Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given Me?
As the sun rose on Thursday morning of Holy Week Christ awoke from what would be His last night’s rest. He remained in Bethany that morning and sent Peter and John into Jerusalem to make preparations for the Passover meal, then at some point in the afternoon He traveled to the city Himself. Thursday was a day of “lasts”: His last entrance into Jerusalem, His last Passover, His Last Supper, His last journey to Gethsemane, and His last teaching before the cross.
There came a point in His ministry when the emphasis in His teaching changed. He continued to preach the good news of the kingdom of heaven to the crowds, but He also began to pull His disciples aside for more in depth instructions. It remains so to this day, that the gospel is preached to the unbelieving world, so that they might hear and believe, but to the believer the message is personalized. The unbelieving world sees Christ from a different vantage point than the community of faith. We read in the Bible that day shall come when “they shall look upon him whom they pierced” (Rev. 1:7; Zech. 12:10) and mourn. The last time the unbelieving world saw Jesus of Nazareth was at His piercing as a Roman soldier ran a spear through His heart and lungs to determine His death. Christ appeared in His resurrected body only to believers (1 Cor. 15:3-8), and the instruction we receive as believers is likewise of a different nature. The information is not hidden, of course, for an unbeliever may read the Scripture as well as a believer, but he cannot understand it as a believer can. Paul wrote,
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:12-14
So it is not that we believers are better people in and of ourselves, but that we are enlightened by the Spirit of God. God continues to pull us aside by His Spirit and through His word to receive special instruction, special insight into His heart and mind.
One of the great differences is how it applies to our lives, that the promises of God become personalized to believers, and the Spirit of God impresses these things upon our hearts. For example, if I read of someone who has inherited a huge estate, I can perfectly understand what that means but it does not really mean anything to me personally. If however, I learn that I have personally inherited a huge estate, well that is very different and my reaction is entirely different. It has become my reality, no longer mere information but now it has become my experience. So it is with the promises of God, they are personalized for a believer. But beyond this personalizing of the promises of God are the experiences of the leading and empowering of the Spirit and the closeness of Christ to us.
How much greater the difference, however, to see someone who has a loving father, to see them interact, to exchange glances. I may envy such a person and wish for such a father. But then, if that father’s gaze connects with my eyes, and the love and affection, the relationship itself is now directed to me personally, if He calls me His son – why that makes all the difference in the world! This is the heart of Christ’s ministry, to reconcile us to our heavenly Father, to teach us not merely that there is a Father in heaven, but that He is our Father in heaven.
This very concept Christ wanted to instill within His disciples these last hours of His earthly ministry. He ministered to them not merely through His teaching but also through His example and presence. In some ways we see that Christ’s circumstances in ministry remained as unchanged as when He began – the disciples still quarreling over who is the greatest, Judas still not believing, His confidants still sleeping instead of praying, and, unquestionably the greatest unchanged factor, Christ still completely committed to His mission. The inspired author of Hebrews wrote, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8), and the actions of Jesus in this last day of ministry reveal that to be the case. He is as patient and committed at the end as He was at the beginning.
Why does He not stop just long enough to really rebuke the immaturity of the disciples? When they argue about who is the greatest, why doesn’t He just shout, “I am! Now be quiet!” But that is not His heart, and instead He takes off His outer clothes, takes the form of a servant and washes their feet. It was the gentle rebuke of love that breaks stubborn bones. The meltdown of Moses, who exploded in anger at the constant immaturity of the people and struck the rock with his staff, is not repeated with Christ. With a gentle firmness He touches every failure around Him: the disciple’s boasting, the slowness of their faith, even the betrayal of Judas, as well as the denial of Peter. The cup the Father gave Him to drink was not merely sipped from, but consumed to the dregs.
Christ knew what the others did not. He knew that the sacrifice he was about to make would completely satisfy the requirements of Holy God to offer forgiveness to sinners like you and me. He knew that the resurrection lay ahead. He knew that the Holy Spirit would descend upon the church to baptize believers with His presence and power, to seal and indwell, to lead and guide, to transform and flood hearts with His love. He knew that all would not end at the moment of the cross, but that did not remove the pain of the physical torments or the greater pain of the spiritual torments, when He who knew no sin became sin for us.
As the sun set and the night darkened and the time of His ministry slipped away He prayed. The last moments before arrest were spent in the company of disciples, in an example of servanthood, in teaching them about the Holy Spirit, and in prayer. No frantic hurrying to make sure all things were done. They were. He ends His public ministry as he began it: on His knees praying for His disciples. In this setting He uttered these words to his disciples.
I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have overcome the world.
We have His peace as our gift from our Savior. He has overcome the world and the events that were about to unfold would accomplish our salvation, would purchase our victory, and would commend the love of God to us.
He prayed to the Father asking that we might be sanctified by his truth, that we might be united in our hearts with one another, and that we might see His glory revealed in our hearts.
I have made Your name known to them and will make it known, so the love You have loved Me with may be in them and I may be in them.
And there the day with the disciples ends, the last day before the cross spent on earth as their Teacher, the soldiers are coming to Olivet, steps in cadence and the rustling of armor can be heard. The disciples are confused, angry, fearful, and caught off guard. But the Lord as calm as when He faced the crowds at Nazareth who wished to stone Him, as at peace as when He calmed the waters of Galilee, as great as when His humanity was pealed back and His true deity was revealed before three disciples, now is as silent as a sheep before the shearers, a kiss from the betraying disciple the last gentle touch He receives from humanity…
Lord, we are amazed at Your steadfastness in purpose, of your commitment to Your mission to bring us salvation, and of Your gentleness and strength. Lord, we worship you. We bow before You, aware of our weaknesses, but believing that You can place Your peace, Your truth, and Your love in our hearts. Do so even now, Lord. Amen.