“John Griffith tended to one of the huge railroad bridges that cross the mighty Mississippi.
It was 1937 when this true story took place He brought his 8-year-old son, Greg, to work with him to see what Dad did all day.The little boy was wide-eyed with excitement when the huge bridge went up at the beck and call of his father and huge boats steamed by. Since there were no trains due for a while they went out a couple of hundred feet on a catwalk out over the river to an observation deck. They sat there and had their lunch. The time flew by when suddenly they were drawn instantly back to reality by the shrieking of a distant train whistle.
Looking at his watch, Griffith saw that it was time for the Memphis Express. With 400 passengers it would, in minutes, be rushing over the bridge. He knew there was just enough time, so he told his son to remain where he was while he quickly went to the control room.
With his hand on the control lever that controlled the bridge, he looked up and down the river to see if there were any boats coming and, as was his custom, he looked down to see if there were any beneath the bridge.Suddenly he saw a sight that caused his heart to leap into his throat. His boy had tried to follow him to the control room and had fallen into the great, huge gear box that had the monstrous gears that operated the massive bridge. His leg was caught between the two main gears. Panic stricken he wondered what to do. He knew there was not enough time to go back and extricate his son and then return in time to lower the bridge. What could he do? There were 400 people on the train but this was his son, this was his only son. He knew what he had to do so he buried his head in his arms and pushed the gear forward.(D.James Kennedy/P.T.#66) He sacrificed his only son to save 400 passengers on the Memphis Express. God sacrificed His only Son to save you and me. “FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE” (John 3:16).
While in the garden of Gethsemane just before He was crucified, Jesus prayed, “MY FATHER, IF IT IS POSIBLE, MAY THIS CUP BE TAKEN FROM ME.YET NOT AS I WILL, BUT AS YOU WILL.”(Matthew 26:39) A short time later as Jesus was arrested He said to Peter who tried to protect Him, “PUT YOUR SWORD AWAY! (John18:11) SHALL I NOT DRINK THE CUP THE FATHER HAS GIVEN ME?”As author Jerry Bridges says, “It is obvious that the cup was very much on Jesus’ mind that night. The question is, What was in the cup? We generally associate Jesus’ cup with His crucifixion. We assume that when He prayed that the cup might be taken away, He was asking to be spared from that horrible and demeaning death.Certainly that assumption is true; the cup represented His crucifixion. But what was in the cup?”(Discipleship Journal/29/2002)
In order to understand Scripture we must adhere to principles of interpretation.One of them is that you always interpret Scripture with Scripture. Doing that we must examine other biblical references to “the cup.” In both the Old and New Testaments, “the ‘cup’ refers not only to suffering and death but also to God’s wrath. ‘Cup’ is the normal figurative expression in the Old Testament for judgment and suffering at the hand of God.”(Expositor’s/Carson) For instance, in Jeremiah 25:15 God said, “TAKE FROM MY HAND THIS CUP FILLED WITH THE WINE OF MY WRATH……” Isaiah 51:17 says, “AWAKE! RISE UP, O JERUSALEM YOU WHO HAVE DRUNK FROM THE HAND OF THE LORD THE CUP OF HIS WRATH…..” The ‘cup’ symbolizes God’s wrath.
Recognizing God’s love, many refuse to believe in His wrath. They erroneously think that since God is love, there is no place for wrath in His dealings with mankind. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, God is love. But He is also holy and just. As such He cannot have anything to do with sin and He cannot allow sin to go unpunished. His wrath is an expression of His hatred of sin. Even the New Testament speaks of God’s wrath as Jesus says in John 3:36, “WHOEVER BELEIVES IN THE SON HAS ETERNAL LIFE, BUT WHOEVER REJECTS THE SON WILL NOT SEE LIFE, FOR GOD’S WRATH REMAINS ON HIM.” Romans 1:18 declares that “THE WRATH OF GOD IS BEING REVEALED FROM HEAVEN AGAINST ALL THE GODLESSNESS AND WICKEDNESS OF MEN WHO SUPRESS THE TRUTH BY THEIR WICKEDNESS.”
God’s wrath is the result of His intense hatred of sin. Even though the trend today is to minimize the seriousness of sin and to even dismiss the reality of sin, sin is serious.Dr. Karl Menninger asks, “Whatever became of sin?” Society doesn’t even like to use the word anymore. With all too many people, wrong has become right. Everything has become relative. There are no longer any standards. Anything goes; everything is acceptable. God, however, doesn’t see it that way and He certainly doesn’t take sin lightly and neither should we.
First of all, God hates sin because it is an affront to Him. It is an affront to His holiness, sovereignty and majesty. Puritan John Bunyan described sin like this: “Sin is the dare of God’s justice, the rape of His mercy, the jeer of his patience, the slight of His power and the contempt of His love.” For that reason God’s response to sin is wrath. In keeping with His holy and just nature, wrath is God’s only fitting response sin.
God’s wrath is also revealed against sin because, secondly, it brings harm to His creation. Sin has its wages and they are high, indeed. Sin promises much but ultimately delivers only regret and heartache. Disobedience to the moral and ethical laws of God does not result in great blessing and happiness. Sin ultimately harms and destroys. It is far too costly as is evident in our messed up society where anything goes. As someone has aptly said, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go. Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay. Sin will cost you more than you want to pay.” Sin doesn’t deliver what it promises. God’s wrath is, therefore, directed against all sin.
