Lent 5 – March 17 & 18, 2018
It’s still a family joke at our house – it happened when our daughter was in early grade school. I was drinking from my cup and she asked me, “Can I have some of your apple juice?” Now, I probably shouldn’t have been so ornery – but I said, “Sure!” and let her take a big drink. She suddenly headed for the sink to spit it out – it wasn’t apple juice as she expected, but cold coffee. She thought I had something different in my cup.
This was a harmless prank but what if it was something poisonous? What if what was in the cup would have made her very sick, harmed her or maybe ended her life? It’s important to know what is in the cup before you drink it!
My daughter obviously didn’t know what was in my cup. In this weekend’s Scripture reading, James and John certainly didn’t know what was in the cup that Jesus was talking about either! If they really knew, they would not have been so bold in their answer!
None of the disciples understood what Jesus was doing, what He was talking about, where He was going. The reading from Mark 10 begins with an ominous mood: “Jesus and His disciples were on the road, going up to Jerusalem and Jesus was walking ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid.” If this were made into a movie, the music would indicate something terrible was about to happen – and yet Jesus is FORGING ahead with His disciples lagging behind… And for the 3rd time Jesus plainly told them: “We are going up to Jerusalem and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and they will mock Him and spit on Him, and flog Him and kill Him. And after three days He will rise.” How did Jesus know this? He learned it from the Scriptures. Luke tells us that at this very point Jesus said to His disciples, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished,” (Luke 18:31b). Our Lord was not given some special insight; he learned it by studying Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and other Old Testament Scriptures, which clearly predict these events.
Very obviously James and John did not hear nor understand even this third time – because we immediately read: James & John… came up to Him and said: ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” If someone would say that to me, I think I’d answer: “That depends on what it is…” But Jesus answered, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Jesus loves to hear us call to Him with our wants and needs!)
Again, not understanding what Jesus had just told them they asked for the top positions: “Grant us to sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your glory.” Again, they didn’t really listen to Jesus – they has a very wrong idea of what Jesus’ “glory” would be! (Kind of like many of us today, who think that our lives should be better because we love and follow Jesus).
In time – Jesus did have “one on His left and one on His right – in His glory” – the thieves on the cross! But Jesus knew and warned them: “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink…? And they said… ‘We are able.’
I wonder what they thought “was in Jesus’ cup?” most definitely they “did not know what they were asking!”
Most of us probably think of Psalm 23: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” But do we also know “the other meaning” as well:
(Jeremiah 25:15-16) “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from My hand this cup filled with the wine of My wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it … they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.”
Jesus confirmed this meaning of “the cup” being the suffering and death on the cross for the sins of the whole world – when in Gethsemane He prayed three times, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Mathew 26:39).
When Jesus replied to James and John, He did not rebuke them. But He did say to them, in effect, that they are going about it entirely the wrong way. He is saying to His disciples and to us, “The trouble with you fellows is not that you are asking for the wrong thing (to be with Jesus in His glory); but they (we) are asking with no understanding of what is involved. Jesus rightfully said: “You know not what you’re asking.”
Jesus clearly tells us: “If any would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” Mark 8:34 “Take up his cross” are the “cups of suffering” given to us. And these disciples, nor we, can escape them. When Jesus says: “You will drink the cup that I drink…” He was telling them (us) that in this world, we will have to suffer like Jesus. They, too, would have to bear reproach and shame and anguish and suffering and possibly even death because of the “name of Christ.”
As it turned out, James was the very first of the apostles to die. He was beheaded, by Herod — the first of the apostles to be martyred. John was the last – exiled on the Isle of Patmos. These two brothers formed a kind of “parenthesis of martyrdom,” within which all the apostles, as the turn of each came, were put to death for the sake of Jesus.
The disciples will drink a cup, too but Jesus’s cup is different from theirs. Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath, a cup that has accumulated the fury of God against sins of all types. This is “the cup” Jesus drank on the cross.
Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath for us so that he could extend the cup of God’s grace to us. It might include suffering, but not wrath. Jesus gives us His true body and true blood saying: “Drink of this, all of you. This cup is the new covenant of My blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28)
This is the cup we drink now and forever. This is the cup that we offer to those who don’t know him yet, imploring them in God’s mercy, Come, drink this cup with us because Jesus drank that cup for you and all of us.
Hope you can join us this weekend for Palm Sunday services and the beginning of Holy Week. Be sure to join us also for the special services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Saturday (blooming the cross) and the special Easter services!
Maundy Thursday, March 29th
Communion Worship 9:30 a.m. & 7:00 p.m.
“Eat & Drink the Word and You will See Me.”
Good Friday, March 30th
Family Service 4:30 p.m.
Tenebrae Service 7:00 p.m.
“It all Came Apart.”
Vigil of Easter, Saturday, March 31st
“Blooming of the Cross” Communion Worship 6:00 p.m.
“He is Risen…Just as He Told You!”
Easter Sunday, April 1st
Sunrise Service 6:30 a.m.
