Two Cups But One Savior Matthew 20:20-34

*The battery on the camera died about 10 minutes in, we’re very sorry about that. The manuscript below isn’t word for word but it is very close.

“Two Cups, but One Savior”                                         3/12/23                                                Matthew 20:20-34

HI:  serve to give away your life in dependence on the savior who did give his life


There are plenty of biblical examples of a person asking for something that they don’t know what they’re asking for. 

  • One of my favorite’s is:  Numbers 22-24 Balak the King of Moab asking the mercenary prophet Balaam to curse Israel…
    • No matter what he did, he couldn’t curse Israel

We have a similar, if slightly more embarrassing story here:

  • Similar:  sons of Zebedee, James and John don’t realize what they’re asking
  • More embarrassing:  at least Balak wasn’t accompanied by his mom…

They clearly didn’t quite understand what Jesus’ mission was—not that I would’ve

Let’s look at this in three parts with a view to seeing how Jesus describes two cups—his unique cup of suffering and the cup of suffering in service that discipleship requires

First, a faulty request; second, the extended answer; and third, an example of dependence

  1. A faulty request (20-23)
    1. As a child you expect mom to do your talking, not so much as a grown man
    1. But she didn’t do it on her own in v. 22 the boys, James and John answered “we are able”
    1. They wanted the positions of highest authority in the kingdom
      1. Don’t fault them too harshly—they did kneel at v.20
        1. Act of respect and reverence
        1. They understood Jesus had the authority over the kingdom—He was the King
        1. They misunderstood how the kingdom would operate
    1. The brief answer in v. 22 and 23 about two cups
      1. Jesus uses the word cup in the same way OT prophets did—a metaphor for suffering
      1. First its Jesus’ cup, and only Jesus’ cup to die as the savior—this is the unique cup the Father gave the Son
        1. The cup of God’s wrath, or in Isaiah’s terms, the cup of staggering, “Thus says your Lord, the LORD, your God who pleads the cause of his people: “Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more;” (51:22)
        1. MT 26:38-9 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  Knowing the contents of the cup—God’s wrath, Jesus asks for a different way
        1. Jesus’ cup is full of suffering that is God’s punishment for sin
      1. They will drink from the second cup, which is the cup of suffering that all disciples must endure just by following Jesus
        1. James is one of the first martyrs in Acts (12)
        1. John isn’t martyred, so we know that Jesus is using this “cup” more generally for all followers, not just the martyrs who are called to die for the sake of the gospel
        1. Discipleship doesn’t mean you’ll have to die for the gospel, but it does mean that you’re willing to die for it and your life matches that profession
          1. Matthew 16:24-25 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
    1. We shouldn’t take away from this passage that Christianity is drudgery—a life of sad misery following a leader who died in misery calling us to be miserable as well.  NO!  Following Jesus is a source of joy for the believer, because Jesus is the ultimate enjoyment.  He is the perfect goal of life and perfect purpose for fulfilment—but every disciple has to live like you believe that.
      1. Suffering is inevitable  Philippians 1:29  “it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”
      1. And suffering for Christ is a privilege, Acts 5:41  Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
      1. When your purpose for living transcends life itself, there is joy in every circumstance; and related to that you can take confidence in that your suffering serves a purpose.
        1. Your good—it was good that I was afflicted, so that I would learn your statutes (ps. 119:71)
        1. The good of God’s people—what you meant for evil, God meant for good. (Gen. 50:20)
  2. An extended answer—a teachable moment
    1. V. 24– And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers.  Jesus used this opportunity to teach them all about His Kingdom.
    1. Jesus’ kingdom, the church, is different—“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you.
      1. The standards are different in Jesus’ kingdom
      1. Sermon on the Mount—ethics of the kingdom go further than outward obedience
        1. Murder=anger
        1. Lust=adultery
    1. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave
      1. Jesus calls his followers to radical service—using servant and slave shows that there’s no limit to what you are called to give in His radical service
      1. And contrasting “whoever would be great” and “first” with radical service demonstrates equality in the kingdom and our state as beggars before the king
        1. The Canaanite woman in Mt. 15  “even dogs get crumbs from the masters’ table”
        1. It’s not so much seeing how low we are (but we are lowly) as it is prizing even Jesus’ crumbs so highly we’re satisfied with whatever He decides to give
