The Bitter Cup

King David described the agony of having no one to comfort you in your adversity:

I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.

They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Psalm 69:20-21

Jesus repeatedly spoke of a cup filled with bitter liquid which He was obligated to drink.

  • To James and John, who aspired to positions of glory in the Savior’s postmortal kingdom, He said, “Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?” (Matthew 20:22; see also Mark 10:38).
  • In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39, 42, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42).
  • When Peter tried to defend Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11).
  • Following His death and resurrection, when He visited a group of people on the American continent, He introduced Himself by saying, “I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me” (3 Nephi 11:11).

All of these references are metaphorical, of course, symbolizing the extreme suffering He willingly bore. But as He hung on the cross, He was given a bitter drink to quench His thirst:

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

John 19:28-30

John apparently thought it was significant that Jesus drank vinegar as a literal realization of King David’s imagery. Certainly it was a fitting end to His untold suffering: He had drunk from the bitter cup, and now, as His suffering came to an end, He was given vinegar to drink.

Today, I will be grateful for Jesus’ willingness to fulfill the mission He had been given, even though it was unpleasant and painful. I will strive to follow His example, by being willing to drink from any cup God requires of me.

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