A Tale of Two Cups

(This post was originally published on the Baptist Churches of New England’s blog on December 14, 2022. You can find it here.)

An invisible cup was handed to me on the occasion of my first breath, filled with a story I’d sip one day at a time until kingdom come. The taste of this narrative fluctuates—periodically sweet, often tangy, frequently bitter.

I’ve been camped out in the gospel of John for over three years now. The beauty of savoring Scripture slowly is that it has a chance to sink into the soul, invading those nooks and crannies that remain untouched by a cursory reading. When the Word and the Spirit have this kind of deep access, lightbulb moments are inevitable… and personal. Take, for example, my recent discovery derived from the account of Jesus’ arrest. Here we see Peter’s valiant but awkward attempt to rescue his Master by using brute force. As Christ healed the unfortunate servant’s severed ear,

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given Me?” (John 18:11)

In case you’re curious, this concept had long been anticipated. Isaiah 51 highlights a cup of the Lord’s wrath, “the goblet that makes people stagger.” When the forbidden fruit touched our first parents’ lips, this chalice was filled with divine fury. Unless Someone intervened, every human in history—given the scope of eternity and the terrors of hell—could not have swallowed that draught and fully satisfied the justice of heaven. Jesus was the Someone we so desperately needed, and He was poised to empty the cup. Peter’s best intentions weren’t about to stop Him.

Flash forward to my home office. Twinkle lights festoon bookshelves and a vanilla candle flickers gently on the table, but there’s no illuminating my gloomy attitude. With sickness doubling the daily treatments for my daughter’s cystic fibrosis, it’s been a draining two months around here. A faint scowl forms at how endless it all feels as I flip open to my morning assignment: meditate on John 18:11.  

Moments blur together in the reading and praying and considering that follows. As the Spirit graciously moves in close, a simple but powerful truth crystallizes and hits me like a ton of bricks.

I’ve spent far too much time grumbling about the cup the Father has given me, and not nearly enough being grateful for the one Jesus took from me.

Stunned, I check myself. Nothing’s changed externally. My daughter still has an incurable chronic disease. Three and a half hours of therapy still await us before bedtime, and I still feel tired. But on the inside, parts begin to move. Fresh purpose is breathed into the mix. My perspective shifts, gratitude surfaces, and peace settles. This cup I’ve been given is so much better than the cup I deserve. Not only that; it’s a gift, a blessing! In ultimate goodness and wisdom, God has determined which vintage will best serve His purposes for me to become more like His Son. A great exchange has occurred—Christ’s cup for mine. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. 

I still hold my invisible cup. Those daily sips of sweet, tangy, bitter? While I’m not sovereign over which flavor I’ll experience next, I know the Cupbearer personally and trust His heart toward me. He has taken every drop that I deserved and replaced it with His cup of blessing. It’s because of Him I can raise a toast and proclaim with the psalmist,

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

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