“Remove This Cup from Me”

In Luke 22:41-46 Jesus prayed “let this cup be taken from me.” This phrase might be interpreted to mean that Jesus would like to not have to go through the upcoming torture and death. It may, however, refer to the fact that the physical pain he was suffering was going to kill him too soon, before he could die on the cross.  The idea of Jesus praying for strength to continue parallels with Heb. 5:7-8, which says that he cried out to God to be saved from death and that he “learned obedience to the Father.”

Cup-of-Gods-wrathAnother possibility is to understand “this cup” as a metaphor for punishment drawn from the Hebrew Bible.  Rather than asking to get out of the torment of the cross, Jesus is looking forward to the time when the punishment for sin will be over and he will be restored to complete fellowship with the Father.

Craig Blaising notes that Jesus applied Isaiah 53:12 to himself before going to the garden, and suggests that Isaiah 51:19-22 may hold the key to interpreting the desire to have the cup removed.  In Isaiah, the cup of God’s wrath is taken away from the people after they have experienced it.  They received the punishment in full, but afterwards the cup is removed and they experience the blessings of the Lord in the Kingdom.  Rather than asking to avoid the crucifixion, Jesus is praying that after he “drinks from the cup of wrath,” he have that cup taken away so that he can enjoy fellowship again.

Blaising says:

The implication for Jesus’ prayer is this: As in this passage, where God will remove the cup of his wrath from his people after they have drunk it, so Jesus prays that the cup of God’s wrath for sin, which he drinks for all, will in the same way be removed from his hand by the Father after he has drunk it (335).

For me, it makes a great deal of sense to follow Blaising’s lead here and read the cup of God’s wrath in the sense found in Isaiah.  The fact that Jesus constantly refers to Isaiah 40-55 is evidence that this is what he has in mind in the garden. In addition, I worry about what it says about Jesus if he was praying to avoid the cross if at all possible.  The cross was not just a possibility, it was the whole reason for the incarnation.  Jesus would not consider avoiding the cross since he came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Bibliography: Craig A. Blaising, “Gethsemane: A Prayer Of Faith” JETS 22 (1979):  333-343.

12 thoughts on ““Remove This Cup from Me”

  1. There is also the interpretation that he wanted to avoid crucifixion because that was a disgrace for him and for God, but the interpretation you suggest seems far more plausible. Very nice post.

  2. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve been confused by this passage because of Christ’s seemingly avoiding the cross. I knew, because of my theological background, that this avoiding couldn’t be the case here with Jesus because the cross and His death was the whole reason that He came to the earth. After reading about the parallel to Isaiah, this passage makes so much more sense. I find there is a deep sense of beauty in this passage because it shows the raw humanity of Jesus. Jesus knew of the pain and trial that was to come in His death on the cross, but it seems “ungodly” to assume that He was asking that it be taken away. Understanding that Jesus was asking for the cup to be taken from Him in terms of Isaiah, is incredibly powerful! Jesus was asking for the complete wrath of God to be poured out on Him for all the people of the world, but also that he cup of God’s wrath be taken from Him after it was finished and be restored (and thus restoring those who would believe to God). It’s interesting to think of God’s wrath, I recently studied God’s wrath in a Bible Study that I am a part of and it said that God’s wrath is a mixture of desire and grief. I think this describes perfectly the wrath poured out on Jesus Christ for our sake. God, the Father, loves us so much that He knew He had to pour out His wrath on His Son, yet He was grief-stricken, I’m sure, as to the pain that His Son would have to endure. It’s a remarkable and incomprehensible set of events and a breathtaking example of God’s immense love for us. This sort of sheds a new light on John 3:16, in that, God truly sent His Son to die and chose to have His wrath poured out on Him. I know I am thankful that Jesus was not asking God to take the cup of punishment from Him, but rather was asking that they be restored to a right relationship following His death, burial, and resurrection.

  3. Take this cup from me. I love the idea that Jesus was thinking about us understanding that the cup was to restore everyone to God. He thought of me right before his crucifixion. I would still find beauty in the idea that Jesus was looking for another way. He was literally sweating blood (Luke 22:44). So much stress and anguish was upon him. I see no problem with Jesus praying for another way. Both have their beauty. The story isn’t about what that cup meant did it mean restoration or did it mean I don’t want to go through this. I think the point of this story is that either way Jesus still went through with it and did restore us and did suffer more than we could ever imagine.

