The Cup of Life

John 18:11.---' The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?'

These words are Christ's disclaimer of the physical violence with which His foremost disciple sought to defend Him in the hour of His betrayal and arrest. He would not accept the defense of the sword because He recognized the malignant enmity of men as part of the lot which He had gladly accepted when He took upon Him the burden of the world's sin and the task of the world's redemption. To falter then, or fall back on human aid in the inevitable last struggle, would be a denial of His Father, and a violation of filial love. In that dark hour He looked not upon the will of His foes, but upon the will of His Father, which was always 'good and acceptable and perfect' to Him. Hence this question to Peter, to which He neither expected nor waited for an answer.

The expression 'cup' is commonly used throughout the Old Testament to denote some experience of life in relation to God. For instance, the Psalmist says, 'The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup;' and again, 'My cup runneth over;' and yet again, 'I will take the cup of salvation.' Christ thus takes a well-understood figure and applies it to Himself, and His words are invested with deep and tender meaning by the fact that but a few hours previously He had Himself given a cup to His disciples, in the drinking of which they should commemorate for all time His dying love. This experience of the Upper Room fresh in their minds doubtless enabled them to grasp the import of these words, and illumined as in a flash the whole of His life, so inexplicable in many ways even to those who had been most closely associated with Him. His whole life is as a cup which has been delivered into His hand by the Father. Hence is willingness to drain it to the sediment contained in the last remaining part.

It is significant to notice the progress in His apprehension of and submission to His Father's will. At first, when the darkness begins to gather and the gloom of the approaching end settles upon Him, He prays, 'If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.' Later He says, 'If this cup may not pass except I drink it, thy will be done.' But now before His followers, and doubtless having in mind the strengthening of their faith and encouraging of their purpose, it is this glad and victorious word which He utters, 'Shall I not drink it?' This is indeed a progress toward ultimate and complete triumph. The draining of the cup is not to Him a defeat in the unequal contest with the world, but a glorious triumph of love and loyalty. He has already drunk much, but not one drop is to be spilled. Thus in devotion to the Father He 'tasted death for every man.' And His cup of death has in an inexplicable way opened for us the fountain of life.

But it is in their wider application to the lives of His disciples that these words must also be pondered, for they express that attitude of submission and trust which conditions a life of peace and power. As of old, He still says to those who seek closest fellowship with Him, 'Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?' and to their willingness responds, 'Ye shall indeed drink of it.' It is therefore helpful to see and think of life under this figure---'the cup which my Father hath given me to drink'---a cup not of suffering merely, for so to think of it narrows the meaning of the figure and restricts its blessing, but rather the cup of the will of God.

It is well to remember that all our experiences are limited and their duration fixed. We are sometimes apt, under the depression of sorrow, or disappointment, or the weariness of toil, to imagine that these things are beyond our bearing power. There seems to be no end of them, and faith ebbs under their sustained pressure. Well it is then to recall these words of the Savior and make them our own. The Father has put into the cup just the measure which He knows is needful and sufficient. He is not indifferent to our pain, our weakness, and our sorrow. He is not deaf to our cry, or careless of our desires, and His answer to them all is the cup which He has given.

And not only is its content measured, but its quality is also assured---it is a cup both measured and mixed by the Father Himself. Its ingredients are carefully chosen with Divine prevision, and its joys, sorrows, temptations, duties, and responsibilities all go to make up an elixir of life. As our physician, He knows what is needed to heal our diseases, to brace our energies, to calm our imagination. He knows, too, as only our Father can, what is needed to strengthen our lives, to develop our powers, to form our character. Thus it is that the cup which He gives us to drink is always a cup of salvation.

Let us not forget that Christ drank His cup for the sake of others, and that with His followers as with Himself the note of the vicarious is never absent from life. We cannot live unto ourselves even if we would, and we dare not because we have been called into fellowship with His aims and into sympathy with His purposes. To save others must become the passion of our lives as it was of His, and this can be accomplished only at the same price. The drinking of the cup which the Father hath given is the necessary condition upon which the blessing of other hearts and lives depends. Indeed, it is impossible to enter into the experiences of others in such a way as to lift and help them, unless we ourselves know something by personal experience of similar need. Only he whose heart has been broken can touch the broken heart of another without causing pain; only he who himself has known loss and impoverishment can encourage the one from whom all things seem to be slipping away; only the one who has known the smart of sorrow and the sting of pain can help some burdened, sorrowing, stricken heart to sing 'songs in the night.'

The most solemn of all considerations is as to our power of choice. God does not force the cup upon us, or compel us against our will to drink what he has prepared and offers. It is always possible to turn from His love, though to do so is unwittingly to drink to our own destruction. Let us lay then to heart the fact that it is our Father's hand which holds the cup to our lips and strengthen ourselves with the remembrance that His love is---

Too wise to err, Too good to be unkind.

And in the solitude in which each one must register his supreme spiritual decisions let us face out the question, 'Shall I not drink it?' Then with conviction of conscience and constraint of heart, taking up the cup, let us pledge Him in His own vintage, and go forth day by day to live out our sacramental loyalty. And when all is over, its joy shall be just to drink for ever of the same cup, and to 'drink it new' with the Savior in the Kingdom.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha