"He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."
"Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done." " (Matthew 26:38-39, 42)
What could be in this cup that Jesus dreaded so much? Was it the CUP OF DEATH or was there something else in the cup that Jesus dreaded drinking? At this point I'd like to quote from Nelson's Commentary of Matthew 26:36-39.
"My soul is exceedingly sorrowful is found in the Greek Septuagint version of Psalm 43:5. The prayer for the cup to pass is not due to Jesus' fear of death, Jesus questions the will of the Father as to the necessity of drinking the cup. While this may refer to death ("he tasted death") it is more likely that the cup represents the wrath of man's sin-bearer. In the awful anguish of that moment, the sin of the world was poured on Christ and He became "sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Thus, the Righteous One dies a substitution death for guilty mankind."
Was it the contents of the cup that Jesus dreaded? Notice Jesus' words in the book of John.
"So Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?"" (John 18:11)
There is a cup that is reserved for the wicked. It is a dreadful cup, one that no one would want to drink, yet it was a cup that we ALL would have had to drink, had not Jesus drank it for us.
What made Jesus sorrowful BEFORE his arrest?
If Jesus didn't agonize over death itself then what was it that made Jesus so sorrowful even BEFORE he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane?
The cup Jesus dreaded -- the cup He drank for His people -- was the cup of his Father's wrath against unrepentant sinners and the wicked. By drinking from this cup Jesus became sin for us (Isaiah 53:4-6). Because of Christ's action, we do not have to drink of God's wrath. As a matter of fact, we shall be protected from it. Notice Paul's words in Romans 5.
8. But God commends His own love to us because, when we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9. Much more, therefore, having been justified now by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5)
Paul also writes the church in 1Thessalonians:
" . . . and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." (1Thessalonians 1:10)
"For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . " (1Thessalonians 5:9-10)
So there is no doubt that if it were not for Jesus WE would all be facing the wrath of God. In drinking the cup of God's wrath, Jesus not only took our sins away, He opened the door for our future to be spent with Him in the Kingdom of God:
"And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals. For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God. And we shall reign on the earth.' " (Revelation 5:9-10)
In closing, here's a quote out of Roger Rusk's book The Other Ends of the Earth:
"Who died on the cross? The Blessed God, the God of Splendor of Genesis 5:12-17, who came down teaching that his death would bring comfort to the despairing. Who died on the Cross? The smoking furnace and the burning lamp who walked between the pieces of death pledging his life as a surety for the promises of Abraham. Who died on the Cross? The Husband-Redeemer of Israel, who loved his adulterous wife so much, that he desired to transform her into a chaste virgin whom he could marry again. Who died on the Cross? The Born Child whose name is Wonderful Counselor. The Son Given, whose name is the Everlasting Father. Who died on the Cross? The Mighty God who bared his strong arm in the eyes of all nations, and all the ends of the earth have seen his Salvation. Who died on the Cross? The Coming Prince of Peace."