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Character of God

Two Men Named Jesus

Jesus saw himself as the one who would drink the cup of God’s wrath, which meant dying in Israel’s place at the hand of Rome. Yet the death of Jesus was about more than just Rome. In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa talk about what it meant that Jesus drank the cup.
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Episode Details

October 19, 2020
60 min

Episode Details

October 19, 2020
60 min

Show Notes

QUOTE

“When Jesus says he’s going to drink the cup of God’s anger, this is what he means: he is going to put himself in the place of rebellious Israel, standing in the Roman court, facing the Roman governor. And he will “poke the bear” and allow Rome to kill him instead of the whole people. That’s what it means for Jesus to drink the cup of God’s anger.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • God’s anger and holiness are not the same, and the difference is important for understanding how God deals with sinful people.
  • The cup of God’s wrath represents domination by foreign armies, and Jesus sees himself as drinking this cup when he stands in Israel’s place before Rome.
  • Jesus saw his death as a substitute not only for Israel but for all of humanity’s self-destructive sin.

The Difference Between God’s Holiness and Anger

In part one (0:00–15:30), the team discusses the difference between God’s holiness and his anger. Jon asks a key question: Should I be scared of God?

Tim says that we need to let the Bible define God’s anger. As we’ve seen, God’s anger is a response to the covenant betrayal of his people. This is different from saying God is touchy and irritable. God’s anger was understood as a fitting reaction to covenant abandonment. Fearing God’s holiness and fearing his anger are two different things, and the Bible clearly emphasizes the former.

God may become angry, but that’s different than saying he is an angry God. Our complex relationship with anger may be tied to our culture or the very nature of anger, but God’s anger is always presented with the ultimate aim of restoration. Phrases like God “turning his face away” or “drinking the cup of wrath” are images for God giving people over to their enemies, always because of their abandonment and for the purpose of their restoration.

Jesus as the Great Resolver

In part two (15:30–20:30), Tim recaps the conversation on Jesus so far. Jesus saw himself as the one who would bring Israel to its final moment of decision. He proclaimed good news, yet he also warned Israel of God’s judgment. Similar to the prophets, Jesus saw that this judgment would come by the hands of Rome.

However, Jesus saw himself as the one to resolve the covenant conflict between God and Israel. He claimed to be establishing a new Kingdom with himself as Lord. And the way Jesus promised to do both of these things is through a final culminating moment he called “drinking the cup.”

Jesus Drinks the Cup

In part three (20:30–45:40), the team explores the idea of Jesus drinking the cup of God’s wrath. They ask an important question: How did Jesus view the meaning of his own death? Tim shares a story from Matthew 20.

Matthew 20:20-23
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of him. And he said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to him, “Command that in your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on your right and one on your left.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on my right and on my left, this is not mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

Jesus sees that the moment he comes into his Kingdom, he will have someone on his right and left. This becomes reality at the cross, his upside-down enthronement. At Passover, Jesus gives his disciples a cup, which he says is a new covenant of his blood. Then immediately after this, Jesus goes to the garden of Gethsemane and pleads three times that God would remove the cup.

Matthew 26:39
And he went a little beyond them, and fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus saw his death as drinking the cup, the biblical image of God handing people over to foreign powers. Jesus is claiming that he will stand in the place of faithless Israel, the rebellious nation that God will turn away from and give over to Roman power. Now Jesus will experience this destruction on behalf of Israel.

The richness of this image is seen when Pilate allows the crowd to choose to free one man—either Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus Barabbas, which in Aramaic means “son of the father” (Matthew 27:15-16; Luke 23:17-19). These two men represent two different ways that Israel can be God’s representatives to the nations—either through rebellion or through loving their enemies. Jesus is receiving the consequences of Israel’s rebellion.

This idea that Jesus is suffering in Israel’s place under Rome is different from the modern conception of Jesus suffering under the wrath of God. The Bible never tells us that Jesus bore the wrath of God. Instead, Jesus suffers the consequences of being handed over to Israel’s enemies.

The Cosmic Impact of Jesus’ Death

In part four (45:40–54:00), the team talks about the impact of Jesus’ death. Jesus stood in the place of Israel under Rome, yet Jerusalem still fell. So did Jesus’ sacrifice work? Carissa asks a follow-up question: Was Jesus’ death simply about human consequences, or was there a larger cosmic effect?

Tim points to Mark 9, where Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man—a cosmic image from Daniel 7.

Mark 9:31
“The Son of Man is to be given over into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he has been killed, he will rise three days later.”

In other words, Jesus sees his death as not just about Israel and Rome but about humanity and all the forces of cosmic evil. This is seen even in Jesus’ arrest when he says that this moment belongs to them and the power of darkness (Luke 22:53). His death wasn’t just about carrying consequences for Israel. Jesus’ sacrifice atoned for all of the self destruction and sin that humanity chose and deserved.

And Jesus’ death wasn’t meant to simply be an inspiration for Israel to start behaving better. Jesus saw himself as creating a new humanity, with himself as the true human and temple leading the way out of death and into life.

The death of Jesus is the meeting point of so many biblical themes, and Tim admits that this discussion is looking at only a few threads of the tapestry. For the creator God to have suffered the fate we deserved is a powerful mystery.

Why Did Jesus Die?

In part five (54:00–end), the team processes the conversation so far. Jesus is the God of Israel become human. He chose to drink the cup of God’s anger, which was represented by the kingdom of Rome. Jesus also understood that cosmic spiritual powers were at work behind Rome and all human kingdoms.

Jesus chose to suffer under these powers as a substitute for the sinful nation of Israel. When he died at the hands of Rome he also showed his power and was enthroned over all creation. Paul reiterates this when he says that the cross is wisdom and power even though it looks like weakness and folly.

The significance of the cross is laid out in the hyperlink-packed narrative of Jesus’ death. It can be frustrating because Jesus doesn’t spell it out point by point, but as a story, it invites us to marvel at the depth of God’s wisdom.

Carissa helps to summarize the conversation. What consequences did Jesus bear? God handed Jesus over to human kingdoms and the spiritual powers behind those kingdoms, and Jesus allowed himself to be destroyed by them. But his death and resurrection also affected all humanity by opening up a door to life and rendering human kingdoms powerless against resurrection life.

Additional Resources

Show Music

  • “Defender Instrumental” by Tents
  • “Canary Forest” by Aso x Aviino x Middle School
  • “Friends Circle” by Sitting Duck

Show produced by Dan Gummel. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.

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