    1. Jesus points to himself “as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
      1. The ransom—here specifically buy a slave and give him his freedom
        1. Jesus bought the believer’s freedom from sin
        1. John 8:34-36  “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
          1. The price he paid was his death, propitiation for us—1 John 2:1-2 “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the world.”
            1. Propitiation—his death paid the debt of sin, and absorbed the holy wrath of God against our sin
          1. The ransom Jesus paid isn’t the example we can follow—our death won’t pay for any sins—not even our own.
      1. The example is service—Jesus was sent by the Father to serve
        1. We are called to serve like Jesus:  even to being a slave for the kingdom
          1. No rights except what the master says
          1. No property except what the master has given us
          1. Jesus became a slave to the cross, would our slavery be so much less?
        1. Our ability to serve is only as we depend on Jesus’ service—his death, becoming a slave to our sin and death equips believers to live for God.  Romans 6:6-14 “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. . . For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
          1. Believers can serve only as we depend on Jesus
  3. An example of dependence
    1. James and John didn’t see their need—like many believers they lost focus on Jesus
    1. The blind men knew their need all too well—Son of David, have mercy upon us!
    1. Matthew puts the book together in a specific way, the order is inspired as well as the words
      1. Jim, John and Mom come before the blind guys and after the parable of the laborers
      1. The blind guys understood how much they needed Jesus’ help—the two disciples thought Jesus should give them more than any other workers in the kingdom!
      1. Jesus had just told the disciples that he was sent to be humbled and to die, John and James believed their service would be best rendered through honor and authority
      1. Satan tempted Jesus with this very thing—to receive the throne without the cross!  Should we worship God’s Son who suffered and died without our own lives being marked by the same kind of trials?
    1. There’s more to Christian living than justification—namely sanctification (growing in grace and maturity, obedience, a lifestyle of worship and love), but it all starts with justification and every grace is the same grace that began your faith. 
      1. It’s not new grace or different grace—it’s all of one piece:  Romans 8:28-30  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
      1. Like the blind men—we must live by faith crying out to Jesus “have mercy on us, Son of David!”
        1. Mercy in repentance—knowing God’s trials are meant for our good to lead us to repentance, acknowledging that I am more sinful than I know
        1. Mercy in Dependence—John 15:4-5  “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
          1. Abide in your savior through repentance, faith, and turning to the means of grace
      1. Listen to Jesus’ call—we are called and gifted to serve
        1. 1 Cor. 12:27-13:7  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
          1. The body is called to love each other and we are gifted to love each other
          1. 1 Cor. 13 “the love chapter” comes in the middle of Paul’s discussion on how the church can best serve each other with the individual gifts God has given her
          1. We aren’t called to a task that we aren’t gifted for—“God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips those who are called”
          1. And he equips each individual to love other individuals and the body as a whole
        1. Jesus’ call is to sacrificial service and humility
          1. Our affirmation of faith—the Philippian Creed
          1. The approach—the preceding portion in Php
          1. Both about humble service and like this passage with mom, John and Jim, Php has an element to it that the people mentioned would probably rather not have in the Bible
            1. Euodia and Synteche not so humble, not so willing to count each other’s interests more important than their own (4:2 I entreat Euodia and Synteche to agree in the Lord)
          1. Look for ways to humbly love others—pray for them, pray for their good, their increase in faith and living standards, pray for them, not about them—we can all do that
            1. Be there for them to confide with you about their trials
            1. Find out what their great interests are and work toward making them a reality, even at a cost to you or your timetable
          1. And be courageous in living out and sharing your faith—Jesus is on his way to the cross, the disciples will soon be preaching about their ascended master rather than with him.  The call to serve is a call to serve in proclaiming the truth of Jesus’ love and service for sinners.  Amen.

The Philippian Creed

648  My Jesus I Love Thee

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.