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Eric Alexander on the Cup of Bitterness and Cup of Blessing

In 1958, Rev. Eric J. Alexander delivered a lecture at the Keswick Convention in which he pointed out one of the most wonderful parallels in the Bible. Drawing attention to the fact that God the Father placed  a cup of cursing and bitterness before Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, he noted that Jesus had another cup on that same night--a cup of blessing--that He set before His disciples in the upper room. The cup of blessing symbolized the blessings of the Gospel that are the portion of believers because the cup of cursing and bitterness symbolized the curse of sin that our Lord endured in our place. Rev. Alexander noted:

There was a cup in the upper room in Jerusalem that Paul delighted to call “the cup of blessing which we bless” (1 Cor. 10:16). This is the cup the psalmist alluded to when he wrote, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation” (Ps. 116:13). Jesus was offering them this cup when He said, “Take, drink from it” (Matt. 26:27).

But there is another cup in these verses—a cup in Gethsemane that Jesus calls “this cup.” He said, “Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done” (Matt. 26:42). If the cup in the upper room was the cup of blessing—the cup of salvation that they were to drink—then the cup Jesus looked upon there in the garden, which would make the other cup possible, was the cup of bitterness and sorrow that He must drink.

Only when we come to understand something of the bitterness of the cup He drank do we discover the depths of the cup of salvation from which we need to drink day by day. The experience of our Lord in Gethsemane was a foretaste of the cross, for the appalling spectacle of the sin of man was set before Him in this cup. The contents of this cup were the ingredients of His suffering and agony on the cross.

I once asked Rev. Alexander about this observation. He said that he first read it in R.A. Finlayson's The Cross in the Experience of the Lord. You can read all of Eric Alexander's Keswick lecture here.

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