Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.”
I was wondering last night: What is this cup that Jesus has handed me to drink? Do I really know what it entails, what it means to drink this cup? I thought I knew. I thought it was a sweet draught of new wine, a cleansing substitute for Jesus’ blood. I thought it was a chance to partake of the renewal that can only come from the remission of my sins. I thought if I approached this cup with repentance and faith, then this cup of redemption was an easy cup to drink. That was what I thought.
But what is this cup that Jesus has handed to us? He goes on to say:
28 “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
29 “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
Blood is bitter to the taste, not sweet. Jesus says He shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until He drinks with us in His Father’s kingdom. So is this cup the fruit of the vine? No, it is the fruit of God’s righteousness, the fruit of His mercy, the fruit of our salvation. And our salvation is bought not with sweet wine, but with blood and pain and persecution. That is the vine from which we now drink: not the fruitfulness of the new kingdom but the bitter dregs of the old. This is the blood that was shed for our sins, not the wine that shall flow when God renews the world.
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD,
“When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
The mountains shall drip with sweet wine,
And all the hills shall flow with it.”
We can look forward to drinking from that sweet wine when God has returned His people to their new heaven and new earth, but until then we shall toil for our fruit, and the sole cup from which we shall drink is the cup of salvation in Jesus’ blood.
38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”
39 They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized;
40 “but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”
Are we really able to drink that cup? Even Jesus asked that it be taken from Him! (Matthew 26:39) And this baptism of the Holy Spirit comes with tongues of fire and with great responsibility, and it is not an easy thing to bear, for it entails persecution and worldly heartbreak.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
12 “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Our reward is not to drink sweet wine in this life, but to taste of the rewards of the kingdom of God when we see Jesus again. For this current cup is filled with the fruit of Jesus’ sacrifice, and if we do not drink this cup as He did–obediently, faithfully, and with full knowledge of its burden of responsibility for righteousness–then, as Paul said, we drink judgment on ourselves. (1 Corinthians 11:29)
As C.S. Lewis said, Christianity is hard. So many come to the Lord’s Table expecting their burdens to be lifted, to sail onward into a new life of fewer troubles, fewer pains, and great prosperity. But the fruit of the vine is not for today, it is for the time when we share in the kingdom of God with our Lord Jesus. And the life we are called to live is one in opposition to the world around us–a world that loves wickedness and exalts unrighteousness. We can expect to be shunned by those who indulge their flesh, and we can expect to be accused of crimes when all we have done is follow the dictates of God. (1 Peter 2:11-12) Yes, it is a hard thing indeed to have one’s mind renewed by the Holy Spirit and suddenly find oneself at odds with the world.
A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb,
But to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.
To a soul that thinks they have it all, that believes they don’t need more than what they ready have, then this cup of Christ may seem too sweet for them, because they see it as icing on the cake for their salvation. But to the soul that knows its one need is redemption, that believes the sweetest and best life of salvation is yet to come, then even the bitter harvest of Christ’s blood seems sweet to them, because they crave the kingdom of God above all things.
This is not an easy cup to drink, and if we think it is, then we are deluding ourselves. But since our Lord drank of it for our sakes, then we ought to share it with Him. Since our Lord drank this cup obediently, then we ought to obey Him and obey the Father who sent Him. Since the Holy Spirit is with us during this season of persecution when we have drunk of this cup, then we ought to drink it with courage and with faith, knowing that we shall one day share a sweeter cup with our Lord when His kingdom is come.
I thought I knew what it meant to drink this cup Jesus had handed me. I thought my life would be easier, and in some respects it is. But I have found that this cup is bitter in its opposition from the world, that this cup is heavy to lift to my unclean lips, that this cup of blessing comes with a price of repentance and faith and renewed life. We are not worthy to share the cup of the King, and yet He has offered it to us for our redemption. We may not feel we can bear this burden as He did, but His baptism of the Spirit is ours, too, and so His Holy Spirit strengthens us to say, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” Therefore, let us examine ourselves, and let us take up this cup of blessing with obedience and repentance and faith, knowing that sweeter wine one day will be ours in the holy kingdom of God.
Blessed Savior, thank You for being the first to drink this cup, and thank You for sharing it with us. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for showing us the better way, the way of obedience and faith, the way of our salvation in You. Father God, in Your name we take this cup and drink it freely, knowing that better wine is yet to come in Your kingdom. Holy Spirit, rule our lives, enter in with this cup, baptize us with fire and with holiness. Lord Jesus, renew us with this cup of Your blood that was shed for us. Amen.