TITLE: The Cup
By Betsy Markman
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When he picked up the cup, it felt heavier than usual in his hands.
Jesus took a few moments just to look around him.
They were all there, all twelve of them. Eleven feeble friends and one viper.
<i>Father, their eyes are still blinded, for so it seems good to you. They must walk some dark paths before they will be ready to see.</i>
Peter, bless him, was tense and troubled. <i>He does not understand what my hour is, but he is determined to keep me from it. Forgive him, Father, for he knows not what he does.</i> Jesus shook his head just a little. <i>In a few hours he’ll lop the ear off of poor Malchus. Thank you, Father, that you have given Malchus to me as well. I will heal his ear, and the day will come when I will heal his soul.</i>
Matthew and Thaddeus talked quietly in between bites of roasted lamb. They reclined at the far end of the table, and they spoke too softly for their voices to reach Jesus’ ears. That, of course, didn’t matter. Jesus knew every word. He had heard the pre-echo of those whispers way back before the beginning, before he had ever spoken the command that flung the stars into space. <i>They are so unwilling to believe what I told them about my death, and about my betrayer rising from their midst. Listen to them turning my words over and around and backwards to try and make them into some sort of parable. Oh Father, how I love them! I grieve for the pain they are about to feel, but I rejoice unspeakably because of what awaits them when they join me in glory.</i>
He smiled just a little and turned his gaze once more.
Thomas sat brooding. Of course he brooded. That was his way. His dark mood had only increased when Jesus had spoken of the betrayal. <i>I see your doubts, Thomas. When I gave you the bread and told you it was my body, broken for you, I saw how your spirit sank. I see your fear of being killed here in Jerusalem. Would you believe me if I told you that I thought of you back when I caused Adam to fall asleep? Adam trusted me completely, of course. But I still thought of you then, and how you would doubt my care for you, and would fear falling into the sleep of death. When Adam awoke, I gave him Eve. When you awake, I will give you Heaven. How little you can imagine what that means!</i>
And there was Philip, helping Nathanael to clean up the mess from his overturned cup. <i>That is so like you, Philip, thinking of others. The Father gave you great faith from the very beginning, and you have always sought to draw others to me. You will draw many more, my friend, many more. But first you will have to have your own time of running away from me. Don’t worry, I have forgiven you already for the desertion that is so soon coming. You will return. I will see to that.</i>
Of course John was right beside Jesus. <i>Thank you, Father, for him. Even now he seeks my heart, though I have had to keep him from perceiving what is coming.</i>
John seemed to sense Jesus’ eyes on him, and he turned.
Jesus smiled at him. <i>Dear John, thank you for taking care of mother. I know how well you will do it. I will see you again, even after my ascension. You, of all my disciples, will see me in my heavenly glory while still on this earth. I will bring Heaven to Patmos for you, and you will bless generations of people by writing down what I show you.</i>
Jesus kept looking around him, studying the faces and hearts of those men he knew so well. James son of Zebedee, Bartholomew, James son of Alphaeus, Andrew, Simon the Zealot, Judas the son of James...
And Judas Iscariot.
That cup started to feel just a little heavy again.
<i>This is the one. This is the cup that I will share with my betrayer as the prophets foretold.</i> He settled his gaze on Judas a little longer. <i>I could wish that your heart were as clean as your feet. You allowed me to wash the one, but the other will keep its filth for all of eternity. How terrified you would be if you could see the hellish fiend that I see hovering beside you, just waiting for my nod so that he can enter you! It will be a fitting fate for you, and the time is coming when no mother will name her child Judas, ever again. It is inevitable that the offense will come, for it pleases the Father to bruise me. But woe to you...oh woe to you!</i>
Jesus looked at the cup again.
<i>My own time of woe is coming. There is another cup that I must drink.</i>
<i>And there is also a drink that I must refuse.</i>
Jesus’ heart grew heavier.
<i>Oh Father, give me the grace to refuse it! How I will long for it! How my soul and my flesh will crave its relief! When the women raise that sponge to my lips, and I discover the taste of the sedative on it, oh how hard it will be to turn my face away! But I must, I must. For if I accept its sedation, if I numb my pain, how could I ever relieve those who will follow me in suffering? How could I say that I was tempted just as they are, in every way? And how, if I am robbed of my senses, could I ever show to the world that I do this willingly? How, without the wits to talk, could I speak the blessed promise to the repentant thief, or command John to care for Mother, or fulfill the prophecies of what I would say on that dreadful day? I must let the world hear my agony as you forsake me, I must let them listen as I commend my Spirit into your hands. I must refuse that drink.</i>
<i>And I must accept this one, though I will not drink of it myself. I receive it from your hand to give it to my disciples, and to Judas, and as a memorial throughout all generations.</i>
He raised the cup to call everyone’s attention to it. Upturned faces mirrored sincere but very flawed hearts, except for the one face that masked a shriveled soul about to sell itself to Satan for thirty pieces of silver.
Jesus turned his own face toward Heaven. “I thank you, Father, for this cup and all that it represents. I thank you for your love for me, and for your grace toward these men, though they have no idea what it is that you are giving them, or what is about to befall them. I thank you that your perfect will can never fail. I delight to do your will, oh God.”
He extended the cup toward them. “Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 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.”
Judas Iscariot, ever the greedy one, reached to take it first.
Jesus let him take it, and drink from it, and pass it on. Then, with divinely joyful sorrow, he gave a slight nod to the Evil One hovering nearby.
This story was inspired in part by a devotional by H. B. Morrison entitled “The Great Refusal: The One Cup Jesus Refused to Drink” (Public Domain).
Scriptural quotes come from the New King James Version, Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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