A cup of suffering

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I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. My aging cat, unfinished projects, double standards, the future. Cups. Yes, cups. And no, not the Anna Kendrick song from “Pitch Perfect“. Although I love that song. Also not coffee cups. Although I love a good cup of coffee. Especially with Italian Sweet Cream.

How could you not want coffee out of something so cute?

How could you not want coffee out of something so cute?

Mostly I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ cups.

In scripture we see literal cups. But the metaphoric cups are the ones that have been on my mind. When Jesus was talking to the Pharisees, He tried so desperately to get them to understand that their rules, hundreds of which they created themselves, were blinding them to the sheer awesomeness and graciousness of God. He offered them example after example, pleading with them to open their eyes to Who was before them and what He was offering. He addressed their superficial OCD rule-following by pointing out their hypocrisy: “You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!” (Matthew 23:25) All that mattered to them was the appearance of the cup. “Look at me, following the rules. I’m such a good person. Let me announce it in the streets. And put You down for deigning to heal people on the Sabbath. Scoff-scoff.” They practically stalked Him, hoping to catch Him breaking a rule. His very own paparazzi, ready to publicize the slightest slip. I wonder what they would think of my cup?

Mine is filthy, inside AND out. But, hey, I'm a sinner.

Mine is filthy, inside AND out. But, hey, I’m a sinner.

Jesus spoke of another cup. The cup. He left the Last Supper where He passed around a cup, a literal cup filled with the metaphoric representation of the blood He would shed. He ventured up to the Mount of Olives to pray. In solitude. Not surrounded by His twelve or the self-righteous naysayers and non-believing paparazzi. He was alone. Well, not completely. He was with His Father. Filled with the heaviness and knowledge of what was to come, He looked to His Father and said, “If you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me (Luke 22: 42a)” He could have begged. Or stopped it. I would have. I would have run away. I can barely carry the burden of my own sins, let alone the world’s. But not Jesus. He told His Father, “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (42b).” He WANTED His Father’s will and He knew what that entailed. His was the only clean cup, inside and out. So it had to be Him.

One of my favorite movies is the mid-nineties hit “When a Man Loves a Woman.” There’s a scene where Andy Garcia and Meg Ryan’s characters are arguing in the kitchen about parenting and Meg is stirring her coffee. Andy, who is all kinds of frustrated, looks at her and says (I’m paraphrasing here), “I think we have enough to deal with, with our coffee and our little spoon.” In the movie it’s a big time “Yikes”. But in reality, it’s true. Some days, it’s all I can do to stir my coffee. Jesus knew that. He saw that. He grabbed my cup, with all of its sin-filled sludge, and drank it. He washed it in His blood, scrubbing away any remnants of my sin, and handed it to His Father. “I’m doing this for her,” He said. “She’s worth it.”

I will remember that. Always. Especially when I’m staring into my own cup of suffering. Because of Him, my cup is clean.

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