Zechariah 12:1–8, Revelation 18:1–10, Matthew 20:20–23, Luke 22:14–20 (read online ⧉)
A cup is a common thing. You probably have a few in your cupboards. You might even have so many you have to get rid of one to fit another. You might have ones for special times (like china for Thanksgiving). You might have Christmas themed ones. You probably have ones that were given to you as a reminder or an advertisement. There is nothing special really special about cups. However, as we read the Scriptures, cups star in a number of places.
Joseph used his cup (his very special one that only he had) to entrap his brothers. Pharoah and Nebuchadnezzar had their cupbearers. These cupbearers had authority within the courts of the leader. Cups, it seems, were not always so common.
The prophet Zechariah has a vision of Judah being a cup. Nations would drink of this cup. The consumption part represents well the takeovers, wars, slavery, and exile. The nations around Judah (even their Semitic cousins in Samaria) really did a number on Judah. It’s not that Judah did the right things and was still on the losing end. Judah had continually made the wrong decisions. God wasn’t just going to restore his people once they yielded their hearts. God would use Judah as the source of retribution for all the nations that had (by their actions) treated Judah wrongly.
This imagery is echoed in Revelation. This time, instead of the small underdog nation being the source of retribution, it would now be the leading city (symbolized as Babylon) that would be the source of its own destruction and the nations that followed it. This symbolic Babylon was completely lost in the depths of unGodly practices. The nations that idolized it or followed its practices would end up with the consequences of their choices.
In Matthew, Jesus uses similar imagery to hint to James and John that the contents of Jesus’ cup will do the same to them as it will do to him. Of course, they did not yet understand what that meant. Is some ways, while Jesus did not “give” them the seats at his right or left hand, he still symbolically handed his identity to them when he said they would drink from his cup. They probably felt better about not getting their “seats”, at least until they realized the cup’s contents.
This really comes to a culmination in the Cup of Salvation. The “blood” of the New Covenant shared by Jesus with his disciples and eventually with us. The cup is Christ’s. When we share the cup, we share in the name and identity of Jesus. We also identify ourselves with and by the New Covenant. We also identify ourselves by his death and the freedom we bought. Lastly, though, each of us may have something that needs to be sacrificed to live a life with and for Christ. We have chosen to drink from the cup and by so doing stated that we will accept what it brings.
1)Do you have a favorite cup? Why is it your favorite? Without knowing the story of if, what could people learn about you from it?
2) God’s grace and love are often found in “ordinary” things. In what other “ordinary” things do you find God’s grace and love?
3) Why is it important to look for and see God’s grace and love in ordinary things?