According to tradition, when a young Hebrew man and woman were to be betrothed, the groom poured wine into his cup and invited the woman to drink of it. It was up to her. If she drank from it, she was considered betrothed to him. If she did not, no marriage would take place. Paul tells the church in II Corinthians 11:2: "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." When the bride drank of the cup, she drank of the marriage covenant or contract, accepting it.
Understanding this symbolism, it is no wonder that Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 26:28, "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." As we drink of His cup, we accept His invitation to be betrothed to Him and to be forgiven of our sins so we can be like He is—sinless, spotless, and without fault in His presence at the Marriage Supper.
Yet it means far more! Remember that "drinking the cup" meant to accept whatever that cup represented. When the mother of James and John approaches Jesus with her request to have her sons sit on each side of Jesus when He came into His Kingdom, Jesus replies with a question:
But Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you ask. Are you [James and John] able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" They said to Him, "We are able." (Matthew 20:22)
They do not take the cue from Jesus that they may have to drink more than they care to swallow! They answer affirmatively before they realize what Christ's cup contained. Jesus continues in verse 23:
So He said to them, "You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on my right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father."
What happened to them? James the son of Zebedee was the first apostle martyred, early on by Herod (Acts 12:2). Though John was the longest-lived of the twelve, apparently living nearly 100 years, he certainly suffered greatly at the hands of persecutors. Not only did he spend many years in exile on the Isle of Patmos, one tradition says he miraculously survived being boiled in oil! Beyond this, he had to watch the church disintegrate through apostasy and persecution.
Part of what Jesus' cup entails is suffering. When we drink of His cup, we are saying we are willing to suffer with Him and experience with Him whatever He ordains for us. We symbolically pledge that we are willing to walk down the same path He walked, with similar consequences.
We do not just drink the wine at Passover—we drink "of the cup" of Passover, meaning we are proclaiming our willingness to share in similar trials as Jesus did. We proclaim we are willing to endure whatever He has appointed for us as our lot.
We are also identifying ourselves with Him exclusively: We are cupbearers to the King of kings and to Him only. Psalm 16:5 says, "O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; you maintain my lot." The Eternal is our cup! Do we grasp the meaning of this? We cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We cannot simultaneously identify with Christ and Satan. Our lives, our actions, our words, our thoughts, continuously announce which is our father, God in heaven or Satan. Drinking of Jesus' cup means to live His way of life and renounce Satan's ways.
Are You Drinking of the Master's Cup?
The English word "remission" here indicates that the sins flowed out with Jesus' blood. This word is translated from the Greek word aphesis, which can also mean "release" or "liberty," as in the release of blood previously contained by the body's arteries and veins. This word aphesis stems from the word aphiemi, which means "yield up" or "expire." The word aphiemi, in turn, stems from the words apo and hiemi, which together mean "let go" or "sent forth by separation," as in a violent separation of the blood from the body's pressurized circulatory system (which, in Jesus' case, resulted in His complete separation from His Father in death). When God the Father laid the sins of the world upon the head of His beloved Son, they passed into and contaminated Him. They remained in Him until they were poured out with His shed blood.
Jesus' Final Human Thoughts (Part Two)
In "Are You Drinking of the Master's Cup?" (Forerunner, March 1999), the author tells of an ancient Hebrew tradition: When a young man and woman were to be betrothed (engaged) for marriage, the groom poured wine into his cup and invited the woman to drink of it. The choice was hers: If she drank from it, she was considered betrothed to the young man. She was agreeing to experience all the things that his life entailed, the good as well as the bad. When the woman drank of the cup, she drank of the marriage covenant and accepted it. Paul refers to this when he tells the church in II Corinthians 11:2: "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ."
As Jesus sat at His last Passover with His disciples, He poured wine into His cup and blessed it, telling the disciples, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:27-28). By literally drinking from His cup, they each accepted the terms of the New Covenant. It was a symbolic betrothal or engagement of the church, the Israel of God, to Christ. This is part of what we commemorate with each Passover service—our spiritual engagement to Christ, which will culminate with the marriage feast after He returns (Revelation 19:9).
Before we were called out of this world, we all walked according to the course of the world (Ephesians 2:2-3). We were the sons and daughters of disobedience, conducting ourselves in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and mind. We drank from the cup of Babylon by ingesting a false religion and the culture around us that God says is filthiness (Revelation 17:1-6; 18:1-6).
This is why God tells us to come out of Babylon—so that we do not share the sins in her promiscuous cup and the consequences that God promises He will pour out upon her.
Formerly, we were slaves to sin and its consequences. Now, under the New Covenant, we drink from Christ's cup and agree to His terms. This frees us from the death penalty of sin as well as making us responsible to remain faithful to this spiritual engagement.
