Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Shall I not Drink the Cup?"

So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (Jn 18:2-11)
“Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” Jesus says this to Peter, which we learn only from John the last of the evangelists to write. It seems the others wanted to protect Peter’s identity from prosecution. Now Peter has met his own death being crucified upside down because he would not die in the same manner as his lord. He too had to drink the cup the Father had given.
It is a bitter cup. Jesus goes to his death, and his servants are no better than the master. If the Father has done this to his Son… Well can we expect any better? This is our cross, we have crosses as Christians. And they are not light things like giving up smoking, or what have you. No, we suffer in this world, and we endure the suffering of loved ones who are sick and terrified. It is to go without a job, or lose it all. It is to work for years and years to see something come to fruition and then see it all dashed to pieces in a matter of weeks. And we wish to God that we would find relief from suffering, and only he can give it. And give it he will. The Father gave the son the cup because he knew where it would lead to, our salvation. Jesus now endures the glories of heaven. And because he endured the drinking of this cup, we who suffer in him will also be given to endure the glories of heaven.
Jesus does it willingly. He doesn’t fight as one who is weak. He knows who is in control. It is him! “I am” he says, “I am he.” He cryptically meets his accusers identifying himself with God with one of his great I am statements, and they fall to the ground. This was not something he needed to do, but it is something he wanted to do. He wanted to do it for the Father, and he wanted to do it for us. He wanted to reconcile us to our estranged Father. He is the good son, the mediator between siblings and parent. Never an easy task. But Jesus wants it, for his Father whom he loves, and knows that the Father loves us, to reconcile us to the Father, whom we in our sin hate and despise. This was the only way. But he goes voluntarily. Willingly. He’s that strong in character, in determination. It’s hard to fathom.
I for one do not greet the cup the Father gives with such willingness. I am not that strong. I fight, I get bitter and resentful, and the sufferings I meet are not on the same level. It’s odd. I once had a Mormon friend with whom I was discussing the cross. He didn’t think it a big deal. He said to me, “Well, if you knew that you would rise on the third day, wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t you go willingly?” I can tell you I would not. I can tell you this because I never accept my sufferings willingly. At times I give into them to exhausted to swing a sword at Malchus anymore. But I never accept them willingly. I ask the Father to take the cup from me. I try every route to avoid if possible. And I find they give me more suffering. I think we are all this way. And the thing is, I too know that I will rise on the third day. I know this suffering is temporary and compares nothing with the full weight of glory prepared for us. It is inevitable. The Son has risen. So will I. Mourning will be turned to dancing. It will come. Victory is his, and so victory is ours, victory is mine. Because if the Father has done this to the Son, well then he will do it to me for whom the Son willingly suffered that we would be reconciled.

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