Easter Breakfast 7-10:30 a.m.
Combined Sunday School in the Sanctuary 9:45 a.m.
Communion Worship 8:15 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
“He is Risen…Just as He Told You!”
Second Sunday in Lent – February 24 / 25, 2018
It was NOT what they expected: Peter and the disciples understood all too well what Jesus was saying! “Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this and Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him…” (verse 32, 31)
I can certainly understand Peter’s repulsion at Jesus when Jesus was “plainly telling them that He was to suffer and die. Peter’s expectation was that Jesus was going to be the promised Messiah and set up an earthly kingdom in which he and the other disciples would be in great places of honor! IT REALLY ISN’T any surprise that Peter “took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him.” That’s what Peter thought friends are for, to “straighten us out” when we “start believing some radical ideas!” – And that’s exactly why JESUS straightened out His friend, Peter, and all His disciples!
Again, Jesus “spoke plainly,” seeing that it wasn’t just Peter, but all His disciples who weren’t accepting this truth. Jesus once again gave the “clear rebuke” (as He had done in the Wilderness temptations), “Get behind Me, Satan! (as this time Satan was speaking the temptation through Peter), you do not have in mind the things of God, (you do not expect the things of God) but the things of men.” (verse 33) The “things of men” have no room for suffering, sacrifice, service and especially not death!
“Then Jesus called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after Me (be My disciple), he must deny himself, take up his cross & follow Me.” (verse 34)
When the disciples had “left all and followed Jesus,” they had not “bargained” for such things as suffering, rejection, and certainly NOT “taking up a cross!” They were willing to follow a Jesus who served, but not One who suffered! They wanted to follow a Jesus who they saw as powerful; Who would fulfill their dream of overthrowing the corrupt political system of their day, and ruling along with Jesus – sitting at His right and left hand, in a new earthly kingdom! Peter and the disciples were willing to follow a Jesus who “served their interests,” but not One who would suffer, be rejected and killed!
And so, in His great love Jesus was “talking plainly.” There’s definitely a stark contrast:
- our permissive, commercialized society says “indulge yourself” – Jesus plainly says, “deny yourself”
- our selfish nature says “avoid pain at whatever cost” – Jesus demands, “take up your cross”
- we so easily “do our own thing” / follow the latest fad – Jesus says, “keep on following Me.”The “things of men” / our sinful nature, have no room for “sacrifice, suffering and serving others” – we demand “no wait service“, “medicate the slightest of pain” and “fix” whatever is wrong with us. When things go wrong in our lives, like Peter, we “rebuke” God, asking, “What did I do to deserve this?” / “Why is God doing this to me?” God, in His Word, tells us plainly, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:3b-5) The greatest good for us was accomplished only by Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross for our sins. Thank God that Jesus did not rebel against suffering, but “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)Are these mere words, like Peter’s confession that Jesus is “the Christ” (Mark 8:29) and then his rebuke of Jesus when Jesus talked of His suffering, rejection and death? Are these mere words, like Peter’s boast on Maundy Thursday, “Though they all fall away, I will not.” (Mark 14:29) and the subsequent denial three times in the courtyard of the High Priest? Peter was “ashamed” of being associated with Jesus! And Jesus plainly says, “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My Words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His father’s glory with the holy angels.” (verse 38)Who among us is not guilty (at times) of “being ashamed” to be associated with Jesus and His Word? We know all too well that openly obeying and confessing Jesus and His Commandments is not welcomed in this world. Speak up to correct someone’s cursing, swearing or excessive drinking and be prepared for retaliation! Refuse to obey your boss’s orders to “bend the rules a little” and “your job is on the line!” Speak up in defense of a person being slandered or defamed and watch how the group shuts you out! Speak out against couples living together before marriage; against pornography and violence; against “gay rights;” abortion on demand; capital punishment; gambling – any of the other issues where God’s Word demands “denying self,” and don’t expect agreement, nor applause! Peter and the disciples didn’t hear everything that Jesus said: “Jesus spoke plainly… that the Son of Man must suffer… be rejected… and that He must be killed and after three days rise again.” (verses 32, 31) We read it also in today’s Epistle reading: Rom.5: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Yes, peace and the blessed hope in the midst of suffering as “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”Back to Mark 8, isn’t it interesting what Jesus says to Peter, and then to all His disciples – As Jesus responded to Peter’s rebuke, Jesus said to Peter: “GET BEHIND ME… you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (verse 33) – and in speaking to all His disciples, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and (keep on FOLLOWING) Me.” For Peter, and for you and me, as Jesus’ disciples, we dare NEVER “get in front of Jesus” – trying to “lead Jesus” – although that is our natural instinct – but properly “denying ourselves” “fixing our eyes on Jesus” and like Peter after the resurrection and empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we too are empowered to “deny self, take up our cross and follow Jesus” in a life of service.Praying that you’ll be with us in worship this Wednesday for our 3rd mid-week Lenten service and next weekend for worship and the new quarter of Bible Classes, as we daily follow Jesus!
- Pastor Myers