Day 38 – Can You Drink the Cup? – Henri Nouwen

Day 38

Can You Drink the Cup?

Henri Nouwen

Still, notwithstanding all their misperceptions, they had been deeply touched by this man Jesus. In his presence they had experienced something radically new, something that went beyond anything they had ever imagined. It had to do with inner freedom, love, care, hope, and, most of all, with God. Yes, they wanted power and influence, but beyond that they wanted to stay close to Jesus at all costs. As their journey continued, they gradually discovered what they had said yes to. They heard about being a servant instead of a master, about seeking the last place instead of the first, about giving up their lives instead of controlling other people’s lives. Each time they had to make a choice again. Did they want to stay with Jesus or leave? Did they want to follow the way of Jesus or look for someone else who could give them the power they desired?

John and James had not the faintest idea of what they were saying when they said yes. They hardly understood who Jesus was. They didn’t think about him as a leader who would be betrayed, tortured, and killed on a cross. Nor did they dream about their own lives as marked by tiresome travels and harsh persecutions, and consumed by contemplation or martyrdom. Their first easy yes had to be followed by many hard yeses until their cups were completely empty.

And what is the reward of it all? John and James’ mother wanted a concrete reward: “Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom” (Matthew 20:21). She and they had little doubt about what they wanted. They wanted power, influence, success, and wealth. They were preparing themselves for a significant role when the Roman occupiers would be thrown out and Jesus would be king and have his own cabinet of ministers. They wanted to be his right- and left-hand men in the new political order.

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