Paul warns us that God is jealous toward His people, and that they must choose to whom they will be loyal: "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?" (I Corinthians 10:21-22).
It is plain that we must make a choice: We either drink of the cup of Christ and remain faithful to our commitment, or we drink of the cup of demons and the sinful system they rule. These two cups are mutually exclusive. We cannot have both!
If we have drunk from Christ's cup, can we continue to sip from the cup of this world's culture or its false religious system? Can we drink of His cup, accepting His proposal for marriage, and still have intimate interactions with Babylon? Even in our morally debased secular world, this would be grounds for nullifying that covenant of future marriage.
David C. Grabbe
Strange Women (Part Three)
At Jesus' final Passover service (Matthew 26:27-29), He poured wine into His cup, blessed it, and passed it around to His disciples. Each disciple took a sip from it. Though nowadays we pour wine into many separate vials for Passover, the principle is the same since the wine comes from one source, all of it is blessed together and all of it pictures the same thing—drinking from the cup of the Lamb. Perhaps the meaning is more poignant and easier to grasp by recalling Jesus' Passover service, when the disciples literally took a sip from His cup. When we commemorate this in our Passover service, we are also drinking from the cup of Christ, blessed by our Savior.
Have we consciously rejected the cup of this world, of Babylon, in favor of the "cup of the Lord"? God will not mix the contents of these two cups; they are totally incompatible. We must choose one or the other. Paul says, "We cannot drink of the Lord's cup and of the cup of demons" (I Corinthians 10:21). We must totally reject this world, this Babylon, and that awful cup of the Woman, full of her abominations and of the blood of the saints (Revelation 18:6).
If we have lived in this world—and we all have to some degree—we have sipped from that awful cup and have been affected by its contents. We must now unconditionally reject it, empty it, discard it, and replace it totally in favor of the new cup of blessing from God.
Notice, Christ commands us to drink of His cup! "Drink from it, all of you," Jesus says (Matthew 26:27). He does not say "drink the wine," but to drink of the cup. We know the red wine symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the remission of sins (verse 28). We know we need to remember that it took the blood of the Son of God to forgive our sins, and we certainly rehearse that aspect of this service every year. We know that by drinking the wine, we accept His shed blood in our behalf, forgiving our sins and wiping our sinful slate clean. Thank God for that! But drinking of His cup adds so much to the meaning of the Passover wine.
In I Corinthians 10:16, Paul refers to this cup as "the cup of blessing." He asks, "Is it not the communion [margin, fellowship, sharing] of the blood of Christ?" In the Jew's Passover meal, several cups are consumed. Notice what Vine's Expository Dictionary says under article "Cup":
The cup of blessing, I Corinthians 10:16, is so named from the third (the fourth according to Edersheim) cup in the Jewish Passover Feast, over which thanks and praise were given to God.
So as we drink of the cup of the Master, we should understand that it is a wonderful "cup of blessing," thanksgiving, and praise that we offer to God as we drink it!
Are You Drinking of the Master's Cup?
Jesus was certainly aware that He would spend forty days with His disciples after His resurrection, time in which He would have been well able to enjoy a glass of wine with them. But the first part of His statement seems to have been a vow, or at least a strong promise, that He would abstain from wine until after the time of their resurrection.
It may be significant then that, just before His crucifixion, once He realized what He was being given, He refused the sour wine and gall mixture that was offered to Him: "They gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted, He would not drink" (Matthew 27:34; see also Mark 15:23; Luke 23:36).
From our human points of view, we may think that a mere taste of this foul-tasting cocktail would not have caused Jesus to break His vow—that it could hardly be construed as "drinking of the fruit of the vine" with His disciples. Jesus, however, looked at things from God's point of view, and He knew that all that His Father had assigned for Him to do was to be carried out perfectly, and not with an "oh, that should do" attitude.
The Greek verb for "taste" in Matthew 27:34 is geuomai, which can mean "to perceive the flavor of," suggesting that perhaps Jesus did not actually taste the mixture at all. In the haze of His agony, He may not have been aware of what the Roman soldier was holding up to Him until it reached His lips, and in that split-second, He recognized it for sour wine. In any case, a taste cannot be considered a drink.
Later, as His human life moved into its final moments, He was offered sour wine a second time: "Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink" (Matthew 27:48; see also Mark 15:36; John 19:29-30).
These "drink offerings" of sour wine and gall perfectly fulfilled David's prophecy of Psalm 69:21: "They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."
Of Sponges and Spears
Jesus told His disciples to partake of unleavened bread and wine during the New Testament Passover service. Through this command, He charged His followers to observe it as a memorial of His death for all time. Since Christ's death completely fulfilled the symbolism of killing a lamb, we no longer need to slaughter a lamb in keeping the Passover.
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Passover
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Matthew 26:28: