Drink Jesus' Cup of Suffering (Mark 10)
- Order of Service: Matins
- Hymns: LSB #435, 419, 781, 422
[James and John] said to [Jesus], “Grant us to sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the Baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the Baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at My right hand or at My left is not Mine to grant, but it si for those for whom it has been prepared.” (Mark 10:37-40)
The Holy Grail is one of the most sought after relics of the Church. It is supposed to be the cup Jesus used when He instituted the Lord's Supper. It is also supposed to be the cup Joseph of Arimathea used to catch Jesus' blood as he and Nicodemus prepared Him for burial. A fulfillment of the Words of Institution.
For centuries, many have gone on quests to find this relic. People want Jesus' cup so that they might feel closer to Jesus. That is the draw of relics. Many want to see them not for historical curiosity and learning. They believe that being in their presence would give them some divine spark or inspiration.
Because of this, myths have been spawned about this cup. This cup has been sought by many for the wrong reasons. This doesn't begin in the Middle Ages with the Arthurian legends. This begins while Jesus was still alive. Still teaching His disciples.
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, continued to squabble over who is the greatest. This time was going to be different. James and John brought the squabble to Jesus. The question would not be left hanging. Jesus was going to deliver the final verdict. No wiggle room would be allowed. Jesus' “favorites” would finally be called His “princes” so they could start showing their authority. So they could get the honor and respect they thought they deserved.
James and John wanted the honor and respect of their fellow Apostles. They wanted to be seen as the greatest of the Apostles. They wanted to grab honor for themselves. Honor like that of the Israelite high priest among the rest of the priests. Hebrews tells us, “No one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was” (5:4). The high priest was not a position that just anyone— or even any Levite—could have. The high priest had to be a direct descendant of Aaron. No one rightfully sought to be elected to this position. Those who did so wrongly were destroyed by God. A new high priest was appointed when the old high priest died or he became unable to fulfill his duties. James and John demanded a similar position in Jesus' coming kingdom. But they wouldn't wait to be appointed if God the Father would have appointed them. James and John find themselves on Jesus' right and left at the Last Supper. But that was Da Vinci's decision. The Gospels don't tell us where everyone sat.
James and John dared to ask the unthinkable. Jesus asked them, “ARE YOU ABLE TO DRINK THE CUP THAT I DRINK.” What is Jesus' cup? What is this Holy Grail everyone keeps seeking after? Not a cup filled with magical or divine power. Jesus' cup is a cup of suffering. A cup of rejection. A cup of torture. This cup Jesus would pray, “IF IT BE POSSIBLE, LET THIS CUP PASS FROM ME.” Jesus Himself didn't want to drink His cup if there was another way to bring salvation. Of course, there was no other way unless He drank it. It was, after all, HIS CUP to drink. No one else could drink His cup for Him. He became flesh to drink His cup.
“And they said to Him, 'We are able.'” James and John want to drink this cup? Do they understand the cup? Of course not. They're only thinking about the temporal power and authority they thought Jesus was going to bring with His kingdom. They are more than ready to drink THAT cup. But Jesus tells them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you.” There would be no “Prince of the Apostles.” There would not be a hierarchy among the Apostles. If there would be one who to provide guidance, he would simply be the “first among equals.” None of them would be inherently above the others. It would be a group decision. A decision that could be changed. No one could demand greater honor.
Jesus let all Twelve know that His cup wasn't for those who demanded it. Jesus' cup is for all Christians to drink. “THE CUP THAT I DRINK YOU WILL DRINK.” Someone should have told James and John, “Be careful what you wish for! You might just get it!” James and John would go on to suffer and be rejected. They would also be tortured for their proclamation of Jesus. James would be beheaded by Herod Agrippa. John would be the only Apostle not put to death, but he was exiled to the island of Patmos in his late eighties or early nineties. Likely he died there.
