|Lent 4, Year B||March 15, 2015||Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21|
|Lent 3, Year B||March 8, 2015||Third Sunday in Lent, Year B 2015||Exodus 20:1-17|
|Lent 2, Year B||March 1, 2015||Second Sunday in Lent, Year B, 2015||Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Mark 8:31-38|
|Lent 1, Year B||February 22, 2015||Lent 1, Year B||Mark 1:9-15|
|Ash Wednesday, Year B||February 18, 2015||Ash Wednesday, Year B||Matthew 6:1-6,16-21|
|The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 15, 2015||Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||2 Kings 2:1-12, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9|
|The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Year B||February 1, 2015||Luke 2:22-40||Luke 2:22-40|
|The Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 25, 2015||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:14-20|
|The Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 18, 2015||Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year B||I Corinthians 6:12-10|
|The First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 11, 2015||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||The Book of Common Prayer –Holy Baptism|
|Second Sunday after Christmas, Year B||January 4, 2015||Second Sunday of Christmas, Year B||Luke 2:41-52|
|Two Christmas Eve Meditations||December 24, 2014||Christmas Eve, Year B||Luke 2:1-20, John 1:1-5, 14, 16|
|Advent 3, Year B||December 14, 2014||Third Sunday of Advent, Year B||Psalm 126, I Thessalonians 5:16-24|
|Advent 2, Year B||December 7, 2014||Second Sunday of Advent, Year B||Mark 1:1-8|
|Advent 1, Year B||November 30, 2014||First Sunday in Advent, Year B||Mark 13:24-37|
Good Friday, Year A
Sermon Date:April 14, 2017
Scripture: John 18:11, 9:28-30
Liturgy Calendar: Good Friday, Year A
When Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, he mentions “the cup.”
In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus prays in the Garden that this cup will pass from him. In these three gospels, the cup is a symbol for suffering and death.
In John, Jesus refers to the cup as a gift from God. He says to Peter, “Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
Various cups appear throughout the Bible, and help us consider what might be in this cup that Jesus refers to, because the contents of the cup give us a glimpse into the mind of God and also into what God had in mind regarding the fact that Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead for our salvation.
The prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk and Zechariah all talk about the cup which contains God’s wrath, anger and indignation against the people of Israel, who have chosen to follow evil rather than good.
The writer of Revelation uses this same image of the cup of God’s wrath being given to the whore Babylon to drink, and the wrathful contents will destroy her.
And so it’s no wonder that some understandings of what happened on the cross are all about Jesus absorbing the wrath of God for our sins in order to keep us from God’s wrath. If you buy into that theory, then the cup that Jesus prays about in the Garden in Matthew, Mark and Luke, the cup that he would like to have pass from him, could contain this wrath of God that Jesus will take into himself in order to spare us.
However, there is another understanding of what the cup contains throughout scripture.
The cup is also the cup of salvation.
Remember Joseph, way back in the first book of the Bible, Genesis? A summary of his story goes like this. Joseph is one of twelve brothers, and his father Jacob adores him and his brothers are jealous and decide to kill him off, but instead they sell him into slavery in Egypt.
And Jacob thinks that Joseph has died because the brothers take Joseph’s coat of many colors and dip it in blood and bring it back to Jacob and tell him that the wild beasts have gotten Joseph.
Meanwhile, Joseph ends up as the Pharaoh’s right hand man in Egypt, and when a famine comes over the whole region, only Egypt has food because Joseph has been stockpiling grain for the past seven years.
So the brothers go to Egypt to get food and they speak with Joseph, never realizing that he is their brother. But Joseph recognizes them. The last time they come for grain, they bring their youngest brother, Benjamin, and when they leave, Joseph has the steward hide Joseph’s silver cup in the top of Benjamin’s sack of grain.
After the brothers leave, Joseph sends the steward after them. The steward searches the sacks and “finds” the cup and says that Benjamin must come back and be Joseph’s slave, but the rest are free to go.
The interesting thing about this story is what happens next. The brothers know that if they return home without Benjamin, their father will literally die of grief. And so they all go back to Joseph.
Judah, one of the older brothers, says to Joseph, “When I get back home to my father and the boy Benjamin is not with us, then as my father’s life is bound up in the boy’s life, when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die…so take me instead. Keep me as a slave in my brother’s place, and let him go back home with his brothers…for how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father.”
At this, Joseph sends everyone away except the brothers. And he bursts out crying. And he tells the brothers who he is. And they are full of fear—no wonder, because they are the ones who sold him into slavery and told their father that he was dead.
But Joseph says to them. “Do not fear, or be angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.”
The brothers go home and tell their father that Joseph is alive after all! And Jacob is overcome with joy.
So that cup in Benjamin’s sack turned out to be a cup that held in it reconciliation, salvation, joy, and new life!
In Psalm 23, the cup that God fills for us runs over with abundance and plenty, goodness and mercy. And in Psalm 116, the Psalmist lifts the cup of salvation and calls on the name of the Lord.
And earlier in the Gospel according to John, Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman at the well, and promises her something to drink, living water, a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. Those who drink that water will never be thirsty again.
In this scriptural context then, the cup that Jesus is going to drink in the gospel according to John is living water, the cup of salvation.
The contents of the cup contain his suffering and death, but out of his suffering and death will come salvation, reconciliation, joy, and new and unending life in God for all of us—these things are the things that God desires to give us!
And to me, this understanding of what is in the cup makes more sense than a cup of God’s wrath that Jesus must drink on our behalf.
What kind of father would make his only beloved son drink wrath and anger? What kind of father would make his son die on a cross in order to keep the Father’s anger contained, so that he would not have to destroy all of the guilty people on this earth?
No, instead, this cup that Jesus refers to as a gift is about the mutual love that God and Jesus, his beloved son, share. This cup that Jesus drinks is the cup of God’s love.
And like Judah in that story about Joseph, at this point Jesus could be thinking about his father’s love for his children, and he cannot return to God with all of us enslaved. “Take me instead….how can I go back to my father if they are not with me?”
Right before he dies on the cross, Jesus says, “I am thirsty.”
On a physical level, this statement indicates that Jesus is suffering.
But this question also takes us back to the earlier question in the Garden. “Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
Jesus is ready to finish drinking this cup of God’s love and salvation.
What he gets is a sponge sopped in sour wine. Our Lord and Savior, who filled the cups of the wedding guests at Cana with the best wine, who offered the Samaritan woman living water, gets sour wine from those who are watching him die.
Right after this, Jesus does finish his cup of suffering and salvation.
“It is finished,” he says, and he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.
Is it any wonder that we drink from a cup every Sunday when we celebrate the Eucharist?
Paul calls this cup the cup of blessing that we bless.
Jesus says, “This is my blood, the cup of the covenant that God has made with me for you—that none of you will be left out or left behind, so that where I go, you can go. In my father’s house are many mansions, and I go there to prepare a place for you.”
This cup that Jesus drank, he generously shares with us.
This cup is running over with living water, God’s love, God’s salvation, God’s goodness and mercy, God’s gift of new and unending life for each one of us.
So may we, like Jesus, drink the cup that the Father has given to each one of us, and drain every last drop.
Resource: O’Day, Gail R. “John.” The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes. Volume IX. The Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of John. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995.