Which Cup is for You?

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent based on Mark 10:35-45

Dear Christians who drink the cup of blessing: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

James and John wanted to be granted to sit one at the right hand and one at the left of Jesus in His glory. Jesus told them they did not know what they were asking. They did not understand the glory of God.

At another time, Jesus explained to them that His glory included His death and burial; that His glory would be when He cast out the ruler of this world; that His glory would be when He is lifted up from the earth on the cross (Jn. 12:23-32). Jesus’ crucifixion was His glory.

Thus, to be at Jesus’ right and left in His glory would have been to be where the two robbers were, crucified at Jesus’ right and left. Those would be the right and left-hand places in the kingdom of a crucified King. That’s not what James and John wanted. They did not know what they were asking.

James and John said they were ready to drink the cup that Jesus would drink. Yet, when He was sorrowful and troubled even to death in Gethsemane, Jesus fell on His face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” (Matt. 26:39) “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:41)

Jesus prayed that if at all possible, He would not have to drink the cup. He knew what drinking the cup of the wrath of God meant. If there was any other way, Jesus did not want to drink the cup.

But James and John confidently said, “Hey no problem, we can drink the cup.” They did not know what they were saying. When Jesus was praying in great agony, His sweat becoming like great drops of blood falling down to the ground, where were James and John? James and John were sleeping. When Jesus was arrested so that He would drink the cup of the wrath of God, where were James and John? James and John fled along with all the other disciples. They could not drink the cup. They couldn’t even stick around to watch Jesus drink the cup. They didn’t know what they were saying when they said they are able to drink the cup Jesus would drink. They did not know what the cup was.

The cup that Jesus drank was the cup of suffering; the cup of God’s judgment; the cup of God’s wrath. The cup was filled to the brim with punishment for your sins and the sins of the whole world. The cup was filled with every sin ever committed and the just punishment each sin deserves. Is that a cup James and John would have wanted to drink? Is that a cup you want to drink?

Dear Christian, that is not your cup to drink! Oh, you deserve to drink it, as do I. We deserve what Isaiah and Jeremiah describe happens to those who drink God’s cup of wrath: we deserve the resulting devastation and destruction, famine and sword, and death in every street (Is. 51:17-20). We deserve to drink the cup of wrath that causes those drinking to stagger and become crazed because of the sword, as they are made a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse, the cup being a punishment that will cause one to fall and rise no more (Jer. 25:22-29). Yet, it is not our cup to drink.

This is the cup that Jesus drank. Just the thought of drinking it filled Jesus with sorrow, trouble, and anguish. It is quite possible that the description that Luke the physician gives in his gospel account of Jesus’ sweat becoming like great drops of blood falling to the ground was in fact the blood vessels in Jesus’ skin breaking because of the severe stress He was under. Knowing what was coming, knowing how excruciating His suffering and death would be, Jesus still submitted to His Father’s will. He submitted to His Father’s will and drank the cup – for you.

Jesus knew that the only other option was that you would have to drink the cup of God’s wrath. He knew if He did not drink it, the punishment of your sins would be on your own head. You would be left in your own guilt, with your own sin, facing your own punishment. Thus, Jesus drank it all. He emptied the cup. He willingly drank it all for you, leaving not a drop.

And Jesus instituted a new cup for you: the cup of His blood shed for you. It is the cup of blessing; the cup of forgiveness; the cup of everlasting life. Because Jesus drank the cup of wrath and paid the price of your sins by shedding His blood for you, His blood for you gives you that forgiveness, that blessing, and that eternal life. He drank your cup, so now you get to drink His cup.

How can it be said that there is glory in Jesus dying on the cross? Because in Jesus’ death, we see the true heart of God. We see that He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to drink the cup that we poisoned with our sins. The cross is where Jesus took our place so that we will spend eternity with Him in His glory. He did not come to be served but to serve. He became the servant of all and gave His life as a ransom for many.

God’s glory is our salvation. Jesus said concerning His death, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)

Jesus could have left us to drink the cup of wrath that we deserve, but then He would have remained alone, the only Son of God. For our sake, He died. Instead of remaining alone, He bore much fruit, and now there are many sons of God. We have been adopted by grace, adopted as God’s sons by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14-17). By dying, Jesus bore much fruit. He bore the fruit of millions of children for God, fruit in most glorious abundance.

We are the fruit of Jesus’ death. We are alive and in Christ because He died for us. That we are saved is the glory of God because in saving us helpless, miserable sinners, God showed His power to save. God showed His great love which is boundless and endless.

The death of Jesus shows you God’s love. It gives you absolute confidence that when you drink the blood of Christ, you drink forgiveness, life, and salvation. It gives you firm trust that Jesus drank the cup of suffering; the cup of punishment; the cup of wrath so that you can drink the cup of blessing; the cup of forgiveness; the cup of everlasting life. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.