Saturday, 6 October 2012

a CUP-le of thoughts....

Mark 14: 22-24: While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body”. And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

Communion. If you are a church going Christian, chances are you have heard of it, seen it, eaten the bread, and drank the wine (or grape juice). And chances are you do your best to keep your mind on Jesus. You remind yourself that Jesus died on the cross, and yes- this bread is a symbol of his flesh, and yes- this grape juice is a symbol of his blood poured out for me. Good. But if your anything like me (and I suspect there may be more people who think this way than will admit it) you feel a mild sense of disconnectedness from the act of communion. I understand the gospel- that is- I understand that I am a sinner who deserves the just punishment of eternity in hell, but who will go to heaven because Jesus took the punishment that I deserve when he died on the cross. I also understand that communion is supposed to reflect and symbolise Jesus’ act on the cross, but for some reason the link between the two seems incomprehensible.

So far I have been pretty satisfied with the thoughts of one of my favourite Christian authors, Elyse Fitzpatrick who describes communion as a “means of grace”. This means that “Although God could directly inform our minds and hearts, he usually uses ordinary measures (or means) to accomplish this goal and to impart grace or strength to us.” Elyse tells us that the Lords Supper, Or Communion reminds and assures us of what Christ did for us, as in it we see the gospel portrayed.  “As we see the bread broken before our eyes, we are to remember Jesus’ body crushed by the Father out of love for us (Isa. 53:10; John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10). As we taste the wine, we are to remember not only that his blood was poured out for the forgiveness of sins but also that, because of it, we are completely welcomed, loved, and cleansed. We are seated with him, dining at his table, eating the meal that he paid so dearly to purchase”

Fitzpatrick reminds us that partaking in communion is an essential part of our growth as Christians: “If we want to change, to become more like him (Jesus), then we need to attend soberly and intentionally to these means of grace- even though they might seem weak or devoid of any real transforming power. Let us not assume that we know better than God what means he will use to transform us, for he says “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9).  Since reading this in the book ‘Counsel from the Cross’, I have carried the thought with me that although the link between what Jesus has done on the cross and taking Communion on Sunday is seemingly beyond what I can loosely comprehend, it is good to do, and is Gods means of assuring me of my salvation, and to strengthen my faith in Him.  

And so, with all of this in mind, I sat in my church pew this morning, bread eaten, grape juice gulped down, doing my best not allow my mind to wander away from remembering Jesus, when I found myself staring down into the bottom of the tiny empty cup. At that moment, I remembered a verse from Mark 14, where Jesus says to God ‘Abba, Father- everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will. But what you will’.  

What is the cup that Jesus is referring to here? Timothy Keller says in his book ‘Kings Cross’ “In the Hebrew Scriptures ‘cup’ is almost always a metaphor for the just judgement of God against evil”. 

Author CJ Mahaney puts it this way “ What is this cup? Its clearly a reference to the wrath of God for your sins and mine. If we knew the scriptures as Jesus does.... we couldn’t escape this reference. Isaiah 51:17 shows us this cup in Gods extended hand- its “the cup of his wrath,” and for those who drink from it, its the “cup of staggering.” This cup contains the full vehemence and fierceness of Gods Holy wrath poured out against all sin, and we discover in Scripture that it’s intended for all of sinful humanity to drink. Its your cup....and mine.

Before Jesus went to the cross, he went to a garden- the garden of Gethsemane, where he stared into the cup of Gods wrath- a view so awful that it caused Jesus to weep and literally sweat blood. The scary thing about this, is that the cup that Jesus is staring into is meant for us. Its meant for everyone who has ever sinned against God, anyone who has ever broken any of his laws. We deserve it, just as a man who break any law on earth deserves justice.

However, Jesus, who was sinless and perfect and deserved only a cup of Gods love, faced drinking the cup that we deserve, the cup of wrath. And he said to God  ‘not what I will, But what you will’

“Jesus is saying “Father, I willingly drink this cup by Your command- I’ll drink it all.

And he will. He’ll drink all of it, leaving not a drop. Not only will He leave nothing in that cup of wrath for us to drink... but today you and I find ourselves with another cup in our hands. Its the cup of salvation...

We can drink from this cup only because Jesus spoke these words about another cup: “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

I will drink it all.

As we watch Jesus pray in agony at Gethsemane, He has every right to turn His tearful eyes toward you and me and shout “This is YOUR cup. YOU’RE responsible for this. It’s YOUR sin! YOU drink it”. This cup should rightfully be thrust into my hand and yours.

Instead, Jesus freely takes it Himself, so that from the cross He can look down at you and me, whisper our names, and say ‘I drain this cup for you- for you who have lived in defiance of Me, who have hated Me, who have opposed Me. I drink it all... for YOU.”

(Taken from “The Cross centred Life” by C.J. Mahaney)

During Communion today, I realised that thankfully, I never have to look into the cup that Jesus looked into. I never have to experience the wrath of God. My cup has been replaced with another cup, a small cup of grape juice, that at times can seem so insignificant I often have a hard time not thinking about what I’m having for dinner when I’m staring into it.

Fitzpatrick, E. (2009) Counsel from the cross. Crossway, Illinois, USA
Keller, T. (2011). Kings Cross: The Story of the world in the life of Jesus. Penguin Group, New York, USA
Mahaney, C.J (2006). The Cross Centred Life. Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs, USA.

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