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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Drinking From the Cup
Text:Matthew 20:17-28 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Suffering

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

What Shall I Render to the Lord?
There Is a Redeemer
How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place
O Sacred Head Now Wounded  

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

“Drinking From the Cup”
Matthew 20:17-28
Breaking bad news to people you love is never easy. Perhaps you have had a dear family member, a father or mother, a sister or brother – or your spouse – the one with whom you have shared your life with for decades, tell you the sad news that their condition is terminal. Death is imminent. Life will change dramatically.
In this passage, we read that Jesus was at that point. Verses 17-19 describe how as Jesus and the disciples were going up to Jerusalem, He took them aside and told them about the certainty of His death. He said, “…The Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.’”
If you ever wondered whether Jesus is compassionate with a deep concern for His followers, consider how deliberately and systematically He broke the news to His disciples about His impending death. Verses 17-19 contain the third announcement of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel that He would die, and He breaks this news to the disciples privately. Verse 17 describes how “He took the twelve disciples aside…”
He knew the news would be painful. Mark tells how this news would cause them to be both amazed and afraid (10:32). Luke describes how this news perplexed and bewildered the disciples (18:34). Knowing the impact of this news, Jesus – with great compassion – pulled them aside to speak of the events that would mark His sacrificial death.
In this passage, Jesus also adds some details to what He had said in the two previous predictions of His death. He adds that He will be betrayed, something formerly He had not revealed to them. And He adds that the Gentiles would be involved. Their involvement was crucial: The Romans did not allow the Jews to enact the death penalty, thus for Jesus to be crucified, He must fall, not only into the hands of the Jewish religious leaders, but into the hands of Pilate, and the Roman army who was adept at implementing the most cruel and humiliating form of death, crucifixion. He describes to His disciples how he will “ mocked and flogged and crucified...” (19)
In his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, J.C. Ryle notes:
The Lord Jesus knew from the beginning, all that was before Him. The treachery of Judas Iscariot, the fierce persecution of the chief priests and scribes, the unjust judgment, the delivery to Pontius Pilate, the mocking, the scourging, the crown of thorns, the cross, the hanging between two malefactors, the nails, the spear – all, all were spread before Him like a picture.  (Vol. 1, Pg. 251)
And as Jesus forewarned His disciples, He showed His great compassion for them by taking them aside and telling them in confidence what the future would hold for Him and for them.
In this passage we also read how the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus and kneeling before Him with her sons, James and John, asked Jesus to allow one of her sons to sit on His right and one of her sons to sit on His left, on thrones in His kingdom.
From other passages of Scripture, we know her name to be Salome and that she was Mary’s sister. As Jesus’ aunt, she had family influence and she used that to try to sway Jesus into accepting her request. Several commentators note that this may have added to the indignation of the other disciples. Not only were James and John asking for the most prominent positions in the kingdom of God, but they also got their mother, Jesus’ aunt, involved in the request and allowed her to present the request to Jesus.  
In His reply, Jesus emphasized “the cup”. In verse 22 He asked them, “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
Significance of the Cup
In Scripture, the cup that one drinks refers symbolically to one’s destiny. It can be one of blessing, such as in Psalm 23:5, My cup overflows”, or it can refer to drinking the proper, righteous, and terrifying wrath of Almighty God. Most often, in Scripture, the cup refers to “drinking in” the wrath of God. For example:
Psalm 75:8 – For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.
Jeremiah 25:15-16 – This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.”
Revelation 14:9, 10 – If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of His wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.
Revelation 16:19 – Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.
Whenever we look at the elements of the Lord’s Supper, we are visually reminded that Jesus drank the cup of God’s righteous and proper wrath against sin for us. Jesus described that heavy weight of God’s wrath as a cup in Matthew 26. When Jesus went to pray in Gethsemane, we read:
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (37-39).
Jesus knew full well that He would be drinking the cup of God’s righteous wrath against sin.  Knowing what lay ahead of Him, He asked James and John, “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” Their answer shows how little they knew about their Lord. “We can,” they naïvely replied.
And Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” (23)
The answer of Jesus was fulfilled in the life of James and John, as they drank the cup of suffering for the sake of their Lord. James was the first disciple to be martyred as Herod put him to the sword (Acts 12:2), and John lived out his life in isolation on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9).
Greatness Measured by Humility
As Jesus prepared to drink the cup of God’s wrath – to take the curse and judgment of your sins and mine upon Himself – He also taught His disciples, in verses 26 to 28 that greatness in God’s sight comes from faithful, humble service.
