." Much more is the experience of life a blessing to us who are imperfect and sinful; correcting our worldliness, and destroying our self-confidence.
2. Sometimes the purpose respects others. It was so with our Lord pre-eminently. He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." "None of us liveth unto himself." If our cup of blessing runs over, its overflowings, whether of wealth, or strength, or spiritual joy, are for the good of those around us. If our lot be one of suffering, we may in it witness for our Lord, and from it learn to console others with the comfort wherewith we ourselves have been comforted of God. - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.