In this detail from the Howes Chapel Christ Window, we see the angel offering the cup as Jesus is praying in Gethsemane: “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Look carefully at the angel; the face is looking up toward the One who must choose to accept this cup. The expression is firm, but not demanding. It is an expression of one who has been assigned a task: the work of a messenger.
The angel is delivering word from God, and awaiting the reply. The hands hold the chalice gently. Observe those hands; they are soft and there is no sign of tension, no sign of force or exertion. The angel is offering this cup, and the expression on the face suggests a sense of serenity and peace. The decision still awaits. Will Jesus reach out and take this cup from the hands of the angel and take it into himself?
The Greek word, which is translated as cup, is poterion and this word carries with it the sense not only of the drinking vessel, but also of what the cup contains. See Isaiah 51:17, “Awake, awake. Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes people stagger” This is not a communion cup which holds a fine burgundy or merlot; not a communion cup holding the juice of the unfermented grape. This cup holds Jesus’ blood; his life; his offering of himself on behalf of the world. This cup holds the fullness of what it means to be faithful to God. Jesus did, in fact, take the cup of his whole life as an offering on behalf of the world. Therefore, it is no wonder that Luke says that the sweat on his brow was not salt, but blood!
We may want the acceptance of the Cup to be a beautiful story about communion on Maundy Thursday, but it is just as much a story about going to the cross on Good Friday. Accepting the cup means saying yes to all that God has to offer; even if that means the cross. This is why in our liturgy the Triduum is celebrated as a single event over three days. The Last Supper, The Crucifixion, and Resurrection are all part of a single event in which God redeemed the world through the act of Jesus saying “yes “to the CUP. So, today, Garrett-Evangelical looks out at the world through the cup which Jesus took unto himself. Let us pray:
“Let us remember Jesus: Who believed in people and never despaired of them. Who through all disappointment never lost heart. Who disregarded his own comfort and convenience, and thought first of other’s needs, and, though he suffered long, was always kind. Who, when he was reviled uttered no harsh word in return, and when he suffered did not threaten retaliation. Who humbled himself and carried obedience the point of death., even death on the cross, therefore God has highly exalted him. Let us unite in prayer that Christ may dwell in our hearts. O Christ, our only Saviour, so come to dwell in us that we may go forth with the light of your hope in our eyes, and with your faith and love in our hearts. Amen.” (Book of Worship, page 514)
By Al Caldwell, Retired Faculty, editor