THE CUP AND THE CROSS
“This brings us back to the cup from which Jesus drank at His crucifixion. Scripture tells us that while Jesus hung on the cross, darkness came over the land from noon until three o’clock. We do not know all that transpired during those hours when Jesus endured the wrath of God. We do know that the physical suffering Jesus endured was only a feeble picture of the suffering His soul experienced as He drank the cup. Part of that suffering was the utter abandonment by His Father. For our sakes, God turned His back upon His own dearly loved Son. Jesus was forsaken by the Father because of our sin. During those three awful hours, Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath in our place.”(Bridges)
Scripture tells us exactly what occurred when Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath. 2 Corinthians 5:21 declares that “GOD MADE HIM WHO HAD NO SIN TO BE SIN FOR US, SO THAT IN HIM WE MIGHT BECOME THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD.”Jesus Christ paid the just penalty of your sin and my sin. He took your place on the cross to satisfy the demands of a holy and just God. The prophet Isaiah said, “WE ALL, LIKE SHEEP HAVE GONE ASTRAY, EACH OF US HAS TURNED TO HIS OWN WAY; AND THE LORD HAS LAID ON HIM THE INIQUITY OF US ALL.” In drinking of the cup of God’s wrath for us, Christ actually endured the judgment and punishment that we should have received for our sins. That is why Peter wrote, “CHRIST HIMSELF BORE OUR SINS IN HIS BODY ON THE TREE.”(1 Peter 2:24) Christ endured God’s wrath on our behalf.
In drinking the cup of God’s wrath, our Savior was as Isaiah (53:4-5) foretold, “…STRICKEN BY GOD, SMITTEN BY HIM, AND AFFLICTED …HE WAS PIERCED FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS, HE WAS CRUSHED FOR OUR INIQUITIES; THE PUNISHMENT (OF OUR SIN) WAS UPON HIM, AND BY HIS WOUNDS WE ARE HEALED.” Listen again to the words that describe what happened to Christ: He was stricken. Smitten. Afflicted. Pierced. Crushed. Punished. Wounded. As author Jerry Bridges says, “This is a description of the pouring out of God’s wrath on His Son. It was the prospect of drinking the cup that caused Jesus such intense agony in Gethsemane. That is why, on the cross, he cried out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mark 15:34)
In paying the just penalty of our sin, Christ was forsaken by God. “Our finite minds will never penetrate the full significance of these heart-rendering words that fell from the lips of Jesus as he died bearing the penalty of our sin. There is a deep mystery in these words which no human can fathom.” (Lockyer) “It was in the ‘forsaking’ that Jesus was bruised, put to grief, smitten and afflicted of God for our iniquities just as the prophet Isaiah prophesied. During the desolate period when Jesus was bearing ‘the sins of many’, His sinless soul was brought into contact with the sins of a lost world and the awful load crushed Him. In some mysterious and unexplainable way, ‘HE WAS MADE SIN FOR US.’Sin in all its hideousness took possession of His human soul and he underwent the full consciousness of God’s wrath upon sin.” He did it for you and me!
“As Jesus hung from the cross, the cup of God’s wrath was completely turned upside down, and Jesus drank it to its bitter dregs. He tasted the last drop. He exhausted it. He had accomplished what He came to do: to save His people from the wrath of God. He did this, not merely by deflecting it away from us, but by consuming it in His own person. That is why Paul could write of our being ‘SAVED FROM GOD’S WRATH THROUGH HIM,’ and that ‘GOD DID NOT APPOINT US TO SUFFER WRATH BUT TO RECEIVE SALVATION THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.’(Romans 5:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:9) All who trust in Jesus need never fear the possibility of experiencing God’s wrath. There is nothing more in the cup. It was exhausted on His Son as He stood in our place bearing the guilt of our sin.”(Bridges)
Motivated by His amazing love for us, God has provided us with a Savior, Christ the Lord.
Scripture declares, “FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON….” (John 3:16) Romans 5:8 says, “….GOD DEMONSTRATES HIS OWN LOVE FOR US IN THIS: WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS, CHRIST DIED FOR US.” There is no doubt about it; God loves us. As author Jerry Bridges says, “Herein lies the glory of the cross. Justice and mercy are reconciled at the cross. Wrath and love are both given full expression.” God remains faithful to Himself. And we experience forgiveness and new life in Christ. We, however, must individually receive that forgiveness by receiving Christ as our personal Savior and Lord.
In closing, I would like to return to John Griffith, the man who tended the huge railroad bridge that crossed the Mississippi.After pushing the huge gear forward, the bridge slowly lowered into place as the train rumbled across. He lifted up his tear-smeared face and looked straight into the flashing windows as they flashed by one after another. He saw men reading their afternoon paper, a conductor in uniform looking at a large vest-pocket watch, ladies sipping tea and little children eating ice cream. Nobody looked into the control room. Nobody looked at his tears. Nobody but nobody looked down into the great gear box. In heart-wrenching agony, he beat against the window of the control room and said, “What’s wrong with you people? Don’t you care? I sacrificed my son for you. Don’t you care?’ Nobody looked. Nobody heard. Nobody heeded. And the train disappeared across the river. (D.J. Kennedy)
God gave His only Son…..but so few seem to care. Mesmerized by the trivial pursuits and mindless activities of this fleeting life, many just don’t have time for God. Spiritual realities and endeavors just don’t fit into their plans. Scores of others are not even aware that Christ died for them and that forgiveness is available. Burdened by their sins and wracked with guilt they limp through life unaware that life can be different; it can be lived on a higher, more fulfilling and satisfying plane. They have no clue of the new life that is available in Christ. They will never know until we tell them. May God enable us to, at the right time and in the right way, tell others about Jesus and what He has done to secure for us forgiveness and eternal life.