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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, April 9, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me”
(Luke 22:42).

I suppose that most young people like you have seen the video of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” You know I wrote a little book about that film. It’s available in our bookstore, or you can order it from our website. It’s called, The Passion of Christ. I was not overly critical of Mel Gibson’s film in that book. It did contain some scenes from Roman Catholic tradition which I disagreed with, but the overall presentation was largely true to the Bible. The hypocrisy and cruelty of the priests and soldiers was true to Scripture. The scenes of Christ being flogged were horrible, yet true to Scripture. The crucifixion was ghastly, yet that too was what the Bible teaches.

“His visage [His appearance] was so marred [so disfigured] more than any man” (Isaiah 52:14).

Christ was beaten to a pulp.

“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” (Isaiah 50:6).

The scourging of Christ was very graphic in the film. So was the crucifixion. One man said to me, “The beating and crucifixion were the most realistic I’ve ever seen, but Gethsemane and the resurrection were not done as well.” I agree with him. To me the most disappointing part of the film was Gethsemane. And that is understandable because, in many ways, what happened to Christ there is beyond human thought.

Joseph Hart (1712-1768) wrote a hymn about Gethsemane called “Thine Unknown Sufferings.” Indeed much, of Christ’s suffering in the Garden is unknown.

Who can rightly comprehend
Their beginning or their end?
‘Tis to God and God alone
That their weight is fully known.
   (“Thine Unknown Sufferings” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

Our minds can understand how depraved cruel men may be. We read that they beat Him with a scourge. We can understand that. We read that they nailed him to a cross. That too can be understood, at least superficially. But not Gethsemane.

Mel Gibson put Satan in the Garden. He pictured the Devil as a snake slithering through the grass near the praying Christ. But the Bible says nothing about Satan in Gethsemane. He may have been there, and probably was, but the Bible is silent. So we cannot attribute Christ’s suffering to the Devil. It simply isn’t in the Scriptures.

Nor can we attribute the suffering of Christ in the Garden to any human hand. True, the high priest and other leaders would spit on Him and hit Him. But that was the next day. True, the Roman soldiers would lash His back ‘till gore ran down the pavement. But that would not happen yet for several hours. True, they would nail Him to a cross. But that would not come until mid-morning of the following day. So, how do we explain His suffering in Gethsemane? No human attacked Him in that Garden. No demonic force appears to cause His suffering. And yet, as He kneels there in the darkness, He is

“…in an agony…and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

Then, as we come closer to this mysterious scene, we hear an even stranger prayer coming from the lips of Christ:

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me”
     (Luke 22:42).

What is “this cup”? What does it mean? I do not believe that we can have much understanding of what happened in Gethsemane unless we know something about “this cup,” and why He prayed for it to be removed, and how God answered His prayer.

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me”
     (Luke 22:42).

I. First, the meaning of “this cup.”

Many commentators have said “this cup” refers to His death on the Cross the next day. I myself thought that for years. But I’ve been thinking a lot about Christ’s ordeal in Gethsemane for the past two years, and I now believe that “this cup” does not specifically speak of the Cross. I am now convinced that “this cup” refers to Gethsemane.

I believe that “this cup” refers to the suffering in Gethsemane, but “the cup” in John 18:11 refers to His death on the Cross. It was after He had experienced the agony in Gethsemane that Jesus said to Peter,

“Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11).

Christ never shrank back from “the cup” of the Cross. But He spent “one hour” praying for “this cup,” the cup of Gethsemane, to be removed from Him. It appears from Matthew 26:40 that He prayed for one hour for “this cup” to be removed, for He said to Peter,

“What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” 
      (Matthew 26:40).

During that terrible hour Christ spent three periods alone in prayer, for Peter, James and John had gone to sleep.

What did He pray for in that lonely hour? Our text tells us the subject of His prayer,

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me”
     (Luke 22:42).

Matthew and Mark tell us that He prayed for the removal of “this cup” three times - for three periods - during that hour. Matthew tells us in detail about the three times that He prayed for this.

“O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39).

And the second time,

“O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matthew 26:42).

Then Matthew tells us He

“…went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words” (Matthew 26:44).

