John 18:11 “Jesus commanded Peter, ‘Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?’”
The popular Lenten hymn My Song Is Love Unknown, after remembering the calls to crucify Jesus, objects, “Why? What has my Lord done? What makes this rage and spite?” Samuel Crossman, the hymn writer, agonizes over the hatred and violence directed at this dear friend we love so much. When Lent rolls around, and we hear the passion history read and preached again, isn’t there a part of us that almost hopes that this year the story will be different, that Jesus will unveil his glory, and show them he is God, and fight back and defeat his enemies? “I object! I object to seeing my Savior suffer that way! Stop it! Stop it! Somebody do something to stop his suffering!”
But the Jesus we love that way isn’t the real thing. The Jesus we love that way would be an idol we created ourselves. A Jesus who does not suffer for us could be many things. He could be our guide to show us the way. He could be our friend who really cares that things are going so badly for us. He could be our cheerleader, pumping us up for our challenges. He could be our miracle worker, making our pain go away. He just couldn’t be our Savior. And if he can’t be our Savior, then he can’t be our God.
When Jesus answers our objection by asking, “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” he does more than answer it. He exposes it as sin. Sin doesn’t stop at messing up our behavior. We can’t even feel right. We emote sinfully. We can’t respond properly to the most important act of love he has ever done for us. Like Peter, we find ourselves fighting what God has done to save us.
How different is Jesus’ response to his suffering. He, too, agonized over the price he would pay in pain to save us. In the Garden of Gethsemane he begged, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (Matthew 26:30). The sweat poured from him like drops of blood. He would not watch this all take place, like Peter. He would feel every moment.
But at no point does Jesus object. At no point is Jesus unwilling. His perfect obedience to the Father’s will extended to the very wishes and desires that occupied his anxious heart. He redeems our cowardly and contrary hearts by offering the Father his perfectly willing and consenting heart in their place. “Shall I not drink the cup my Father has given me?” is Jesus statement of resolve.
And to what is Jesus consenting? Peter perceives only the faintest shadows of it at this point. We will never really know the agony Jesus knew in his soul. In the end, this was not the cup the Jews were giving Jesus in the mocking and beating. This was not the cup the Romans were giving Jesus in the scourging and the crucifixion. This was the cup the Father was giving Jesus as he drank the anger of God, and the hell that our sins had created, to spare us from drinking that cup ourselves. How can we object to the suffering that gives us such forgiveness, and freedom, and life? Jesus’ question answers the objection.
Sometimes a question mark is like an exclamation point. So it is with Jesus’ question to Peter. The greatest accomplishment in the history of the world does not come in a moment of thrilling ecstasy. It comes when our Savior drinks his cup of suffering, served by his own Father’s hand.