So do you think the St. Louis Blues will ever drink from the Cup? The Blues are of course the National Hockey League team in St. Louis. Founded in 1967, they have never won the NHL championship. They have never won the Stanley Cup.
The Stanley Cup is certainly the most unique of all of the professional sports league trophies. There are in fact three Stanley Cups. There is the original bowl of the "Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup", the authenticated "Presentation Cup", and the "Replica Cup" at the Hall of Fame. Strangely, while the NHL has control over both the trophy itself and its associated trademarks, the league does not actually own the trophy, but instead uses it by agreement with the two Trustees of the Cup.
The current Stanley Cup is topped with a copy of the original bowl. It is unique among sports trophies in that a team doesn’t get to keep it. Instead, they possess if for as long as they are champion. It is also unique in that the names of the winning players, coaches and club staff are engraved on the cup. The bottom of the cup has five bands, each of which can hold the names from thirteen winning teams. Since the practice of adding names would eventually expand the cup up to a size that is impossible to manage, the bottom of the cup is limited to five bands, and when all of them are full, the oldest band is removed and placed in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a new blank band is added to the bottom.
Over the years, different traditions have become attached to the Stanley Cup. It has become a tradition for each member of the winning team to take a lap around the rink with the Cup hoisted above his head. Players and staff gather at centre ice after winning for a picture with the Cup.
However, the oldest tradition is that of drinking champagne from the Stanley Cup. Since 1896 when the Winnipeg Victorias did it, the winning team drinks champagne from the top bowl after victory. In hockey, “to drink from the Cup” is the ultimate sign of victory and success. Having never won the Stanley Cup, St. Louis Blues fans long for the day when their team will finally the get chance to do it.
In the Passion of our Lord as it is found in the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of his need to “drink the cup.” Yet here, to drink from the cup has completely different associations – associations that are deeply rooted in the Old Testament. The fact that Jesus describes his mission as drinking from the cup that the Father has given him, helps us understand what Jesus Christ did for us on this day.
The Gospel lesson for Good Friday is the Passion of our Lord as it is found in the Gospel of John. Tonight we will focus upon two verses which say: “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”’”
Last night in the First Service of the Triduum we heard John’s account of the Last Supper in chapter thirteen. There, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet in a demonstration of humble service. Chapters fourteen through seventeen then include what is often called Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” – a long discussion by Jesus about his mission. Our text begins in chapter eighteen as the group arrives at the Garden of Gethsemane which was located on the other side of the Kidron Valley, opposite Jerusalem.
Upon arrival, Jesus is confronted by a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees who came with lanterns and torches and weapons. They were led by Judas who is identified as the betrayer. We are told that he led them there because he knew that Jesus often went there. A garden on the other side of a valley, away from Jerusalem, and at night – it was the perfect place and time to arrest Jesus.
Faced with this group that had come to arrest Jesus and take him away, true to form, Peter sprung into action. We learn that he had a sword. He drew it and swung to defend Jesus. Yet this fisherman was no soldier and his blow cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. In response, Jesus said, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” Our Lord told Peter to put his sword away as he asked a question for which the Greek assumes a positive answer.
Jesus describes the moment and what it is leading to as drinking “the cup that the Father has given to me.” For anyone who has read the Psalms and the Prophets in the Old Testament, the cup reference is chilling and clear. For example, Isaiah writes, “Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem,
you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.” Drinking from the cup is a metaphor for receiving God’s wrath and judgment. As the Psalmist says, “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.” People and nations must drink all of the cup – down to the very bottom. The results are not pretty, for as Jeremiah writes, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ’Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.’”
In the Old Testament it is Yahweh who gives the cup of wrath for he is the one who executes judgment. He gives it to the nation of Israel when it is disobedient and unfaithful. He gives it to the wicked and the pagan nations. But here, Jesus the Son of God says that the Father has given him the cup. The Father gives the cup of wrath to the Son.
That is what tonight is about. Jesus goes to the cross in order to drink the cup of God’s wrath. He goes knowing what will happen. He goes because this is the role that the Father has given to him. In John’s Gospel Jesus is absolutely clear about what is going to happen and why. Earlier, Jesus said, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”
Jesus had received from the Father the command to lay down his life. And on the night when was betrayed our Lord made it clear that his love for the Father was demonstrated by doing the Father’s will. He said, “but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”
Jesus Christ shows that he loves the Father by keeping the Father’s command to drink the cup of wrath. And he does this because often you don’t love the Father. There are so many things, that at one time or another, you love more. You love money, status, sports, hobbies, and pleasure more. You can try to rationalize it in your mind. You can try to ignore this reality. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is true.
Jesus Christ shows that he loves the Father by keeping the Father’s command to drink the cup of wrath. And he does this because often you don’t keep the Father’s command. In his first epistle John wrote, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” You talk a good game about loving God, but loving your brother is a different matter altogether. You would rather put yourself first and you brother second. You would rather speak about things that put your brother in a bad light, than to speak up for your brother.
This is the sin present in your life. It is the sin that merits the cup of Gods’s wrath. You deserve to drink that cup down to its dregs. But because the Father loves you, in his unfathomable love he sent his Son into world as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He sent Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world by his death in your place.
As Jesus spoke with Nicodemus in chapter three he said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus was lifted up on the cross on Good Friday in order to receive God’s wrath against your sin. He drank the cup of God’s wrath against sin for your sake.
John says that God loved the world – loved you – in this way “that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” God sent the Son into the world in order to condemn the Son, not the world. He sent the Son into the world in order to condemn the Son, not you. And so now as you believe in Jesus Christ you are saved – you have eternal life.
Tonight we hear Jesus cry “It is finished!” as he is about to die on the cross. He declares that he has kept the Father’s commandment. The cup has been emptied. God’s wrath against sin no longer brings you judgment. Instead you are forgiven. You have been saved through him. You have life because “It is finished” is not the end. Drinking the cup was not the Father’s only command to the Son, for Jesus said of his life, “I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”