The Bitter Cup


Daily readings:
Psalms 22; 148, Genesis 22:1-14, 1 Peter 1:10-20, John 13:36-38, John 19:38-42

Good Friday readings:
Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22:1-31, Hebrews 10:16-25, Gospel John 18:1-19:42

If Jesus was in danger, would you fight for him?

When the authorities arrested Christ, a disciple near Jesus drew a sword and severed the ear of the high priest’s slave. Jesus rebuked him: “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?” In Luke’s gospel, Jesus heals the slave’s ear. In John’s gospel, Peter himself draws the sword.  In all four gospels, Jesus goes peacefully with the authorities.

This encounter happened only a short while – minutes perhaps? – after Jesus had left the Garden of Gethsemane resolved to follow God to his own death: “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

What if fighting for Jesus is what puts him in danger?

Ever since Christianity was adopted as the religion of the Empire, we’ve killed and died not just to enforce it among ourselves but to impose it on others. Demanding the greater portion of the population  become (or act like) Christians would have been unthinkable to Jesus and Paul. We were to be apart from the world, not its strongmen. Are we to spread the gospel far and wide? Absolutely. At the tip of the spear or gun? Absolutely not. What people do with the gospel message is completely beyond our control. Forcing compliance is a sign not of faith, but of fear. His executioners robbed Jesus of his life. When we weaponize Jesus because we fear people who don’t follow him, we rob him of love.

On Good Friday, of all days, let us reflect on what it means to do violence in the name of religion. Even self-defense is something we must consider in light of Christ’s message. Then there’s the emotional violence of rejection. And the violence of neglect. If Christ asked why we turned away or ignored the hurting stranger, who could feel comfortable explaining – to the one who sacrificed himself on a cross – there was a chance it wasn’t safe? Could we justify our willingness to punish people for not acting Christian, but not to risk laying down our own lives in love as Christ did?

Following Christ often means accepting the bitter cup when we would rather swing the sword. Going with him to the cross is how we unveil him to the world.

Comfort: …

Challenge: Identify the bitter cups you have been rejecting.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Discussion: How have you let fear override your faith?

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