The disciples’ view of greatness was like most of our views of greatness today. Most people picture the greatest person as the person who climbs highest on the “ladder” – whether it is the corporate ladder in business, the political ladder, or any other place of prominence in the public eye, including often the visible church.
In Matthew 19:28 the Lord had told the disciples that they would sit with Him on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. They assumed that they would be people of great prominence. They still had not comprehended how the kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom and how greatness in God’s kingdom is the opposite of greatness as the world measures greatness. In verses 25 and 26, Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”
There is a well-known devotional book called The Practice of the Presence of God. It was written by a man whose name was Nicolas Herman, but when he became a monk, in the year 1666, he was called Brother Lawrence. His work as a monk was in the kitchen. He was in charge of all the cooking utensils, pots, and pans. At first, he couldn’t stand his work but then he began to realize that the pots and pans and all those utensils had to be washed and cleaned and ready to use, so he prayed that he would always remember the presence of God, and seek His glory, even in the menial task of being a dishwasher. His book of devotions, describing the blessing of serving God in even the most menial of positions, is still widely read today.
But although Brother Lawrence was humble in his service as a dishwasher, how much more humble was Jesus? Since Jesus is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit – since Jesus is truly God in human flesh – He could have come to this earth with pomp and circumstance. He could have been born in the palace to show that He is the true King over every earthly king. But instead, the true eternal God chose to be born in a manger and to be revealed to shepherds who were the lowest class on the social totem pole of the first century.
When He began His public ministry, He chose His disciples from common people. Luke was a doctor, but for the most part, the disciples were blue-collar working men. Jesus not only chose them to be His disciples, but He also often hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes, people who were disdained by the Pharisees, and others who prided themselves on their self-righteousness.
His humility on earth was shown in many ways, including when He took the towel and the basin and washed His disciples’ feet. But His ultimate humility was shown in that He, in the words of Philippians 2:6, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus set the ultimate example of humility. He practiced what he taught. He said to His disciples in verses 26 to 28, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus not only redeemed us from our sin by His humiliation on the cross, but he also set an example for us. God values faithful humble service, even if it is menial service, or seemingly insignificantly small service, such as giving a glass of water in His name.
We are saved for a purpose, to live to the praise of God’s glorious grace. And that purpose includes good deeds before ordained for us to do, for as Ephesians 2:10 tells us: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
And Galatians 6:9, 10: Let us not become weary in doing good…As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Titus 2:14 adds that Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”
Those Scriptures, and so many others like them, harmonize with the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
A Ransom for Many
In His response Jesus, thirdly, revealed the purpose of His coming to earth. He came, verse 28 tells us “to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The meaning of the word ransom is rooted in the price paid to redeem a slave from their slavery.  Jesus paid the price, on the cross, for your sin and mine, As Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:18, 19: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
This payment of a ransom to redeem us from our bondage to sin and Satan was not a ransom to Satan as the early church father, Origen, taught. Rather, the ransom, the shed blood of Christ, was a propitiation – a covering of our sin – to remove the righteous and proper wrath of God from us as it was poured out on Jesus. As such, it was a substitutionary ransom – a substitutionary atonement – as Jesus took the curse of your sin and mine upon Himself on the cross as God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)
The substitutionary atonement of Christ is certainly powerful enough to take away the sins of everyone in the entire world, but Jesus Himself says that it was given as a ransom for many, not for all. This is in harmony with many other passages. For instance, when the angel appeared to Joseph, he said, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Likewise, in John 10:15 Jesus describes how he lays down his life for the sheep. And in John 17:9, in his high-priestly prayer, He prayed, “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.”
In his commentary, William Hendriksen writes:
There are passages, however, which taken out of their context, seem to teach that Jesus came to earth in order to pay the ransom for every individual living on earth in the past, present, and future. As soon as those passages are interpreted in the light of their contexts it immediately appears that this is not the meaning. Rather, the river-bed of grace has broadened. The church has become international, and it is in that sense that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11). (New Testament Commentary on Matthew, Pg. 750)
The so-called “universal passages” show us, not that Jesus died for every person who has lived, but that He came to redeem “all” people in the sense that the gospel is not just for Israel, as in the Old Testament, but for all the world, for all nations, tongues and tribes, Jews and Gentiles alike, and all classes of people: Slave and free, men and women, nobility and working class, just as Colossians 3:11, and many other passages, describe.
