CAN YOU DRINK THIS CUP? Jesus has just finished speaking to his disciples of his impending suffering, crucifixion and resurrection as they make their final approach to Jerusalem for the Passover. They pause at the side of the road, grappling with the implications of the Teacher’s words, when James and John blurt it out.

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus replies.

“Let one of us sit at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.”

They weren’t called the Sons of Thunder for nothing! ‘Go big or go home’ was their motto.

Yet, straddling the threshold between the triumphal entry and the Cross, their presumption hangs in the air like the stench of a rotten egg. The other disciples stand in slack-jawed amazement, exchanging incredulous glances, indignant. There they go again, thinking they are better than the rest of us.

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus answers.
“Can you drink the cup I drink?”

Like James and John, we have no idea what we are asking much of the time. And we have little understanding of the cup of suffering in which we must partake in order to follow Christ. Often, the inclinations of our own hearts have little to do with the purposes of heaven. We think narrow and now and mine. We think glory and not sacrifice.

“We can,” the brothers answer.

Jesus promises to do whatever we ask in his name. But when we ask amiss or with wrong motive, when our prayers stray from the plumb line of God’s will and purpose, it seems to us as if our prayers go unanswered. We wonder if our prayers fall on deaf ears. Is God not listening?

The message of suffering is not easy to swallow – it is definitely NOT the answer we are looking for. Yet suffering and sacrifice are precisely the necessary path God uses for making disciples, for transforming dust, hay and stubble into something that bears the likeness of Christ! We must share in his sufferings so that we may also share in his glory.

Who among us can bear the cup of suffering? Yet Jesus’ life demonstrates that the model of Kingdom leadership is the path of the servant, not the served. The work of sacrifice rather than success. Less a bed of roses than a crown of thorns.

We cannot go to glory by any other way
than through the Cross.

But Jesus has taken the cup for us, the wretched brew of sin and shame and death. His cup was not only a cup of suffering but a cup of wrath – the wrath of the Father against the sins of the world.

The cup of suffering we share is a cup of fellowship with Christ. There is no wrath or judgment in it. Jesus took that cup for us so that we can say, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

As you approach Easter, are you identifying more with Christ’s sufferings or with his glory?

How might you prepare your heart to walk more closely with Jesus through this journey to the Cross?

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