  4. Whenever I read this passage I always take it that Jesus was asking if he could get out of dying on the cross, and try a different way. I also took it though too that Jesus was not asking to get out of it completely dying for our sins, but trying to find a different way out then the way he did go. Even thinking about this passage too, that it gives Jesus more of a characteristic of man than anything else. For people that believes in the Trinity and believes that Jesus is both man and God. For Jesus to ask God if there was any way to go around with dying on the cross, and being extremely stressed out about the pain that he was about to go through (Luke 22:44). It gives Jesus a more human realistic to him even to know that he is also God.

  5. Wow, interesting concept and after looking at the many parallels Jesus made with the Old Testament throughout His ministry, it seems to be most likely. I agree with what many others mentioned about the passage of Jesus asking for the cup to be removed confuses them. I remember when you went over this in our lecture, Professor Long, and it brought incredible light and understanding to the situation and the original intent of this passage. I think that many people try to inerpret it as Jesus trying to plead with the Father to get out of the crucifixion, and in many ways making us then question not only Jesus’ entire purpose of coming to earth but also our value to Him. After coming tothe earth did Jesus then decide we weren’t worth the pain and suffering? But after gaining this understand of what Jesus really meant when asking the cup to be removed adds more value of us to Him. He could not wait until He our relationship with Him and to the Father was restored.

  6. I have always seen this verse as a prayer for Jesus’ punishment to be taken away if it was in the will of the Father. Although, in some way this is a contradiction because Jesus knew the will of the Father and explains it a lot in the OT and NT. For example, Mark 8:31 says: “He (Jesus) began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law” (NIV). So Jesus knew that he was going to suffer because it was his purpose. Although this interpretation shows the incredible amount of punishment and suffering that Jesus was to endure, there are other options. I really like the implication that Jesus is saying this prayer referring to the cup of God’s wrath for sin. This makes more sense to me that Jesus wants to take this cup of wrath so that he can be with the Father again. After understanding this interpretation, I think that a majority of us have allegorized the meaning again into something that might have not been the real purpose for this passage.

  7. I had never truly understood this passage until reading this blog post. I had never even heard or thought about that parallel to Isaiah before and I am really glad that I am now aware of it. It would not make sense for Jesus to some down to this Earth, with the whole purpose of dying on this cross for our sins, only to have him say that he would be trying to get out of doing that. Jesus was not avoiding that cross, he knew what he had to do when he was sent to this Earth. The reason for him saying that was only saying that so he can again enjoy in fellowship once again.

  8. Recently the proposal that Jesus was really just looking ahead to the time when He would have already drunk the cup in this passage was explained to me, before reading this post. Since then I have been mulling over the implications of this. If Jesus was looking ahead, could this question have been a statement? Could Jesus have been asking for what He knew would already happen? Perhaps by doing this he was reflecting His burdening desire for it to already become reality. It may be similar, though much more intense, to when we pray for God to bring healing to a situation we know is coming or are going through. The possibility that He was looking ahead and asking God to remove the cup from Him in the future after its full pouring out on Him makes less sense to me because it would imply that perhaps He did not trust that would happen, and I’m sure He knew it would.

  9. Maybe Jesus was asking the father if there was any other way possible to die for the sins of the world rather than the worst death/punishment available at that time. Kind of like saying, “is there anything else I can do for the sins of everyone rather than be crucified?” We learn in the ESV Study Bible that the “cup” is a metaphor for the wrath of God, which he would pour out on sinners in righteous judgment. Since Jesus satisfies God’s wrath by becoming a propitiation for sin, the continued passing of the cup to the disciples turns judgment on Jesus into purification for them. The cup is symbolic of ones divinely determined destiny, whether blessing, salvation, or wrath. Jesus lies on his face humbly, honestly, and surrendering. I think he was asking for a different way if possible, but voluntarily and obediently endured the cross, despising the shame. Let’s be honest, if we are truly human like Jesus was in this moment. We would beg God to give us a different way, or some way out. He came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. This he knew. Why couldn’t a less harsh death not be considered giving his life up? I think Jesus knew he had to die, but he wanted the burden of that death taken from him, at least that’s what I think from my human brain perspective.

  10. Pondering Isaiah. I still think there is a difficulty with the prayer if seen as not from Jesus’ full humanity. I.e. not knowing in advance, not being omniscient, etc. This sonship with a capital S is revealed after the resurrection. We see that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God in the obedience of the human Jesus to a calling that is by no means obvious or, dare I say, perspicuous to a superficial reading of Scripture. I’m not a theologian, but I know one thing about our quickness to come up with ‘the’ explanation of a perceived problem. It’s harder than we think. Our calling must then be as his is, to learn as he learned, and in the hope that he had, to walk a similar path. That is a path that does not have quick answers.

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