Thursday, March 28, 2013

This Cup Is the New Covenant

1 Corinthians 11:25

English Standard Version (ESV)
25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

As we're thinking about grief and the resurrection, we come to Maundy Thursday—our recognition of the Passover feast and the covenant of communion. I have not made a study of Jesus' last days, but as I was preparing for this post I couldn't help thinking about Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:36-56

English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

It is interesting to me that even before the Passover feast, Jesus is talking about the grief he is about to bear as a cup. It may be he is referring to the cup used to pour out offerings on the altar in the temple, though I think quite a few scholars point to the cup as figurative language referring to a person's destiny. Either way, I think the cup also provides a useful metaphor for us to talk about grief. Can you imagine Jesus in the garden saying, "Father, if it is possible, please don't ask me to sign this covenant in grief," knowing, as he did, the agonies that were to come?

Isn't that just how we feel when we encounter grief? The precious parents I know who have had to endure the loss of their children, whether pre-birth or in adulthood, have all shared with me the experience of feeling poured out before God and pleading with God to let the agony of such devastating loss pass from them. I have heard many people who have a mother, father, sibling, parent, or grandparent facing death, as well as spouses who are enduring the griefs of divorce, share similar sentiments. Even the loss of a home, job, relationship, or health can call us very painful feelings of impending grief and loss. Let's face it, when we encounter grief it is never welcomed because we recognize the absoluteness of death and loss that is coming our way. We sense in advance, as Jesus did, that it will be unbearable agony.

The Bible tells us in Isaiah 53 that Jesus "bore our griefs" and made "His soul an offering for sin." We might say that there is a sense in which our human grief is poured out as a response to sin—the pain, suffering, death, and loss we experience in this life. Thinking in that way can help us begin to better understand Christ's sacrifice for us on the Cross.

My friends, if you are grieving the sins and agonies of this life—whether as part of this Easter season of prayer, sacrifice, and resurrection, or as a result of suffering and loss in your life—I am praying that you will take comfort in the knowledge that there is One who understands your heart and your hurt because He died for your healing. As you walk through your grief and endure suffering in this life, you can gain comfort and strength that Jesus died for you to experience a life of perfect comfort, peace, joy, and wholeness that you can practice now in preparation for the life to come...with our Lord and Savior in heaven.

Let us pray in confidence, faith, and hope the words that Jesus taught us when He said these words, recorded in Matthew 6:9-13,

In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

And let's pray together, that when we must endure the cup of grief and suffering that we can give it to God for His use and purposes in bringing comfort and hope to others.

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