The cup is a powerful New Testament symbol. At the Last Supper, when Jesus shared the Passover meal with His disciples for the final time, He showed that we must “drink” in the new promise for our salvation through Him. He showed them through this symbolic gesture what was to follow.
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.” Luke 22:20
His blood was to be shed as He took our place under the law. Today, we remember this truth by celebrating Holy Communion where we share this meal with our Savior and fellow believers.
During Jesus’ ministry, He taught about a different sort of cup: the wineskin.
Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. Matthew 9:17
Here, we get to be the cup/wineskin. If we accept the new wine (Jesus Christ) into new hearts (wineskins), we are preserved. However, if we do not accept Christ as the only path for our salvation, but instead try to rely on our good behavior or good works, then we will be old wineskins and cannot contain the fullness of Christ.
In the Garden of Gethsemane on the night that he was betrayed, Jesus prayed:
Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. Luke 22:42
This time the cup represents the suffering and separation from His Father that Jesus knew He would have to endure on the cross.
We see a final cup appearance with Jesus hanging on the cross.
There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. Matthew 27:34
Jesus may have refused this cup because he did not wish to dilute his pain or consciousness with the narcotic (or perhaps poisonous) mixture of wine and gall. However, I wonder if Jesus was, at that moment, serving as the cup for our sin and would therefore not accept it because he was already filled. He was a vessel filled to the top with all our sin.
The good news is that, because Jesus took our place and paid our sin debt, we are now free to serve as the container for His love and joy and peace. Our cup will then overflow and we will share the good news of Jesus’ love with everyone we meet.