The story is always emotionally stirring. Our Saviour rejected by his closest followers, betrayed by the religious leaders and crowds, tortured and crucified by the Roman soldiers. A horrible death on the cross, the onlookers unrelenting in their mocking of Him, our Lord suffered terribly in those last few hours.
And then added to the physical pain of this event our Lord takes on the sins of the world. The words of Isaiah 53 “Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows … but He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him …” The world, for three hours on that Friday, becomes a dark and bitter place. Jesus, in agony, cries out and then dies carrying the sins of the world to the grave with Him.
But you know the rest of the story… He rises from the grave, His is the victory over death and Satan and Hell. He paid the ransom for our sin and now He lives once again as our Saviour.
Henry Nouwen’s Can You Drink the Cup? is one of those annual reads for me. As we walk through this Holy week, that book is one of my essential preparation pieces.
At the beginning of the book, Nouwen speaks of the importance of the chalice, the cup of the Eucharist, the cup of Christ, and recalls in Matthew 20 where Jesus asks his disciples … “Can you drink the cup?” On Good Friday in my church we have a very solemn service which culminates in the passing of the cup. I have participated in the Eucharist, the Lord’s supper, the communion many times in my life. Each time again the effect is new, unique and fulfilling. I know in my head and heart that this is a special way in which the gift of Christ’s sacrifice is remembered. I know all of that just as you do. And yet, Good Friday is a bit more solemn, a bit deeper in meaning. The sacrifice of Christ a little closer.
Toward the end of his book, Nouwen describes it in this way … “Drinking the cup is not a heroic act with a nice reward. It is not part of a tit-for-tat agreement. Drinking the cup is an act of selfless love, an act of immense trust, an act of surrender to a God who will give what we need when we need it.” (p.106)
We enter Holy Week needing to “surrender to a God who will give what we need when we need it”. At all levels I can verbalize those words easily. The reality, however, is that my heart, my mind, my being, does not surrender things well when they are things near and dear.
As we near the Good Friday and Easter Weekend, as you focus on the cup of Christ, as you lift the cup to your lips, I encourage you to surrender all to Him who surrendered all for us. It is the ultimate outpouring of God’s grace. In the words of John Calvin: “Let us take care to receive God’s grace, nay, run energetically to meet it.” I pray that all of us will joyfully, energetically, move through this week surrendering all to Him as we greet our risen Saviour.