Drinking the Cup from the Father’s Hand — John 18:1-27

// April 4th, 2018 // Sermons

Begin with a movie clip —

Now, I start off with a funny clip to talk about a serious subject. Which cup do you choose? That’s the question of this scene. Vizzini wraps himself up in knots attempting to discern which cup is the right one. Not only does he wrap himself up in knots, but he also relies completely on himself and his own intellect. He is very certain of himself and his future success in this “battle of the wits.” Yet, in the end, it didn’t matter which cup he chose, they were both the same.

The question of the night is, “What cup sits in front of you?” In many ways, each one of us is sitting at a table as we live our lives. As we sit at that table, the Father–the God of the universe–places different cups in front of us. We don’t know which cup is coming and when the cup is going to come. We only know that the cup is coming from our Heavenly Father. This creates an uneasiness inside us because we are all afraid of the unknown. Yet, a cup is coming.

Throughout Scripture, there are two types of cups: the cup of sweet blessing and the cup of bitter trial. Both cups come to us from the hand of our Heavenly Father. That’s what we just sang a moment ago. In the midst of tremendous agony, Job cries out, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). After another round of tremendous suffering, Job, again, says, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). Another way we can rephrase what Job is saying in these passages is, “Should we only receive the cup of sweet blessing from the Lord, and not the cup of bitter trial?” or “The Lord has given me the sweet cup of blessing AND the Lord has given me the bitter cup of trial. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Which of these cups is sitting before you? Do you know? Are you afraid to drink the cup and find out? Are you refusing to drink the cup because you don’t know? Are you refusing to drink the cup because you DO know?

Jesus knows which cup he is about to drink. He knows that he is about to drink the cup of bitter trial. Actually, Jesus is about to drink the cup of God’s wrath poured out for the sin of all mankind. Talk about a bitter drink! Yet, this passage repeatedly shows us that Christ willingly takes hold of the cup, puts it to his lips, and drinks what the Heavenly Father has placed in front of him. Let’s take a look at our passage. [Read John 18:1-27]

Throughout this passage, we see John emphasizing Jesus willingness to drink the cup the Father has placed in front of him–fully knowing that it is a bitter cup of trial. At the beginning of this passage, John says, “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples.” (John 18:1–2, ESV). Don’t forget that Jesus knew Judas was going to betray him. Just a few chapters ago, Jesus looked at Judas and told him to go do what he needed to do and sent him out into the darkness. Now, Jesus walks with his disciples to a place they typically go–a place that Judas knew well. Think about it. If Jesus wanted to avoid the cup the Father placed in front of him, he could have went to a place that Judas didn’t know. He could have hid from him, found a new place to pray. Yet, he went to a place where Judas KNEW he would be so that he would drink the cup the Father has placed in front of him.

As Judas arrives on the scene with a band of soldiers (we don’t know how many soldiers there are), John says, “Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?”” (John 18:4, ESV). So, Jesus knows what is going to happen and he takes the initiative to approach the soldiers. He doesn’t ask, “Whom do you seek?” because he doesn’t know. He asks the question in order to initiate the process. This is the beginning of him drinking the cup. When the crowd responds that they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus responds with a resounding, “I am” (Jn 18:5), causing them to draw back and fall down. Now, there are numerous explanations out there, trying to figure out what happened here, but the bottom line is that this exhibited Jesus’ power. Simply by speaking the words, “I am,” people are knocked on their heels.

Remember, that “I am” is pointing to the name of God. When Moses asked God what his name is, God responded by saying, “I am.” Throughout the Gospel of John we’ve seen these illusions between Jesus and the name of God. There have been four other references by Jesus where he has directly called himself “I am,”  and he has also said: “I am the bread of life,” “I am the light of the world,” “I am the door of the sheep,” “I am the good shepherd,” I am the resurrection and the life,” I am the way, the truth, and the life,” “I am the true vine.” So, like all of these other examples, Jesus is once again calling himself “I am” and the crowds are knocked over by the power of his name.

However, Jesus’ “I am”  is also pointing beyond this to his willingness to drink the cup set before him. When the crowd says they are coming for him, He powerfully presents himself and says, “Here I am!” He did not shrink away. He willingly stepped forward. Also, he shows that he has power of the crowd–enough power to knock them back. Yet, he still willingly steps forward and presents himself to them.