“This cup” in Greek is touto to poterion (Matthew 26:42). “The cup” is to poterion (John 18:11). I believe that the first cup refers to the agony in Gethsemane and the second cup refers to His death on the Cross. And I believe it is the first cup, in Gethsemane, that is spoken of in Hebrews 5:7.

“Who 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).

Two men have noticed this. The first is Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, former president of Wheaton College, then dean of the Graduate Faculty at Covenant College and Seminary. He also taught systematic theology at Faith Theological Seminary for a time. In his book, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion (Zondervan, 1971 edition) Dr. Buswell said, that the “strong crying and tears” mentioned in Hebrews 5:7

…refer to Christ’s experience in Gethsemane…I am personally convinced that the “cup” from which Christ asked to be delivered in Gethsemane was physical collapse and death in the Garden before He reached the Cross…This interpretation would harmonize with Hebrews 5:7, and it seems to me the only interpretation which will thus harmonize (ibid., volume 2, p. 62).

Dr. John R. Rice was the other major commentator who held this view. Dr. Rice was a well-known evangelist, educator, and Bible scholar. In his commentary on Matthew Dr. Rice said,

Jesus was about to die in the Garden. The cup mentioned… was the cup of death, death that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is made clear especially in Hebrews 5:7…About to die in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed that the cup of death would pass from Him that night so He could live to die on the cross the next day. The Scripture says that “He was heard”! God answered His prayer (John R. Rice, D.D., The Gospel According to Matthew, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1980 edition, p. 441).

That, I believe, is the meaning of “this cup.”

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me”
     (Luke 22:42).

But, then, we ask, “Why was He about to die in the Garden?” That takes us to the second point.

II. Second, the reason for “this cup.”

The reason Christ was about to die in the Garden of Gethsemane is difficult for our minds to grasp. As I said, we can understand that men are often cruel. So, when we hear about them beating Jesus and nailing Him to a cross, we can easily attribute that to human wickedness, to the total depravity of man. Even though the meaning of the Cross is really very deep, we can shrug it off in our minds and say to ourselves that we knew there were bad people in the world. But it is not so easy to shrug off Gethsemane because there were no angry people there to harm Him. He was alone in prayer. We are not told in the Bible that Satan was the cause of this suffering. Therefore we must grapple with the reason for “this cup” of Christ’s agony totally on a spiritual level, as something that happened solely between Him and God - concerning our sins.

Why did Jesus suffer such agony as He prayed in the Garden? No one ever explained it better than Joseph Hart. The story of his conversion is most interesting. His parents were Christians, but Hart was not converted. He went through a long period of conviction of sin, but remained unsaved. He then turned his back on Christ. At the age of twenty-nine, in the middle of the First Great Awakening, he wrote and published a pamphlet titled, “Remarks on the Unreasonableness of Religion; being Remarks [against] the Rev. John Wesley’s Sermon on Romans 8:32,” which says,

“He that spared not His own Son, but delivered him up for us all” (Romans 8:32).

Hart railed against Wesley’s sermon in that booklet.

He lived in a darkened state for about four years. Then he came under deep conviction again and was finally converted in 1757, at forty-five years old. He began to write hymns, many of which speak very deeply about the sufferings of Christ for our sins. Then in 1760 he suddenly became a Baptist minister and pastored the Jewin Street Baptist Church of London until his death eight years later, at the age of fifty-six. When one pastor in London heard that he had started preaching, he said, “What, that devil?” But Joseph Hart had been soundly converted. He wrote a book titled, The Justified Believer (Sprinkle Publications, 1971 reprint). He wrote many deeply spiritual hymns which were highly popular in the First and Second Great Awakenings. In fact, he wrote a whole hymnbook of his own songs, which includes the hymn Mr. Griffith sang before this sermon, titled, “Gethsemane.” One of his songs is still in most hymnbooks, titled, “Come, Ye Sinners.” We sang it this morning.

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.
   (“Come, Ye Sinners” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

I personally wish that many of his hymns would be reintroduced to our churches. In these days of shallow choruses, Hart’s hymns would introduce us again to the full doctrine and vitality of real experiential revival Christianity. His hymnbook, Hart’s Hymns, is in print and can be ordered from Old Paths Gospel Press, P.O. Box 318, Choteau, MT 59422. Phone or fax (406)466-2311.

