I was with some friends yesterday and someone read a story from the bible about a mother who asked that her sons be able to sit at the right and left side of Jesus when he becomes king. Jesus told her that hers was a foolish request. If she realized what she was proposing for her sons, she’d have second thoughts. “Can you drink from the cup of suffering?” he asked the sons. “Sure,” they said. “Okay”, Jesus said, “but don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He wouldn’t wish his experience on anybody, but these two seemed to be asking for it.
At the end of the story, it says, “The Son of Man did not come to be served as a king but to serve and give his life to redeem many people.” The word that jumped out at me was “redeem”, a word often used to describe what Jesus is supposed to have done on the cross. I don’t really understand it. I think maybe, at least in the mind of Jesus, the cross was a sign of failure.
I am drawn this morning to another story, the story of Jesus in the garden the night he was arrested. I remember he told his disciples, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it crushes me.” He asked them to share the load with him. “Be here for me,” he pleaded. “I cannot do this alone.”
Any time I have heard or read about Jesus’ experience in the garden, I was told that he feared what was to come, his arrest and crucifixion. My teachers saw this moment of fear as a sign of his humanity. I remember meditating on a large painting of the agony, Jesus draped over a rock, his sad eyes turned toward heaven. I wondered how it is that his prayer was recorded when the only witnesses were sleeping. I am guessing that someone was awake and heard his prayer. But I am guessing, too, that the listener did not understand it. “Take this cup from me,” Jesus cried out. The cup Jesus wanted to have removed was the cup of his physical suffering, I have been told.
I think they are wrong. I think the cup of suffering for him was that his life seemed to be ending while those he felt called to love were still suffering. The pain in his heart was from love unfulfilled…
– love for his followers in the garden who still didn’t not understand God’s message
– love for the rich young man still caught in his addiction
– love for the prostitute who still looks for love in all the wrong places
– love for the leaders who still care little or nothing about those they harm
He had set out from the desert to love with the love of God and found that he was leaving the world without the satisfaction of knowing it had been received. This, I believe was his great sorrow. And this love unfulfilled is what he finally accepted in the garden.