Peter doesn’t like Jesus’ willingness to drink this cup. So, he steps forward with his sword and starts swinging away, cutting off the ear of Malchus. I think it’s fairly obvious that Peter was aiming for the head, but missed a little bit and got the ear instead. Yet, Jesus rebukes Peter for this action, saying, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11, ESV). Jesus rebukes Peter because he is trying to hinder Jesus from drinking the cup that the Father has placed in front of him. Peter has jumped in and tried to knock the cup over before Jesus can drink it. Jesus rebukes him saying, “The Father has given me this cup–it has come from His hand. I trust the Father. So, I AM going to drink the cup. Do not try to prevent me from drinking it.” So the crowd binds Jesus and brings him to be questioned.

Actually, this entire passage is one great contrast between Jesus and Peter. In the midst of Jesus’ willing “I am” to drinking the cup of the Father, we see Peter’s “I am not.” Peter uses his connection with John to make his way into the courtyard in order to see Jesus. Then, as he is warming himself by a charcoal fire, the servant girl asks, “The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”” (John 18:17, ESV). See the difference? When people say they are looking for Jesus, he responds, “I am.” When this servant girls disdainfully asks Peter, “You’re not one of Jesus’ followers, are you?” he responds, “I am not.” This is how Peter responds each time someone questions him about his connection to Jesus. Three times he responds by saying, “I am not.” Peter is not willing to drink the cup that the Father has placed in front of him. In contrast to Jesus saying, “I AM going to drink this cup,” Peter is saying, “I am NOT going to drink this cup.” Then the rooster crows, reminding him of his conversation with Jesus: “Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” (John 13:37–38, ESV).

In thinking about this passage, John Calvin says, “Scripture compares afflictions to medicinal draughts; for, as the master of the house distributes meat and drink to his children and servants, so God has this authority over us, that he has a right to treat everyone as he thinks fit; and whether he cheers us by prosperity, or humbles us by adversity, he is said to administer a sweet or bitter draught” (196). God has the right to give us whichever cup he so chooses because he is God. That’s important to remember. God is God and we are not. Who are we to question which cup he gives us?

However, he is also our heavenly Father. He loves us and cares for us. He has called us His own. Therefore, we know that if he presents us with the cup of bitter trials and sorrow, it is for our own good–it is a medicine for our soul. Interestingly enough, many people refer to God as the great physician in the midst of physical trials, yet forget that his is also the great physician of our souls. He knows exactly what our soul needs to be healthy and to grow deeper–firmer–and he will give us the right medicine to accomplish that task. Sometimes he gives us the cup of sweet blessing because that is exactly what we need. Other times, he gives us the cup of bitter trial and sorrow. Yet, both cups are given for our good and His glory.

The question is: how will we respond when the cup of bitter trial is placed in front of us? Will we respond like Peter, saying, “I am NOT going to drink this” or will we respond like Jesus, saying, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11). Can we respond like Job, saying, “The Lord has given me the cup of sweet blessing AND the cup of bitter trial. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Peter also serves as an important reminder in drinking the cup of bitter trial. You see, he arrogantly attempted to drink the cup of bitter trial and sorrow. When Jesus told him about the cup, Peter blurted out, “I can drink that! No problem.” So, as the cup is placed before him, he rushed in to drink it, but the moment the cup touches his lips, he spits it out. He couldn’t drink it because he tried to drink it in his own strength. You cannot drink the cup of bitter trial arrogantly. You cannot drink the cup of bitter trial in your own strength. You will fail. You will spit it out.

Yet, this is not how Peter’s story ends. This gospel ends with the resurrected Jesus and Peter sitting on the beach. Jesus looks Peter in the eye and tells him to follow him. Before, Jesus had told Peter that he could not follow him, but now Jesus tells Peter to follow him. Now, Jesus has paved the way for his disciples to follow. Now, Jesus has overcome the world, conquering sin and death. Now, Jesus has made it possible for Peter to follow him–to drink the cup of bitter trial. And, as we read the rest of the story in the book of Acts, we see Peter drinking that cup, not arrogantly, not in his own strength, but looking to Jesus, the one who paved the way, and relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit. “Peter cannot follow Jesus, until Jesus has died for him.” (Quote by Fenton, Carson, 586).

