Since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, it has been God’s plan to save his people. The parameters were set as God gave the vocation of tending the garden to the first humans; “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Gen 2:16-17 The wages of sin have always been death. Adam and Eve disobeyed God; they ate of the forbidden fruit in order to become like God, thus earning their wages of death. Still, it was God’s plan to save the humans whom he created and loved.
On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus once more told his disciples of this plan for salvation; the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests, they will condemn him, and hand him over to the Gentiles. They will put him to death. Using words from Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering servant, Jesus explains the working of God’s plan for redeeming our fallen world. Given the proper reflection upon Jesus’ words and God’s desire to save his people, there can be but one faithful response, praise and thanksgiving.
Along the way, James and John had a much different response. Being part of his inner circle and not understanding the magnitude of Jesus’ words, they asked that they be given positions of honor and greatness. In their short sightedness, these Sons of Thunder completely missed the point that God will deliver his people through suffering, compassion and love. He asks them, “Can you drink the cup I drink?” Without thinking, James and John said yes, and they would, and they did.
The cup Jesus drank is the cup of suffering, the cup of self-sacrifice. For God’s people, drinking this cup means putting those aspirations of greatness behind and becoming a servant of all who are in need. Jesus asks, are you willing to allow others to unload their burdens onto your already overburdened shoulders? Are you willing to put yourself into conflict? Are you able to love those whom the world casts aside? Being great in the kingdom of God tomorrow means taking on pain in the suffering of others today. Can we drink such a cup? Can we live for others as Christ lives for us? With God’s help we can, and we will.
Give unto your Church, O Lord, the will to drink the cup of discipleship and share the cup of blessing poured out by your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.