Christians in every generation will drink Jesus' cup. His cup of suffering, rejection and torture is given to all who deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. Wednesday the Church celebrates the Annunciation of our Lord. The day when Mary of Nazareth found out she was going to be the Theotokos, the God-bearer. A great shock for a twelve- or thirteen-year-old virgin. But she graciously accepts the word of the Archangel Gabriel and submits to God's will. “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Just under a year later, Joseph and Mary brought forty-day old Jesus to be presented in the Temple. She drank Jesus' cup as she accepted Simeon's prophecy: “This child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Mary drank from her Savior son's cup as she stood at the foot of the cross while Jesus hanged and gave up His spirit. She continued with the Apostles after His resurrection and was among the one hundred twenty believers gathered together for the Feast of Pentecost.
Drinking Jesus' cup is the most important part of the Lenten journey. Are you able to drink the cup? Through the Holy Spirit, you can confidently say, “I am able.” You can faithfully drink Jesus' cup of suffering, rejection and torture. Knowing that Jesus died for you, suffering means absolutely nothing. Knowing that Jesus loves you, rejection means absolutely nothing. Knowing that Jesus is coming back to bring you home with Him, torture means absolutely nothing. Your entire life means nothing to you because of Jesus. Jesus' cup leads you to deny yourself. Denying yourself is one of the ancient traditions surrounding the season of Lent. That's why many people give up something for Lent. To deny themselves something they normally enjoy. To purposely bring a brief denial of enjoyment to life because of the sacrifice Jesus made for you.
The bad things that happen to us in this life are bad. But the good things that await us in Heaven are better. As St. Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” By drinking Jesus' cup, you deny yourself many of the pleasures of this world. Life would be much simpler if you could just live like a heathen while professing to be a Christian. But Jesus will not allow that. He condemns that throughout His letters to the seven churches in Revelation. At the end of each letter, Jesus offers a reward for those who remain faithful and conquer to the end. Faithful in Jesus' new covenant.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” This new covenant is drinking Jesus' cup. This new covenant is not an outward keeping of the Law. The Law is now written on our hearts. An inward covenant with the Holy One of Israel. The Messiah Jesus came to bring God's one, true, holy kingdom in the flesh. A kingdom without borders. A neverending kingdom. A priestly kingdom.
A priestly kingdom led by a great High Priest. But we don't focus on the lineage of Aaron. We follow the perfect High Priest, Jesus Christ: “In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Although He was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” The High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, King of Salem, the “king of righteousness.” He now serves as our Advocate before our heavenly Father.
Jesus' new covenant is not a covenant of earthly power. This new covenant is a covenant of service. “WHOEVER WOULD BE GREAT AMONG YOU MUST BE YOUR SERVANT, AND WHOEVER WOULD BE FIRST AMONG YOU MUST BE SLAVE OF ALL.” The new covenant is service to your neighbor. Your neighbor is why you drink Jesus' cup. Your service is acceptable to God through Jesus, but you won't be saved because of how well you've served your neighbor. However, your neighbor might just be saved because of your service to them.
This service reflects Jesus' attitude of service: “The Son of Man CAME NOT TO BE SERVED BUT TO SERVE, AND TO GIVE HIS LIFE AS A RANSOM FOR MANY.” Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, became a man. Not to preside over a new world order. To serve His creatures. To do for them what they could not do for themselves. To do what you cannot do for yourself. You cannot save yourself. He came to earth to reconcile you. He reconciled you by giving His life in exchange for yours. His perfect life in exchange for your sinful life. His ransom covers your debt of sin completely. And not just yours personally, but the debt of sin that every person who has lived, is living and will ever live on earth possesses.
This image of Christ you want imprinted on your heart. This image removes the necessity to teach others. This image is God's Word. God's Word dwelling in your heart because you have studied it. This book isn't a paperweight for your coffee table. It isn't just a gift you received as a child and dust off for Confirmation class. It is the living testimony of your Lord Jesus Christ. It shows you Jesus' cup of suffering. It shows you a merciful God who reconciles you to Himself so you are not condemned. It illustrates the life you are to live. The life of the slave of all.
Drink Jesus' cup of suffering. Not just this Lenten season. Every day of your life. Jesus' cup is set before you. Take it. It is the Holy Grail. Set before you. Drink from it and be blessed with eternity. Amen.