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“Questions at the Cross: Shall I Not Drink the Cup?”
John 18:11


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Lent Service III—February 27, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

During Lent this year, for both our special evening and Sunday morning services, we are considering “Questions at the Cross,” questions asked by Jesus and others during the first Holy Week.  The entire sermon series is listed on the back of this evening’s bulletin.

So far we have looked at the question Jesus asked in preparation for the Last Supper, “Where Is My Guest Room?”  The question Judas asked just before his dastardly deed, “What Will You Give Me If I Betray Him?”   The question Jesus asks Peter, James, and John, who sleep while Jesus earnestly prays in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Could You Not Keep Watch with Me?”  And the pointed question Jesus asks Peter at the Last Supper, when Peter boldly promises to lay down his life for Jesus and never to deny him: “Will You Really Lay Down Your Life for Me?”

We continue this evening with another question Jesus asks Peter, in this evening’s Gospel Reading.  When the soldiers come to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter draws a sword and strikes Malchus, the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.  Jesus responds by miraculously healing Malchus, and ordering Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath.  Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

This evening’s “Question at the Cross”: “Shall I Not Drink the Cup?”

It’s hard to believe that there is still alive in Germany a 95-year-old woman who during World War II was a food taster for Adolf Hitler.  Margot Woelk wasn’t a Nazi and she didn’t want the job.  She’s the last survivor of 15 young women who for years were held prisoner and forced every day to consume the same food and drink as the Fuhrer.   They would dine about an hour before he did, and then be closely watched for any signs of poison.  Food was severely rationed, but they ate and drank a sumptuous feast every day, with such rarities during the war as fresh vegetables and real coffee and tea.  Yet, in an interview last week with a London newspaper, Margot Woelk says the meals were like torture, and they absolutely dreaded every delicious bite and sumptuous sip.  Because, they always knew each morsel they ate, the next sip they took, could be deadly poison.

“Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”  As the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus should have had a food taster to prevent him from being poisoned.  But, you see, that is precisely why he came down from heaven and was made man. 

The forbidden fruit Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden poisoned us all, with sin, death, and damnation.  As the divine Son of God, Jesus was naturally immune and exempt from this poison, as the Apostle John says, “He appeared to take away our sins, and in him is no sin.”  But, instead of avoiding this fatal poison, for us and our salvation he took the poison of our sin upon himself, and suffered and died from its horrible effects in our place.

“Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”  Three times in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays to his heavenly Father, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”  Just a few hours earlier in the Upper Room, Jesus had drunk the sweet, pleasant cup of Passover wine at the Last Supper.  Perhaps that is why now in the Garden of Gethsemane he compares his looming suffering and death to a cup.  Not a sweet, pleasant cup, but a bitter, poisonous, deadly cup, like a cup of searing acid or deadly poison that he must drink--and die.  When Jesus prays to his heavenly Father, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” he is saying, “If there is any other way, Father, let me not suffer this terrible torture.”

But, Jesus willingly offers himself up as a sacrificial victim for us and our salvation when each time he concludes his prayer, “Yet not my will but yours be done.”  “I am the Good Shepherd,” he says, “and I lay down my life for the sheep. . . No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”  He gave himself and shed his blood as an atoning sacrifice to pay for our sins, and not only ours, but also for the sins of the whole world.  As one of our Communion hymns puts it, “Offered was he for greatest and for least, himself the victim and himself the priest.” 

“If it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not my will but your be done.”  God’s plan of salvation could not be fulfilled any other way.  The bitter cup of his suffering and death on the cross could not pass from Jesus onto someone else.  Only he could suffer and die in our place, for our sins.

Because, as true God, only Jesus was perfect, holy, without sin, and therefore worthy to offer himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  And, as true man, Jesus was also a real human, in every way just like we are, except without sin.  So, as true man he could bear our sins in his body on the cross, enduring in our place the painful, physical punishment our sins deserved, spilling from his veins his holy, precious blood to cleanse us from every sin.

“Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”  Jesus is the only King in history who did not have his subjects take the cup of poison for him, so that he might live.  No, instead, this King took the cup of poison for us, so that we would have eternal life. “For the Son of Man came not to be served,” Jesus said, “but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

At the Last Supper Jesus proclaimed, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  Every time you partake of the sacred cup of Holy Communion, it is a reminder.  This beautiful cup is a reminder of the poisonous cup Jesus took for you.  As Paul says in 1st Corinthians: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? . . .  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 

“Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Jesus drank for you the cup of death, so that you receive the cup of life.

Jesus drank for you the cup of damnation, so that you receive the cup of forgiveness.

Jesus drank for you the cup of hell, so that you receive the cup of heaven.

Jesus drank for you the cup of doom, so that you receive the cup of blessing.

Amen.

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