The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
 "Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?"

Scripture:  Matthew 20:17-28

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him  to death, 19 and deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day." 20 Then the mother of the sons of Zeb'edee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, "What do you want?" She said to him, "Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom." 22 But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?" They said to him, "We are able." 23 He said to them, "You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father." 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over  them. 26 It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; 28 even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Meditation: Jesus did the unthinkable!  He wedded authority with service and with sacrifice the sacrifice of one's life for the sake of another. Authority without sacrificial love is brutish and self-serving.  Jesus also used stark language to explain what kind of sacrifice he had in mind. His disciples must drink his cup if they expect to reign with him in his kingdom.  The cup he had in mind was a bitter one involving crucifixion. What kind of cup does the Lord have in mind for us?  For some disciples such a cup entails physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom.  But for many, it entails the long routine of the Christian life, with all its daily sacrifices,  disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and temptations.  A disciple must be ready to lay down his or her life in martyrdom and be ready to lay it down each and every day in the little and big sacrifices required.  An early church father summed up Jesus' teaching with the expression: to serve is to reign with Christ.  We share in God's reign by laying down our lives in humble service of one another as Jesus did for our sake. Are you ready to lay down your life and to serve others as Jesus did?

"Lord Jesus, make me a servant of love for your kingdom, that I may seek to serve rather than be served.    Inflame my heart with love that I may give generously and serve joyfully for your sake."


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(c) 2002 Don Schwager