That’s the only way we can truly drink the cup of bitter trial the Father places before us. We are not strong enough. We need to trust what comes from the Father’s hand, we need Jesus to lead the way, and we need the Holy Spirit to give us strength. Then, we can humbly and willingly drink the cup placed in front of us by the Father. We can respond with the willingness of “I am” rather than the unwillingness of the “I am NOT.”

The question is: What cup sits in front of you? Honestly, most of the time you don’t know. Honestly, many people sit in fear, worrying about which cup the Father has placed in front of them. Is it the cup of blessing or the cup of bitter trial? They are so afraid of which cup it is that they are paralyzed and refuse to drink. They have forgotten that the cup sitting in front of them came from the Father’s hand–he gave it to you. They have forgotten that, biblically, the cup of bitter trial leads to the cup of blessing (Remember what Jesus said a few weeks ago, the cup of bitter trial is only the birth pains of the cup of blessing).

So, drink the cup. Don’t drink the cup arrogantly, thinking that you can do this on your own. Look to God, thank him for his goodness, thank him for taking care of you, thank Jesus for paving the way for you, ask the Spirit for strength and guidance in the midst of this, then drink the cup. Don’t drink the cup begrudgingly, muttering under your breath the entire time–“I can’t believe God gave this to me…..”–but drink it willingly with praise, saying, “The Lord gives the cup of blessing and the Lord gives the cup of bitter trial. BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD!”

This also leads me to think about the future–my family’s future, the future of Bethel Church, and the future of Ignite. In reality, none of us know the future and none of know what the future holds–which cup the Father will place in front of us. Yet, we move forward trusting God, trusting his leading and guiding, trusting his care for his people and his church. We also move forward seeking God’s will.

Ten years ago, God unexpectedly called me into youth ministry. Throughout that time, I’ve always said, “I will stay in youth ministry until God kicks me out.” As Rachel and I have prayed over the past months, it has become increasingly clear that God is kicking me out of youth ministry and pushing me in the direction of a senior pastor. I’m not sure WHY this is, but I am trusting God in the midst of seeking His will.

So, what does this mean of Bethel Church and for Ignite? In reality, I don’t know. All I know is that there is a possibility that I will not be the Youth Director when the next school year rolls around. I know that is difficult for many of you to hear. Trust me, it is extremely difficult for me to say. Yet, like I’ve reiterated multiple times tonight, we trust God’s leading and we trust that He knows what is best.

Does this mean that I will be the next senior pastor at Bethel Church? Again, I don’t know. The church plans on putting together a search committee and considering my profile in the midst of other pastor’s profiles. The council has also encouraged me to send my profile out to other churches, which I have done. Again, in the midst of this we continue to seek God’s leading and trust that He knows what is best for my family, for Ignite, and for Bethel Church.

This means that there may be some changes over the next few months as I work with our team on a transition plan. The goal is to set things up so that this youth ministry will continue to function in a way that builds teenagers up, draws them closer to Jesus Christ, and sends them out into the community. The goal is that it will continue to do that throughout a transition period and with the next Youth Director. Part of that responsibility lies on the leaders of this youth ministry–to plan, to organize, to work hard, and to pour themselves into what God has called them to.

But, part of that responsibility lies on each of the teenagers in this group. It has been my prayer that the focus of this ministry has been on Jesus and not on myself. Although, I may be leaving, Jesus is still here and this ministry will continue to point you to Him. Commit yourselves to staying in this ministry. Commit yourselves to drawing together as part of the Body of Christ. Commit yourselves to studying God’s Word together, carrying each other’s burdens, discipling one another, and pointing people to Christ. You do not need me here in order to do those things.

In all of this, I am asking two things from everyone in this group. First, pray. Pray that God’s will be done and that He make his will clear to our family and to this church. Pray that God would work out His plan and would be glorified by the decisions we make about the future. Second, trust that God is good and He is in control. Trust that if God moves my family to another church that it is for the good of our family, this church, and the church we go. Ultimately, trust that God will work things for the good of His Kingdom. Let us trust the Father who has placed this cup in front of us, and let us drink that cup willingly and joyfully, offering praise to God.

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