©iStockphoto.com/Michael Allbach In the Garden

When Jesus’s suffering in the garden was at its very most acute, he pleaded with his Father: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup [man’s sins and pains of mortality] pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39)

This short plea sets up a dynamic between us and Christ, and Christ and the Father that is of the highest importance throughout our journey in mortality where we are physically separated from both the Father and the Son.

We get another insight into this event in the Doctrine and Covenants, when the Lord is counseling Martin Harris in Section 19, verses 16-19:

For behold, I God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent. But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I which suffering caused myself even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink – nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.”

We learn from these two scriptures the following:

  1. The “cup” was so bitter that even the Son of God begged to be excused from partaking of it.
  2. That he trembled with pain and bled from every pore, because he “suffered these things [mankind’s sins] for all, that they might not suffer” as he was suffering. This paints a two sided picture – a.) the horror that awaits those who do not repent; and b.) the magnitude of our Savior’s suffering and love for us who do repent.
  3. In both scriptures, He bows to the will of His Father, and does that which He finds the most difficult thing he has ever been called upon to do. The Father watches his sinless son suffer beyond anything we can imagine, because of His desire to be reunited with all his spirit children.

The Institution of the Sacrament

Have you ever wondered about the symbolism of the “cup?” Just before his crucifixion, the Lord instituted the ordinance of the sacrament: “And he took the cup , and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For t his is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28, emphasis added).

This scripture points directly to the link between the “bitter cup” of the Lord’s utmost suffering when he bled from every pore, and the Sacramental cup we take each Sunday, as does the Sacramental prayer that precedes it:

Oh God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them . O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him that they may have his Spirit to be with them.” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:79, emphasis added)

This link teaches us:

  1. The sacrament we take each week is in similitude of the “bitter cup” the Lord drank for our sake, which caused Him to bleed at every pore.
  2. That we do it in remembrance of Him and that suffering that He vicariously accomplished for our sakes.
  3. That in remembering Him always, we may always have His Spirit to be with us.

Living Water

This third point leads us in a fresh direction, referring to the “enabling power” of the atonement. It reminds me of the woman at the well, and another metaphor concerning drinking. Christ said to that woman: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again; But whosover drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

The sacramental cup is our well of living water, and as we partake of it in faith, we shall be given all the blessings and help we need to have everlasting [eternal] life. It is the ordinance of salvation in the Kingdom of God .

Partaking of this living water, or the symbolic blood of Jesus Christ, also enables us to have Him with us in all our trials. Throughout the final years of my depression as I began to have an inkling of what the atonement truly meant, I read the following scripture nearly every day:

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities ( Alma 7:11-12, emphasis added).

In that bitter cup were contained not only the sins of the world, but all suffering – everything that you and I was suffer because of the afflictions of mortality. The sacrament had a new meaning for me because I understood that by partaking of the living water of Jesus Christ, He would enable me to overcome my severest trials, just as He had overcome His, by putting His life on the altar and submitting His will to that of the Father.

Think of Joseph in Liberty Jail:

And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hat descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? . therefore, fear not, what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever ( Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-9 emphasis added).

I believe that for twenty-five years, the Lord was waiting for me to have the humility of Joseph and lay all my fears upon the altar, realizing that no matter what might transpire, He would not try me beyond my ability to endure. Within weeks of putting my worst fears on the altar and saying “Thy will be done,” I was blessed through the enabling power of the atonement to be freed of the bonds of my depression.

Now when I partake of the sacrament, I remember that miracle, wrought through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, represented by the cup of living water.