Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” –John 18:11
One thing that makes John different than the other three Gospels is the absence of the Lord’s Supper. John does set the scene for us in chapter 13 where the Upper Room event takes place, but the Supper itself is largely skipped over. We don’t have Jesus taking the bread and breaking it or taking the cup and blessing it. We simply have Judas leaving to betray Jesus and then John moves on to Jesus speaking with the disciples for four chapters. Although John skips over the Supper, he gives us beautiful, comforting words from Jesus that no one else does, and I’m grateful for those words.
Due to the four chapters in-between the Upper Room and the arrest of Jesus, it is easy for us to forget that this is the same night. Easy to forget that Jesus most certainly took a cup of wine, saying these words: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” And on that same night He said to Peter, “Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
Martin Luther referred to what happened on the cross as “the happy exchange” where Christ takes all our sin and gives us all His righteousness. He takes every shameful thought, every crooked word, and every sinful deed, and He gives us His thoughts, words, and deeds. Truly good thoughts we could never begin to think. Kind words we have never said. And perfect deeds we have never done and could never do.
This exchange is pre-figured in those two cups Jesus talks about the night He was betrayed. There is a cup of the wrath of God over sinners with all our names on it. It is a cup full to the brim with the wages of sin. Not a single drop may be spilled; all must be drunk dry. It is a cup of death. And this is the cup we deserve. The justice of God demands this cup be consumed. But the love of God is not willing to have us drink the cup that we deserve. So God does the unthinkable. He drinks it Himself. Jesus drinks it down to the dregs. Every drop is consumed on His cross. Jesus dies drinking the wages of our sin.
Unfortunately, many people will tell you there is still something left in that cup for you drink. When you sin they may try and place that cup up to your lips. But there is nothing there for you to drink. That cup is bone dry. Instead we have been given another cup to drink. A cup of kindness and forgiveness. A cup of the blood of the One who drank that other cup in our place. A cup that God Himself says is “FOR YOU.” There is no wrath or death in that cup, there is only life and salvation. This cup is pure grace and gift.
So in the midst of a life that is short but hard and full of failure, know that the cups have been reversed. The same night Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper speaking of forgiveness and life, He also spoke of the cup filled with the wages of all our sin that He himself would drink. And while hanging on a filthy cross for the sins of the world, He did just that.
Peter tried to stand between Jesus and that cup with a drawn sword, but Jesus wouldn’t allow it. He won’t allow us to either. Nor will He allow you to taste one sip of that cup of wrath and death. Instead He stands between all of us and that cup of judgment. He says “I will drink this one. I’ve given you another.”
As the son of a Pastor, Daniel Emery Price was raised in church and various kinds of Christian ministry in a small town in rural Arkansas. He began writing and performing music in his teen years and was heavily involved in worship ministry before moving to Seattle in his early twenties to pursue a career in music. He later moved to Phoenix and returned to leading worship and took a leadership position in youth/collegiate ministry, before moving back to Arkansas where he helped plant Trinity Church NWAin 2009, and he now serves as Pastor. Daniel lives in Northwest Arkansas with his wife Jessica and their daughter Anna. He is a regular guest on theological radio shows, podcasts, and is a conference speaker. Daniel is a Contributor to Christ Hold Fast and a co-host of the weekly podcasts, 40 Minutes in the Old Testament and 30 Minutes in the New Testament. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Scandalous Stories: A Sort of Commentary on Parables.