Lies we believe #4: Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath

It is often authoritatively claimed that the cup that Jesus drank was the cup of God’s wrath. In support, verses are quoted from the OT which refer to the cup of God’s wrath (e.g. Jer 25:15). Whilst it is true that the OT often refers to a cup of wrath, this is not the only kind of cup. We cannot ignore the broader definition of cup and its multiple use.

Cup1ssThroughout the Bible, the word “cup” refers both to a drinking vessel, and also as a symbol of our “lot” or “portion” which can be both good and bad. So it is that in the OT we find that cup may refer not just to wrath (Is 51:17) or horror and desolation (Ex 23:33) but to the Lord himself (Psalm 16:5,); to salvation (Psalm 116:13); an overflow of blessing (Psalm 23:5) or consolation (Jeremiah 16:7). In other words, there is no single “cup”, it is symbolic of whatsoever may fall in our way. We cannot simply extract one particular cup and apply it uniformly across every instance of the word.

So what of Jesus’ cup?

In the NT we see that Jesus is troubled as the time of his glory approaches. About to enter Jerusalem he again tells his disciples of his impending death at the hands of the chief priests and the scribes, how they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him (Mark 10:33-34).

Even while he is explaining this, James and John make an outstandingly arrogant request – to sit on his right and left when Jesus comes into his kingdom! (Mark 10:37). Mindful clearly of what he is about to endure, Jesus asks whether they can drink the cup he is about to drink. They assure him they can (Matt 20:22, Mark 10:38). And then, in response, Jesus confirms that they would indeed end up drinking the same cup as he (Matt 20:23, Mark 10:39).

Given Jesus’ direct testimony that James and John will also drink the cup he is about to drink, we have to conclude that Jesus is talking of the cup of suffering / rejection / persecution / death. What it cannot be is the cup of God’s wrath.

So as the hour approaches for his betrayal into the hands of sinners (Matt 26:45), Jesus prays for this cup to pass from him (Matt 26:39). Jesus has not already drunk the cup of suffering so we cannot claim that the narrative might be presenting us with a new or different cup. This cup has to be one and the same that Jesus talked of earlier as the cup he was about to drink.

We have no option then other than to conclude that Jesus is referring to the cup of suffering, and that James and John would one day also share in it.

 

Price, Payment and the Transactional Trap

Was Jesus’ self-sacrifice a payment?

The concept of price has many connotations, but it is not always related to a payment.

For example, when a soldier pays “the ultimate price” we do not make the illogical leap that somehow his life was a payment to someone. Actions have consequences, and we often refer to a negative consequence as “the price that has to be paid” e.g. if you decide to have offspring, then you will need to nurture and care for them for at least 18 years. That is the “price you pay” for having children. But there is no transaction, no payment to anyone.

So when something (freedom, peace etc) has been “bought at a price” it does not mean literally that some type of exchange or transaction took place. Continue reading “Price, Payment and the Transactional Trap”

How is Christ a sacrificial lamb?

Now that we are re-thinking the sacrificial system and how it pertains to Jesus’s sacrifice, many questions arise. Here a Presbyterian asks a key question over on PTM’s website, and Brad Jersak provides a clear and really helpful response…

https://www.ptm.org/q-r-how-is-christ-a-sacrificial-lamb-brad-jersak

George MacDonald on “Justice”

One thing must surely be plain–that the punishment of the wrongdoer makes no atonement for the wrong done.

This unspoken sermon of George MacDonald is an excellent example of how much truth we miss (and even deny) when we interpret God’s justice in accordance with our own weak and fundamentally flawed human understanding of the concept.

The following are a few quotes, but you really need to read the whole sermon (link at the bottom) to benefit from the arguments presented.

“There is no opposition, no strife whatever, between mercy and justice. Those who say justice means the punishing of sin, and mercy the not punishing of sin, and attribute both to God, would make a schism in the very idea of God”. Continue reading “George MacDonald on “Justice””

Isaiah 53 in the New Testament (the Apostles’ teaching)

Isaiah 53 is consistently used as a proof text for the penal substitution theory of the atonement. Whilst there is no doubt that this chapter contains prophetic echoes of Jesus’ sacrifice, we should not simply assume that we can apply the entire text literally to the events of Golgotha. The litmus test for how to understand Isaiah 53 must come from the New Testament and the Apostles.

Let’s examine all the specific verses from Isaiah 53 which are either utilised or directly quoted in the New Testament. Continue reading “Isaiah 53 in the New Testament (the Apostles’ teaching)”

The Gospel Narrative: Never Alone

In John’s gospel Jesus categorically states that he would not be left alone by the Father.

There is one oft overlooked problem with claiming that the Father abandoned Jesus, and that is that the Gospel narratives do not bear it out. Let’s examine them.

  1. Was Jesus abandoned by his Father?

John’s Gospel provides us with two very specific statements from Jesus about his coming death – and the shock is that Jesus categorically states says that he would not be left alone by the Father. Continue reading “The Gospel Narrative: Never Alone”

NT Wright – The Royal Revolution

This presentation from the January Series, Calvin College 2017 is well worth a listen.  Tom Wright explores what the Kingdom of God is about, and shows what is woefully missing from our Western “theories” of the atonement.

For a clear understanding of the issues as stake in this debate, the whole talk is definitely worth the investment (Tom actually starts 5 mins in). Tom is clear and persuasive.

If you don’t have time and just want a pertinent “highlight” start at 40 mins in (stopping at around 44 mins, or 49 mins):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOq2hQLqNPs

(N.B. I would challenge/disagree with his phrasing in a sentence or two, but it’s relatively minor. I still thought the talk was excellent)

The book of Romans, and “passing over” sin

On what basis do we claim that, in divine forbearance, God made an omission that he now has to put right?

Must God punish all sin? Was he, in effect, storing it up under the Old Covenant until the day that Jesus would be punished for every last sin ever committed?

Let us examine closely the usual ‘go to’ passage presented in support of this argument. Continue reading “The book of Romans, and “passing over” sin”

Understanding Jesus’ Cry of Abandonment

In this excellent article, Nick demonstrates why we need to understand Jesus’ cry of abandonment as a prayer, and that the entire Psalm was clearly in mind. He also addresses some of the issues with trying to use the ‘cry’ from the Gospel narrative as the basis for forming doctrine.

http://www.creedcodecult.com/understanding-jesus-cry-of-abandonment/