Now listen to just three stanzas from Hart’s hymn, “Many Woes Had He Endured,” which is sung to the tune of “Come, Ye Sinners.” These three stanzas, more than any other hymn, give the reason, and solve the mystery of why, Jesus went through the horror and agony of Gethsemane.

There my God bore all my guilt;
This through grace can be believed;
But the horrors which He felt
Are too vast to be conceived.
None can penetrate through thee,
Doleful, dark Gethsemane!

Sins against a holy God;
Sins against His righteous laws;
Sins against His love, His blood;
Sins against His name and cause;
Sins immense as is the sea -
Hide me, O Gethsemane!

Here’s my claim, and here alone;
None a Saviour more can need;
Deeds of righteousness I’ve none;
No, not one good work to plead:
Not a glimpse of hope for me,
Only in Gethsemane!
   (“Many Woes Had He Endured” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

“There my God bore all my guilt.” All of your guilt and sin were placed upon Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and carried from that dark place to the Cross the next day.

“But the horrors which He felt are too vast to be conceived.” Our human minds cannot fully understand what Jesus went through that night bearing our sins.

What sins? Your “sins against a holy God.” Your “sins against His righteous laws.” Your “sins against His love, His blood.” Your “sins against His name and cause.” Your “sins immense as is the sea.” You can only cry out, “Hide me, O Gethsemane. Hide me from the wrath and judgment of God!” O may you hide in the Saviour, Jesus, sweating Blood in that Garden, as He began the payment for your sins.

Let us end this sermon by turning to Isaiah 53:4. Please stand and read it aloud. This gives a clear picture of “this cup” Jesus drank in Gethsemane.

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted”
     (Isaiah 53:4).

“Smitten of God, and afflicted.” Surely this happened in Gethsemane when He bore “our griefs, and carried our sorrows” as our sins were placed upon Him. Who placed our sorrows, griefs and sins on Jesus? He was “smitten of God, and afflicted.”

God Himself placed your sins on Jesus in that Garden. And God Himself poured His wrath on Him there as your substitute. One pastor friend recoiled at that, but I reminded him of what Jesus said to the Disciples,

“All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd,and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad” (Matthew 26:31).

That night the Disciples were scattered. That night God said, “I will smite the shepherd.” No wonder Jesus nearly died in Gethsemane! He bore the full weight of your sins. But more than that, He began to be “stricken, smitten of God” for your sins as well (Isaiah 53:4). That very night, God said, “I will smite the Shepherd,” Jesus (Matthew 26:31). This takes us into the realms of what Joseph Hart wrote, in another hymn, where he called Christ’s agony, “Thine Unknown Sufferings.”

See the suffering Son of God,
Panting, groaning, sweating blood!
Boundless depths of love divine!
Jesus, what a love was thine!
   (“Thine Unknown Sufferings” by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Yes, God gave His Son on the Cross the next day to save you from the penalty of sin. But God began to give Jesus as your sin-bearer and wrath-bearer the night before, when the Saviour nearly died from the weight of your sin, and the wrath of God for sin, which fell on Him as His

“sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44),

and as He prayed throughout that awful hour,

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me”
     (Luke 22:42),

that He might not die physically there in the Garden of Gethsemane. And God heard Him. An angel was sent to strengthen Him so that He could go to the Cross and make complete atonement for you and save you from the wrath of God, and Hell itself.

There is nothing left for you to do but fall at the feet of Jesus and trust Him, and love Him with all your mind and heart. As Joseph Hart put it,

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
   Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
   Full of pity, love and power.

Come to Jesus. Come to Him now. He calls for you with loving open arms. Your sins will be pardoned and you will live forever in His love. You will be saved the very moment that you come to the Saviour.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Matthew 26:36-44.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Gethsemane” (by Joseph Hart, 1712-1768).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me”
(Luke 22:42).

(Isaiah 52:14; 50:6; Luke 22:44)

I.   The meaning of “this cup,” John 18:11; Matthew 26:40, 39, 42, 44;
Hebrews 5:7.

II.  The reason for “this cup,” Romans 8:32; Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 26:31;
John 3:16; Luke 22:44.