The wind is howling outside the window. The tiny white blossoms on the neighbor’s tree cling for dear life with every gust that threatens to separate them. They whisper the promise of hope. Of resurrection. Beside me is my grocery list for the weekend–eggs, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and lemons for sticky lemon rolls, our Easter breakfast tradition. And here we are in the middle of Holy Week, the final days of Lent, drawing near to Easter. I was texting with a friend this morning about Psalm 16:5, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup.” My cup. Cup, like the cup Jesus drank from the night before He went to the cross.
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28 ESV)
When Jesus took this meal with his disciples, they were observing the Passover meal, the annual remembrance of how God had rescued them, redeemed them. A time to remember with grateful hearts how God brought them out of slavery into freedom, out of death and into life. During the Passover meal, there are four cups taken, each cup corresponding to a different promise from Exodus 6. The ESV Study Bible says the cup described here in Matthew 26 was “most likely the third of four cups at the Passover–the cup of blessing, or the cup of redemption–corresponding to God’s third promise is Ex 6:6.”
Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. (Exodus 6:6 ESV, emphasis mine)
This cup of redemption for us was a cup of agony for Him.
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:41-44 ESV, emphasis mine)
But He would take the agony in stripes across His back and nails pierced through His hands. He would take that cup so we could have the cup of redemption. He would redeem us with an outstretched arm. He would stretch out His arms on a wooden cross. He would be mocked and insulted. And darkness would eclipse the light.
Our savior displayed on a criminal’s cross
Darkness rejoiced as though heaven had lost
But then Jesus arose with our freedom in hand
That’s when death was arrested and my life began
“Death was Arrested” by Northpoint Music
I remember hearing Louie Giglio teach a message years ago where he said the message of the gospel isn’t that Jesus made bad people good. The message of the gospel is that Jesus made dead people ALIVE.
The gospel is so much more than a self-help message. Without Christ, we weren’t bad. We weren’t unchurched. We didn’t need a little help. We were dead. And being dead is a huge problem. Dead people can’t do a single thing to help themselves. Not one thing. So the gospel begins with really bad news–all have sinned and can’t do a single thing to improve their standing with God.
But the gospel ends with great news! Though the gospel begins with people who are spiritually dead because of the penalty and the power of sin, through Jesus, the spiritually dead are raised to life. The gospel isn’t a message of how bad people become good; it’s the power by which dead people come to life. It’s not about Jesus making us better. The gospel is about our cold, dead hearts starting to beat again by the power of God.
Passion, the Bright Light of Glory by Louie Giglio
Tiny, white blossoms bursting forth. The scent of lemon zest. And dead hearts beating with life again.
The cup of agony became our cup of redemption.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup.