Day 39 – Can You Drink the Cup? – Henri Nouwen

Day 39

Can You Drink the Cup?

Henri Nouwen

Later Jesus challenged them directly: “What about you, do you want to go away?” Peter responded: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69). He and his friends had started to glimpse the Kingdom Jesus had been talking about. But again there was that question: “Can you drink the cup?” They said yes over and over. And what about the seats in the Kingdom? They might not be the kinds of seats they expected, but could they still be closer to Jesus than the other followers?

Jesus’ answer is as radical as his question: as for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father” (Matthew 20:23). Drinking the cup is not a heroic act with a nice reward! It is not part of a tit-for-tat agreement. Drinking the cup is an act of selfless love, an act of immense trust, an act of surrender to a God who will give what we need when we need it. Jesus’ Inviting us to drink the cup without offering the reward we expect is the great challenge of the spiritual life. It breaks through all human calculations and expectations. It defies all our wishes to be sure in advance. It turns our hope for a predictable future upside down and pulls down our self-invented safety devices. It asks for the most radical trust in God, the same trust that made Jesus drink the cup to the bottom.

Drinking the cup that Jesus drank is living a life in and with the spirit of Jesus, which is the spirit of unconditional love. The intimacy between Jesus and Abba, his Father, is an intimacy of complete trust, in which there are no power games, no mutually agreed upon promises, no advance guarantees. It is only love-pure, unrestrained, and unlimited love.

Completely open, completely free. That intimacy gave Jesus the strength to drink his cup. That same intimacy Jesus wants to give us so that we can drink ours. That intimacy has a Name, a Divine Name. It is called Holy Spirit. Living a spiritual life is living a life in which the Holy Spirit will guide us and give us the strength and courage to keep saying yes to the great question.

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