Day 09 – Can You Drink the Cup? – Henri Nouwen

Day 09

Can You Drink the Cup

Henri Nouwen

“Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” Jesus asked his friends. They answered yes, but had no idea what he was talking about. Jesus’ cup is the cup of sorrow, not just his own sorrow but the sorrow of the whole human race. It is a cup full of physical, mental, and spiritual anguish. It is the cup of starvation, torture, loneliness, rejection, abandonment, and immense anguish. It is the cup full of bitterness. Who wants to drink it? It is the cup that Isaiah calls “the cup of God’s wrath. The chalice, the stupefying cup, you have drained to the dregs,” (Isaiah 51:17) and what the second angel in the Book of Revelation calls “the wine of retribution” (Revelation 14:8), which Babylon gave the whole world to drink.

When the moment to drink that cup came for Jesus, he said: “My soul is sorrowful to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). His agony was so intense that “his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). His close friends James and John, whom he had asked if they could drink the cup that he was going to drink, were there with him but fast asleep, unable to stay awake with him in his sorrow. In his immense loneliness, he fell on his face and cried out: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus couldn’t face it. Too much pain to hold, too much suffering to embrace, too much agony to live through. He didn’t feel he could drink that cup filled to the brim with sorrows.
\Why then could he still say yes? I can’t fully answer that question, except to say that beyond all the abandonment experienced in body and mind Jesus still had a spiritual bond with the one he called Abba. He possessed a trust beyond betrayal, a surrender beyond despair, a love beyond all fears. This intimacy beyond all human intimacies made it possible for Jesus to allow the request to let the cup pass him by become a prayer directed to the one who had called him “My Beloved.” Notwithstanding his anguish, that bond of love had not been broken. It couldn’t be felt in the body, nor thought through in the mind. But it was there, beyond all feelings and thoughts, and it maintained the communion underneath all disruptions. It was that spiritual sinew, that intimate communion with his Father, that made him hold on to the cup and pray: “My Father, let it be as you, not 1, would have it” (Matthew 26:39).

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