And that’s not just a theological point – a theological hammer to hammer Arminians with. (Arminians being those who hold to the view of Jacob Arminius, who taught universal atonement, the errors of which are clearly refuted by the above verses, and also summarized as false views in the Canons of Dort). Rather, God’s electing love for His chosen people is emphasized in Scripture so that we are brought face to face, over and over, with the greatness of God’s grace. By His electing love, we are repeatedly reminded that our salvation is not based on what we have done, but on what Christ has done for us as He fulfilled His Father's will. 
He gave His life as a ransom for many, not for all. And He had every right to do so. The question is never “Why doesn’t God save everyone?” but “Why does God save anyone?” In the words of Romans 9:22-24, “What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
And if this morning you and I have saving faith in Christ alone, then you and I are among the many “...not because of righteous things we (have) done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7)
It all goes back to God’s grace. As Isaac Watts wrote in stanzas 3 and 4 of the hymn, How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place:
Why was I made to hear Your voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”
’Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.
Throughout the Bible, Old Testament and New, we see that our salvation is all of God’s grace and not our perceived merit or wisdom.
God’s Righteous Wrath and the Cup of Blessing
By way of application, whenever we take the elements of the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded that the cup of God’s wrath becomes, through Christ’s sacrifice, the cup of blessing to those who have saving faith in Christ alone.
In this passage, we hear Jesus describe how He will be mocked and flogged and crucified” (19). Why? Because He will drink the cup of God’s wrath against your sin and mine. He came to do His Father’s will, and that included His sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection. Through that sacrifice, the cup of God’s wrath becomes for those of us who believe in Jesus with true saving faith, the cup of God’s blessings.
In 1 Corinthians 10:16, the Apostle asks: Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break participation in the body of Christ?”
Because Jesus drank the cup of His Father’s righteous and proper wrath against sin, you and I, and all those who have saving faith in Jesus, drink not the cup of wrath, but the cup of blessing.
We drink the cup of blessing not only because our sins are propitiated – covered – by the precious blood of Jesus, but we also drink the cup of blessing because Jesus has perfectly kept every aspect of the law.
Every commandment you and I have broken, Jesus kept perfectly. And He not only covers our sin with His blood but He also imputes to those who have saving faith in Him alone, His perfect record of righteous obedience to every nuance – every iota, every jot and tittle of the law.
In my personal devotions, I have been reading the gospel of John. Last week I came across the familiar account of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus. I read the verse that is the shortest verse in most English translations of the Bible, John 11:35, Jesus wept.”   
But whenever I read that verse, I can’t help but remember that the shortest verse in the Bible in the Textus Receptus – the Greek New Testament that many English translations are based on – is not John 11:35. It is 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Rejoice always.”  In the Koine Greek of the New Testament, 16 letters are used in John 11:35 “Jesus wept”, but only 14 letters are used in 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always.”
We can only rejoice because Jesus wept. We know true joy because Jesus knew the ultimate sorrow: separation from His Father for our sakes as He drank the cup of God’s righteous and proper wrath against your sin and mine so that we might drink the cup of God’s blessing.
And that is why the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is properly called The Celebration of the Lord’s Supper. It is, on the one hand, solemn and serious as we remember vividly that the consequence of your sin and mine sent Jesus to the cross.
But on the other hand, the sacrament is indeed a celebration as we are visually reminded that Jesus wept that we might rejoice. He died that we might live. He drank the cup of God’s wrath that we might drink forever the cup of blessing, the cup of thanksgiving and praise! Amen.
sermon outline:
“Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” – Matthew 20:21c
                              “Drinking From the Cup”
                                     Matthew 20:17-28
I.  In this passage Jesus:
     1) Tells His disciples privately (17b) additional details of His
          impending death:
          a) His death will be at the hands of both Jews and Gentiles (18)
          b) He will be mocked, flogged, and crucified before rising from
               the dead (19)
     2) Salome, the mother of James and John and sister to Mary, (thus
         Jesus’ Aunt) asks that they would have a place of prominence. In
         His reply Jesus:
          a) Emphasized the cup” (22, 23), which is a reference to one’s
              destiny, but often refers to God’s wrath (Psa. 75:8; Jer. 25:15;
              Rev. 14:9, 10; 16:19)
          b) Taught that greatness in God’s sight comes from faithful,
               humble service (26-27)
          c) Revealed the purpose of His coming to earth: “to serve, and to
              give His life as a ransom for many” (28)
II. Application (to the Lord’s Supper): The cup of God’s wrath (22)
     becomes, through Christ’s sacrifice (28, Matthew 26:39), the cup of
     God’s blessing to those who believe in Him (1 Corinthians 10:16)



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Ted Gray

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