Of all the songs on "Mercy's Throne", I found "Let this Cup Pass" to be the most challenging to write. For this reason, I'm going to take a different approach in this blog post and walk through the songwriting process. We're going to look at the scripture that the lyrics come from and I'll try to unpack how we can creatively engage with a passage while still remaining faithful to the text.
Where Does This Come From?
This is a seemingly straightforward question but, without the conviction that a song ought to be faithful to scripture, it is easy to slip into fantasy or emotionalism. It is easier still to make the truth blurry enough that you can warp a passage to fit the story that you want to tell at the expense of clarity and honest interpretation. As a creative person serving the church, my desire is that we would all taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8) because of the truth of his word. So let's imagine that the scripture is a perfect piece of steak. The steak is perfect by itself. It is a meal. The creative elements that we bring in are salt. If the salt does its job correctly, what is praised: the steak or the salt?
Now, let's look at the passages where our story is found.
36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.(Matthew 26:36-44)
32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (Mark 14:32-42)
Pulling a Song from Scripture
Now that we have our text and our philosophy for what a faithful song should accomplish, let's look at our lyrics to see where they intersect scripture. Get your bible ready.
Alone on a hill - (Matthew 26:36)
awake in the night - (Mark 14:40)
the author of life, - (Acts 3:15)
preparing to die, - (Matthew 26:38-39)
cried out to heaven
and fell to his knees - (Matthew 26:39)
He knew the Father's will - (John 7:29, Matthew 26:39)
still He would plead - (Mark 14:35)
He was praying Let this cup pass - (Mark 14:36)
my soul's downcast - (Mark 14:34, Matthew 26:38)
If I must take this I can
I'll drink and be still - (Matthew 26:42)
not mine, but your will - (Mark 14:36)
Met and betrayed
by one of the brothers - (Mark 14:43-45)
He was taken away, - (Mark 14:46)
denied by another, - (Mark 14:68)
beaten by soldiers
who took all he had - (Mark 15:15-24)
God's only son - (Matthew 3:17)
a lamb among wolves - (Isaiah 53:7)
Jesus the son of God - (Matthew 3:17)
has felt all the pain we should feel - (1 Peter 2:24)
When He took a cross instead of me - (1 Peter 3:18)
and died as my sins bit his heel - (Genesis 3:15)
He was the one
that the Father poured out his wrath upon - (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Songs Can Preach
As God's word goes forth it accomplishes his purpose (Isaiah 55:11). The church proclaims the sweetness of salvation, but also the sorrow and penalty of sin for "Godly sorrow brings repentance" (2 Corinthians 7:10). Jesus Christ willingly gave himself as a sacrifice to pay for the sin of all who would confess him as their Lord (Romans 10:9, 1 John 1:9). With "Let This Cup Pass," we've tried to show the cost of our great salvation by being faithful to scripture. Our hope in this Easter season is that you would be freshly affected by the sorrows of Christ and that it would lead you to even greater depths of wonder and worship.
*A Note About Communication and Corporate Worship
The other day I read a tweet that said:
“What makes a song congregational? A singable, memorable, and accessible melody. What makes a song beneficial? The Gospel within that melody.”
“Let this Cup Pass” was never meant to be sung by a congregation. It takes too many odd turns, sings from Christ’s perspective during the chorus and is just not singable by most people. I have said in a previous blog post: “When the congregation is cut out of worship and turned into spectators we miss the point of worshipping together entirely”.
So a song like “Let this Cup Pass” serves not as a song for corporate singing, but a song for intentional listening. We’ve tried to capture the sorrow of these events and hope that your heart is stirred by the sacrificial obedience of Christ.