I went to bed last night and woke up this morning thinking about “drinking the cup of the Lord”. I read the story in Mark when James and John asked Jesus for a place at His right hand in heaven. After some mediation on this subject, I felt that God impressed two truths about drinking from His cup.
It is a cup of suffering, weakness and sacrifice
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise. And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you. And he said to them, What do you want me to do for you? And they said to him, Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory. Jesus said to them, You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized? And they said to him, We are able. And Jesus said to them, The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (mark 10:32-45)
When a person desires to be great in the kingdom of God, Jesus calls them to drink of His cup. This means self-denial in the fullest way. It is a call to suffer, labor and sacrifice for the Kingdom and other believers, even to the point of death. Even if they do not literally die, there is a death to self that must happen. Twice Paul expressed it another way by saying that he was “being poured out as a drink offering” and yet he rejoiced in his sacrifice. He saw his laboring for the kingdom and others to not be in vain.
In the midst of suffering — it is a cup of joy, salvation and satisfaction
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, You are my Lord;I have no good apart from you. As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;their drink offerings of blood I will not pour outor take their names on my lips. The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;in the night also my heart instructs me. (Psalm 16)
The psalmist in this chapter is crying out from a place of weakness and suffering (hence the declaration of “refuge”), yet he realizes that the Lord is his portion and He will satisfy him. He understands that even in the midst of hardship, he is found to be in pleasant places. Imagine that! In the midst of suffering, the psalmist declares it to be like a beautiful vacation. The psalmist declares the goodness of God to give the righteous ones a “beautiful inheritance”, even in the midst of suffering. This is possibly what David was saying in Psalm 23 when he said:
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 shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:5-6)
There is something about the power of God lifting us up and satisfying us when we are in the place of weakness (“poor in spirit” via Matthew 5:3,6). I want to drink from this cup in both ways. I desire what Paul talked about:
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8b-11)
I will say that meditating on these things makes taking communion seem totally different and new.