“And he withdrew form them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father if you are willing remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:41-42, ESV
A religious controversy that was stirring during Jesus’ day was the setting of the Passover table. Passover was a holiday observed by the people of Israel remembering their deliverance by God from the nation of Egypt. Each part of the dinner is a symbol and is designed to remind the people of Israel about the glory of God.
There are four cups of the Passover are symbols of deliverance by the word of God in Exodus 6:6-7: I will bring you out, I will deliver you, I will redeem and take care of you. All four of the cups are filled with wine and drank by those celebrating the Passover symbolizing the pouring out of God’s blessing on the people of Israel.
The controversy over the Passover table focused on the 5th cup that the Lord poured out on Passover. This was the cup of wrath. We can see God pour his wrath on the people of Egypt in Exodus. The Psalmist acknowledges the cup of wrath that pours over the enemies of the Lord in Psalms 75:8. In Jeremiah, Jeremiah writes of a cup of wrath that God sends to the nations to poison them.
Rabbis debated for hundreds of years whether or not the fifth cup, the cup of wrath, should be included at the Passover celebration. The last supper that Jesus took probably didn’t have five cups, as a matter of fact the cup of that wrath of God is only mentioned by Jesus once.
In his last moments of freedom, God in the form of man prayed that God would take the cup of wrath from Christ. Jesus knew the wrath of God because He is God. He knew about Sodom and Gomorrah. He know about the firstborns in Egypt. He knew that the wages of sin is death. He said, “Let your will be done.” He drank the cup, and he suffered horribly.
Jesus died a shockingly terrible death. He was arrested and tried in two separate courts, the Jewish court and Roman court. The lower court, the Jewish one, was made of Jesus’ enemies. They did not give him a fair trial. The Roman authority was Pilate, and he was a spineless leader who didn’t even listen to the advice of his wife that told him to stay away from the matter. Jesus also appeared before Herod, who’s sin of omission led to Jesus going back to Pilate and ultimately to his execution.
Jesus was beaten horribly. The skin on his body was torn to shreds by the flogging of the Romans, which incorporated shards of glass, bone, and metal into a cat of nine tails. The flogger was a trained professional of torture. His arm was strong. Flogging was customary for all criminals so he would have had a lot of practice in his art.
Jesus’ beard was pulled out, a painful sign of the ultimate disrespect. His head was crowned with thorns and a robe was placed on his open back.
One of the greatest Roman innovations was the process of crucifixion. Crucifixion was a statement of Roman dominance and a warning to all would be enemies of the Roman Empire. To get a good perspective on crucifixion it is helpful to remember the story of Spartacus the slave who led a slave rebellion against Rome and was crucified along with 6,000 of his fellow rebels lining a major road north of Rome. Crucifixion was the most shameful death. It was saved for rapists, traitors, theirs, and murderers.
The crucified were made to bear the crossed bar upon their back. It was made of oak and probably weighed between 100-150 pounds and was tied to the arms of the convict. The weight of the cross would press on the flesh of the back and shoulders. The crucified were often stripped naked before crucifixion. They would walk through the streets of the city. The people of the city would come out to jeer the convict, spitting, kicking, and urinating on the man as he would wind his way through the crowded streets. It was designed to be a spectacle for all to see and know.
Arriving on the hill where the foundation bar of the cross was, the soldiers would take the crossbar up and nail or lash the two together. Then they would nail or tie the wrists and ankles of the convicts to the cross. There they would hang, naked and alone.
The most common form of death through crucifixion was asphyxiation. The convict’s weak arms and legs would eventually not work and the up and down motion required for breathing would cease and the convict would suffocate. Jesus did not die from suffocation but suffered until he had bled out. This would have taken about six hours of continuous jeering and pain.
The truth is that a real historian could fill in the truths of the crucifixion better than I could. God’s cup of wrath broke Jesus’ body but the final judgment of God was to pour out his wrath for our sin on Christ. Jesus died for our sins, God poured out his wrath on Christ.
Over the next few days Easter is celebrated all over the world. Good Friday is not. People like to focus on the four good cups of God’s deliverance, which is a good thing. However we can’t forget the 5th cup of rather that God poured out on Christ. The drink we should have known is replaced with the four that we can only drink by grace. Please join me this Easter season in celebrating God’s grace to be good, loving, and redeeming, but let’s not forget that God is just, the hater of sin and destroyer of those who don’t repent.