When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, there was a brief display of bravado by Peter. He withdrew his sword and slashed off the ear of the servant of the Chief Priest, proving that Peter, for all of his tough guy persona, wasn’t much of a swordsman.
Here’s Jesus’ response: Put back your sword. Do you think for a minute I’m not going to drink this cup the Father gave me? —John 18:11, The Message.
Only a few hours earlier, the disciples joined Jesus in a very puzzling Passover meal in which he asked them to drink from a cup representing his blood, and eat from a loaf of bread representing his body. Now Jesus reminds Peter that to complete God’s purpose, Jesus must be obedient to God’s will—he must drink from the cup that God has passed to him.
The cup of the Last Supper symbolized the reconciliation that Jesus would bring between God and humanity, as well as the price of our redemption from slavery. We are set free by the blood.
The cup of the Garden represents a road down which Jesus must walk in order to bring about that reconciliation. It symbolizes his destiny, including his suffering, abuse, humiliation, rejection and death.
That’s the dry analysis part. But what struck me when I read John 18:11 was the thought that we often, very often, try to avoid the cup the Father passes us, especially when that cup involves sacrifice, or discomfort, or deprivation, or loneliness, or embarrassment. And, at the same time, Christians often accept a cup that isn’t from God at all, out of a misplaced sense of duty, or guilt, or worry, or frustration, or pride.
I know people who work themselves into exhaustion serving the church because they (mistakenly, I believe) feel that God demands it of them—who is going to do these things if they don’t? And I know people who have rationalized their way out of a call to Christian ministry because it seemed to require too great a personal sacrifice. I’m guilty of both of those things.
Sometimes it’s hard to know whether the cup is from God or some salesman. Jesus had clarity about the cup God was passing to him, perhaps because he spent more time in prayer than I do.
Reminds me of the final scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: which cup of the many is the cup of the carpenter, the cup of Christ? May God give me the discernment to choose wisely, and the courage to drink it all.