Are you able to drink the cup?



Matthew 20:20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will 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 about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 

In the Mark version of this story the brothers make this request of Jesus themselves. Here in Matthew it’s their mother who makes the request. Mama’s boys! In the verses immediately preceding this passage, Jesus was telling the disciples about this imminent death and resurrection. It’s obvious from this request that the disciples don’t understand.

The question in v.22 intrigues me this morning. “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” One of my bible resources explains that in ancient Judaism “drinking the cup” was an image meaning “suffering, testing, rejection, judgment, and violent death” (New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary). Of course, another interpretation of drinking the cup might be drinking fine wine out of a fancy cup. I’m pretty sure it was the latter option the disciples imagined, not the former.

“Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”

This morning Jesus asks this question of you and me. Where are we being challenged to sacrifice, to endure, to persevere? Lord Jesus, give us grace that we might carry our cross and follow you. Amen.

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