He walked ahead of the disciples, toward Jerusalem, and they were amazed and afraid. Why amazed and afraid?
They knew, but did not understand. They knew that the Lord, the Prince of Peace, full of unadulterated love and truth–they knew that He lived to fulfill His destiny. Doing the will of the Father inevitably would come to mean cruel suffering and death. An innocent lamb slaughtered.
The disciples knew all this, because He had told them. But they did not understand. Let’s try it on for size ourselves. He asks us, just as He asked James and John, “Can you drink the chalice that I must drink and undergo my baptism?”
Now, the irony of what Jesus goes on to say in this exchange offers us perhaps the greatest insight into the tenderness of His fatherly love.
He speaks here, of course, not with strangers, but with most-intimate friends. He has shared countless tender moments with James and John, as He has shared countless tender moments with us. Can you drink My chalice? They answer His question, “Yes, we can!” He knows perfectly well that No, they can’t.
When the time comes, when the vise tightens, when the accuser from hell heaps empty charges of evil and darkness against the true Light of good, when the Holy Face gets pummeled by buffets and spitting–at that moment, as we know, the hearts of these two friends did not prove themselves firm. When Jesus faced death, when He had to chose the truth over eating a meal or waking up in the morning ever again–He chose truth. –Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Most-High God?
James and John were standing with the rest of us then. Standing among the doubters, who wonder whether the Kingdom of Christ is real. When God was condemned to death, He stood utterly alone and friendless, with the entire human race arrayed with the accuser–a race that can’t, won’t believe.
But what did Jesus say to James and John? He said, Yes, you will share my chalice. My Father has assigned your places. All that must be done for you to take them is for me to die in unimaginable solitude. Then we can come together again. You, too, will fulfill the will of My father–with Me filling your souls with Myself.
The mystery of Christ’s utter solitude in His Passion. The mystery of our own helpless struggle with the evil angels of our nature. Faith, redemption, hope, and the future open up before us when these two dark pits meet. Then we greet the crucified Christ with adoring gratitude, begging Him, “Lord, I do believe! Let me come into Your kingdom with You!”