Can You Drink The Cup?
By Jonathan Mitchell
We read in Matt. 26:
27. Next, upon taking a [other MSS: the] cup and speaking words about grace and expressing gratitude, He gave [it] to them, while saying, "All you men drink from out of it,
28. "for you see, this is My blood (or: the blood which is Me), which pertains to the covenant [with other MSS: this is My blood – which is the new arrangement] – the [blood] around (encompassing and pertaining to) many [people; peoples], [the blood] continuously being poured out and progressively diffused into a divorce from failures, a forgiveness for mistakes, a dismissal of errors, a release from deviations, and a flowing away of sins!
Jesus has just put the whole of the Christ event – the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah – into one symbol: the drinking of (= partaking of and participation in) the CUP. It spoke of covenant inclusion, and was in the context of a meal which called to mind Israel's origin, the Passover meal. Jesus was showing them through this experience that they were a part of this covenant that He was inaugurating through the pouring out of His blood.
But recall that He had spoken of this cup in a discussion with His disciples just prior to this Passover celebration. We read in Matt. 20:
20. Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee – with her sons – came up to Him, repeatedly bowing down in obeisance and homage, while making a request of something from Him.
21. So He said to her, "What are you continuing in wanting (or: = What's you purpose)?" She then replies to Him, "Say that these – my two sons – can (or: should) sit, one at Your right (the place of power and authority) and one on Your left (the place of honor with a good name), within the reign of Your kingdom."
22. But Jesus, giving a discerning reply, said, "You have not seen, so you are not aware of what you are now requesting for yourselves. Are you folks now able and do you continue having power to drink at once the cup which I, Myself, am continuing about to be progressively drinking?" They are presently insisting to Him, "We are now able and continue having the power."
23. He is then saying to them, "You will indeed be drinking My cup. Yet to sit at My right and on [My] left is not Mine to give, but rather [it belongs] to those for whom it has been prepared and made ready by My Father."
Returning to chapter 26, again, we find Jesus speaking of this cup in His discussion with the Father in vs. 39:
"My Father, if it is possible (or: since there is power; if it be able), let this cup pass away (or: go to the side, away) from Me! Nevertheless, more than this, [let it be; it is] not as I continue willing (wanting; intending), but to the contrary, as You [will and intend]."
We join His disciples in symbolically participating not only in the covenant, but in all that this cup represented for Him. The wine was a figure of His blood, which stood for His life being given to them. John recorded Jesus as having said in chapter 6:
51. "I Myself am (or: continuously exist being) the continuously living Bread – the One stepping down (or: descending) from out of the midst of the atmosphere (or: heaven). If anyone should eat from out of this Bread, he will live on into the Age. Now the Bread, also, which I Myself will give over (or: for the sake of) the life of the world (the ordered system; or: = ‘the totality of human social existence’ – Walter Wink; the universe; or: = humanity) is (or: continuously exists being) My flesh!"
Then in vs. 53 He says,
"Most truly (Amen, amen) I am now laying out the arrangement for (or: saying to) you people: unless you folks should at some point eat the flesh of the Son of the Human (the Son of man; = the eschatological messianic figure), and then would drink His blood (or: since you would not eat the flesh which is the Human Being, and further, drink His blood), you are continuing not holding (or: habitually having or presently possessing) Life within yourselves!"
So the blood speaks of the life, which we have by drinking in His Life. But as followers of Jesus, and being branches of the Christ-Vine – or, to use Paul's metaphor, being members of His body – it signifies living out what He did: giving ourselves for the life of the world.
The historical tradition tells us that the disciples, excepting John, literally gave their lives in the proclaiming of the Gospel. It is through their witness, and the witness of those to whom they spread this message, that we now can partake of Him. Recall that this came to us individually through those who shared with us the life that was within them. Dan Kaplan recently pointed out to me that now we are the cup – we are cups or jars of clay, and we have this treasure (His blood, His life) within our earthen vessels. We can give others a drink of this Water of Life that we contain.
And so, in this way we see His kingdom, His reign in peoples' lives, spreading and increasing. But the common denominator has been the blood – from the blood of Jesus, to the blood of the martyrs, to the lives that live His life and bring this life to the world around them. It can cost us our time, it can cost us our resources, it can cost us our lives.
So as we participate in this symbolic within a called-out community, or as we simply commune with our Lord, the question is, "Can we drink the cup?" This means, "Can we live His life and pour it forth to others?" Jesus gave His disciples a promise in Matt. 20:23, telling them, "You WILL indeed be drinking My cup." So our answer is, "Yes, we can, and yes we do." They did and we do by means of, and through union with, His Spirit that lives within us.
So the covenant call of our community is, "Come partake of His life, and live His life."
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