Matthew 26:39 (KJV) And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

What did Christ mean by "the cup"? Was it

  • Death on the cross
  • The intense suffering He endured
  • God's wrath
  • His taking the sins of the world upon Himself
  • All of these, the whole process
  • Something else?
  • 1
    I was once told that Jesus possibly said "It is finished", because he finished drinking the cup
    – Cryst
    Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 22:22
  • You know, all the killin' and stuff.
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 0:45

5 Answers 5


It's the Cup of God's Wrath

Isaiah 51:17+ NIV

The Cup of the LORD’s Wrath

17 Awake, awake! Rise up, Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes people stagger. 21 Therefore hear this, you afflicted one, made drunk, but not with wine. 22 This is what your Sovereign LORD says, your God, who defends his people: “See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath,
you will never drink again. 23 I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk on you.’ And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked on.”

Again in Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 25+ NIV

The Cup of God’s Wrath

15 This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.”


7 “Then tell them, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Drink, get drunk and vomit, and fall to rise no more because of the sword I will send among you.’ 28 But if they refuse to take the cup from your hand and drink, tell them, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: You must drink it! 29 See, I am beginning to bring disaster on the city that bears my Name, and will you indeed go unpunished? You will not go unpunished, for I am calling down a sword on all who live on the earth, declares the LORD Almighty.’

It goes on and on in Jeremiah. Of course, Revelation makes the last mention.

Revelation 14:10 (NIV)

10 they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.

Revelation 16:19 (NIV)

19 The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.


Your condemnation was to suffer God's wrath in hell for all of eternity. Jesus took your law place and was subjected to God's wrath on your behalf. There's nothing else in all of existence that God the Son would have so much stress over that He would sweat blood.

  • This reminds me of "Battle Hymn of the Republic", specifically the reference to the vineyard where the grapes of wrath are stored.
    – Richard
    Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 18:27
  • This is very likely the correct answer. The only thing that gives me room for doubt is: Jesus prayed for the cup to pass from Him; this didn't occur if the cup is God's wrath. It boggles my mind that God the Father would say, "No" to a prayer from God the Son. Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 18:37
  • @BrianKoser, slight edit for you Brian. Commented Sep 10, 2011 at 18:52
  • @Brian: Jesus prayed, "Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, thy will, not mine be done". There was nothing wrong with his prayer, and no conflict is created by the Father's answer of "No" - it was not possible for the cup to pass from him without Jesus' drinking it fully.
    – user32
    Commented Sep 11, 2011 at 0:40
  • 1
    @Brian: Because he didn't know it; having divested himself of his God-nature, he knew only what the Holy Spirit revealed to him, like any other man.
    – user32
    Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 4:58

Interestingly enough, the NLT has the answer right there in the verse.

Matthew 26:39 (NLT)

 39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

[Emphasis mine.]

Other verses that reference the same cup also say "suffering" in the NLT. However, I don't specifically know where the translators got that from.

  • 3
    It looks like the NLT translators interpreted "of suffering" into the verse; I don't see it in the Greek at all. Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 22:40
  • @Brian: Yep. I looked at it in Blue Letter Bible and "suffering" doesn't even show up. The NLT is not a word-for-word, but it is a thought-for-thought, so presumably the translators had justification for this. Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 22:42
  • 2
    @El'Endia: What exactly does "thought-for-thought" mean? How can the translators do anything more than guess as to the thoughts of the original authors, who are long since dead by now?
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 22:43
  • @Mason: I'm pretty sure they thought about what to put, using other verses as a basis. I just don't know what other verses they used. Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 22:47

He was speaking of the entire process that was about to begin. Here was Jesus, the Perfect Man, who had never known sin, and he was about to have the all sins of the world laid upon him, and suffer God's punishment for all of them, in order to make it possible for all the rest of us to find salvation.

In addition to the horrific levels of physical and spiritual agony this must have involved, (see Luke's account of the event,) there is also another factor to consider: the deepest of all human fears is said to be the fear of the unknown, and this was truly unknown territory to Jesus, who had never had even the slightest personal experience with sin and the separation from God that sin brings!

Here we see a bit of the Savior's human side: when he was about to take it all upon himself, he was afraid, like anyone would be. But he didn't let that stop him from fulfilling the mission that the Father had given him. He said "nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt," and went through with it, even until the end, and opened up the doorway to salvation for all of us!

  • That is an interesting thought. However, it does seem a little strange that Christ would ask God to remove Him from the entire reason He came to earth. He knew he would suffer and die (Mt. 16:21, Mk. 8:31, Lk. 9:22, etc.), it's why He came; so would He ask God to prevent it? Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 22:52
  • 1
    @Brian: Knowing in your head that you will have to do something unpleasant eventually isn't the same as actually being confronted with it as an immediate task. I'm sure you've experienced this some time. Take your gut reaction to that and multiply it by infinity, and you have something that could provoke fear even in a god! And remember that he wasn't asking to prevent it, but to prevent it "if it be possible." Even knowing that there wasn't another way, he was asking, "if there's any other way, can we do that instead?" But there wasn't, and he went through with it, and we praise him for it.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Sep 9, 2011 at 23:10

God's wrath

Listen to how Paul Washer puts it.

Did you know that some years after Jesus was crucified, some of His followers were persecuted, tortured and crucified? Many of these followers went to their death singing hymns and praising God in the process. Do you for a moment think the captain of your salvation, Jesus, would be scared of a Roman whip?! He laughs at Roman legions!

I don't want to diminish the sufferings that Christ endured on the cross.

This is the gospel, that Christ took God's wrath on our part. Oh how amazing this Jesus is!


From my Christian point of view it is Jesus' life.

The blood of Jesus in the last supper signifies his lifeblood.This was symbolised by wine (or grape juice) in the chalice which was given to his disciples to remember him when ever they drink.

When Jesus pleaded with his Father in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knew his time was short before Judas came, so he wanted the agony to end quickly, however it was his father god's will that Jesus sought for, which showed the almighty's courage in this case.

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