Mark 10:32-39 32 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, 33 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. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
35 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.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 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?” 39 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.
We all can struggle with hearing the truth. Even when it is spoken plainly to us we can be oblivious as to what is actually being said. Why? Because with spiritual truth unbelief blinds our hearts. Pride prevents us from responding to the truth as we should and instead we act out in rebellion against God instead of obedience. Ultimately spiritual truth is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit as we respond to God in humility. This is plainly seen in James and John after Jesus declares for the third time that He would die and after three days rise again from the dead.
Just prior to this, the disciples had been deeply confused and concerned as Jesus sent the rich young ruler away. The ruler appeared to be a perfect Jew and was the type of leader that the disciples desired to emulate once Jesus formally established His new kingdom. Ever since Jesus reiterated to them that He indeed was the Christ at Caesarea Philippi the disciples knew that soon, they too by association with Jesus, would rule with Him. But the reality that Jesus would die they glossed over. They couldn’t understand. How could the Christ die? Jesus knew they would not believe (at least not until after the resurrection) and so each time He shares of His coming death and resurrection He provides more details. Now He mentions that He will be delivered by the religious leader over to the Gentiles in order to be killed. He would be mocked, spit upon, beaten and killed. Jesus would drink a cup of suffering. He would not yet be revealed in glory to reign but first would suffer all for all. He needed to provide the way for our salvation in dying for our sins in order that we could be forgiven. The disciples did not understand this. This truth was yet hidden.
So James and John foolishly come to Jesus privately and ask for special favor from Him. Do you ask for special favors from God? Do you go to God in prayer looking to be treated better than those around you? Are you trying to get into God’s “good books?” There can be great comfort in knowing that God treats every person the same. There are no favorites with God. There isn’t a way to gain favor with God or a shortcut to spiritual authority. He loves all of His children the same for those who will repent and believe in Jesus Christ. He loves us with an infinite and perfect love. The way He responds to us will be different based upon our individual personalities and life history and circumstances but we are all equally loved.
How sad it is when we seek God’s glory in the way the world seeks glory- by stepping over others and one upping them. The glory of man is to be the only one standing on the top of the mountain but the glory of God is to become the least among men. The cup of suffering brings down all those who truly know Jesus to an equal level and it shatters and destroys our natural desires for the glory of man. Jesus puts up with James and John’s request because He knows what is coming for them. They would be brought nearly to ruin by Jesus’ death. They would yet be broken.
Do not think that just because you are now a Christian that you have yet been set free from the trappings of this world. Our concern about what others think of us can and will deeply limit in what manner God may use us for His Kingdom. But what a blessing is the cup of suffering! Every true child of God will be forced to taste this cup. The cup of suffering is a right of passage for every true believer. There is no way to escape it. It is God’s method of breaking every Christian and bringing us into the right relationship with God where we place the needs of others above our own. We exalt others in the Kingdom of God because we are not concerned about our own position. We are not afraid of what others think of us because we know what God thinks of us. He loves us all the same. We are His children! I know that Jesus died for me! In spite of all our shortcomings and our insecurities and our sinful past and our ongoing struggles, He is at work in us! He is transforming us! And we thank Him for bringing us to drink from the cup of suffering!
I am not speaking of the cup of sin. In the book of Revelation is a picture of a woman with a golden cup full of all of her evils.
Revelation 17:4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.
The reality is that every sin comes with a curse. The taste that seemed sweet in the moment always turns bitter and there are always eternal consequences apart from true repentance. Every unbeliever is storing up wrath for the day of wrath:
Romans 2:5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
The unbeliever does not know about this cup of suffering that the disciples would soon taste. They cannot know. For the cup of suffering for believers is a blessing. It is opposite of the cup of sin. The cup of suffering for the believer is at first bitter but then it becomes sweet. It is always hard but it brings the transformation that is absolutely necessary for us to be used by God for greater things. Once we have tasted of the cup of Jesus’ suffering we know Him in a way we never knew Him before. Have you tasted of this cup? Do you know Jesus in this way?
Pastor Murray Hack