How is Love Measured: By the Cup
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
It's Palm Sunday. If we do not cry out with praise, the rocks would cry out. Branches of adoration, humbled hearts, bowed heads, all fitting for the king that rides on a donkey. But their praise arose from not seeing the whole picture or even the right picture because Jesus was on the via delerosa, the way of suffering, a road that would lead to his agony, his death on a cross. They saw the wrong cup.
We praise, but there is a sense of hesitation, not because we question his worthiness of our praise, but because, today, we know that Good Friday is just 5 days away. Love is not measured by cheering crowds, the Lord's love is not measured by his journey through misunderstanding, what was to come the night before good Friday measured his love. Turn to that with me in Matthew 26. Time in scriptures is moving at a relentless pace, the situation is fluid.
HOW IS LOVE MEASURED? BY THE CUP
36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. 41 "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."
42 He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." 43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"
How is love measured? By the cup.
But no ordinary cup. Though a kings cup, there is certainly no appearance of royalty. Though the King of kings took it, there was nothing right about it, unless we see this act, Jesus act, of taking it as the measure of his love for us.
This was the cup of God's wrath. Isaiah 51:17 prophesied concerning this cup
This cup was filled with the wrath and the rebuke of God. This cup was filled with calamity, the curse's inconsolable consequences. This was the cup of being alone in suffering with no one to help. All that he was, was and would be misunderstood. His friends would sleep while he suffered, they could only walk with him so far, so long, when it came to suffering. Friends forsook him. A very zealous friend would deny him, not once but three times say that he had nothing to do with him. That's alone. An ugly cup, everyone of us would refuse it. A Disciple would come and betray him with a kiss - a kiss that was not the measure of love, it was the measure of treachery. He had been a healer, teacher, encourager, forgiver, friends of sinners - but the very ones he would never forsake forsook him. He would go to his Father, Abba Father, the most endearing term used for Father in his time, but the return of his submission was to be forsaken, left alone to suffer. He became sin for us. The dredges of humanities rebellion, no.. my rebellion, your rebellion, became his to take to himself. This cup was the fire of God's wrath upon humanity, deserved on us, undeserved on him. Left alone by friends, by disciples, by God, to face the wrath, the fire of God's wrath he did not earn, the wages he did not work for, he came to taste death for you and me. (Heb 2:9)
But he was pierced for
There was also the temptation! This the worst he had ever faced for this was the point that Jesus could have walked away from humanity. This was Satan's hour where his dominion would carry the day, or at least seem to. The oppressive pressures would weigh down on our Lord to the point that he was overwhelmed with sorrow, even to the point of death.
We need to hear those words again. Jesus was willing to say to his friends "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." And they choose to sleep. This was more than they were able to handle. This was more difficulty than they were willing to listen to. This was a harder journey then they were willing to be troubled with. They slept. Their spirits may have been willing, but their human nature put on the brakes..
This was the cup of God's wrath, and Jesus was willing to take it, to drink the dredges of the disaster that was upon us. That is the measure of love.
Isn't this true in our lives also. We measure our love by our willingness to suffer with one another. Compassion means to "suffer with." We see in life the measure of love by a person's willingness to suffer with another, no matter how long that journey takes. In families, under great pressure, we see parents willing to suffer long hours with a sick child, put their entire lives on hold until that child recovers - we see love in that act - they figuratively feel and really do bear the pain of their child. That is compassion. By the willingness and ability to suffer with another, we measure love.
Jesus had compassion on us! He was willing to bear our pain. In obedience to his Father, he was willing to fill the full measure of his love, become our sin, suffer our suffering, die our death so that we might live. This he choose to do in the Garden of Gethsemany.
The name of that Garden is important - it literally means "olive press." Olive Press, a place where fruit was put under pressure so that the juices and oils would flow, so that the harvest would come forth.
Jesus entered the "olive press" and there the pressure, the agony of bearing our sin and shame, there the pressure of being forsaken by those he loved and oppressed by the evil one bore upon him, there the pressure of God's vented fury pressured him to the point that Jesus, like the fruit of the vine began to sweat blood, his subcutaneous vessels no longer able to contain the pressure. The fruit of the vine was pressed out! There began the flow of the blood of the new covenant, poured out for us. In the press of Gethsemane, the one true vine bore fruit in his obedience to God, he suffered with us, for us, while we, like his disciples did nothing. This is the measure of love, pressed out, the fruit of the vine which we drink in communion this morning.
This morning we celebrate communion together. As we do, think about the times that you have loved another, you have been willing to under go great pressure and stress for another, because you love them, and remember as you eat and drink that our Savior entered the olive press, out of love for you he entered that pressure, he choose to die for you, so that today you might have life, he was crushed for our iniquities, by his stripes we are healed. Come drink the fruit of the vine, tastes of the measure of the love of God for you - for in this season of lent, love is measured by the cup.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.