We love to shorten long phrases into acronyms. Sometimes, acronyms may have more than one meaning. Imagine the horror of the person who wants to send lots of love to someone who is going through a time of grief and includes the acronym LOL. If you don’t understand the problem, the usual meaning is Laughing Out Loud. In 2009 someone in Iowa, during one of those governmental shakeups designed to show the world that things are changing changed the name of the Department of Elder Affairs – ok, I can see why they wanted to rename that Department – to the Department on Aging. When too many elderly Iowans complained about being sent to DOA, the name was changed once again to the Iowa Department on Aging or IDA.
Acronyms can have two meanings in ways that spark laughter at the unintended irony. As a punster, I like words with two meanings because they make people groan when the wrong meaning of a word is used intentionally. Sometimes, though, the two meanings are significant and cause us to think. Jesus talked about the cup in two different places as He prepared for the future. “Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ … 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.’” (Matthew 26:27-28, 39)
At the last supper, as Jesus passed the cup around, He noted that the cup contained His blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Denominations have developed as people have split over the meaning of that phrase. Since Jesus hadn’t died yet, I take the position that this was symbolic. It was meant to represent the life that would be given to all who believed in Jesus through forgiveness of sins. God said in Leviticus 17:11 that the life of the flesh is in the blood and that the blood of sacrifices was given to make atonement for sins. This cup was drunk at the Passover celebration which celebrated the release of God’s people from Egypt. As important as this cup is, Jesus noted that HE would not drink it again until He came into the Kingdom. Yet, a few hours later when He’s praying in the garden, He asks the Father to take the cup that He was about to drink from Him. Psalm 75 describes a cup of God’s wrath that all the nations would drink at the final judgment. As Jesus went to the cross, He would take on Himself the wrath of God as He judged the world and convicted it of sin.
When we follow Jesus, we continue to live in His grace. We observe the Lord’s Supper and remember that He gave us this cup representing the new covenant of life. We remember that Jesus blood was shed for our sins. At the same time, we often overlook that this cup of life is possible because Jesus took on Himself that figurative cup of God’s wrath when He accepted the sins of the world on the cross. So what does that mean for us? I can tell you what it means for me. Each day I need to remind myself of the great sacrifice that Jesus made for me. He died on the cross and took God’s wrath on Himself so that I could be forgiven. Whatever I do, I can be forgiven. I can enter into a relationship with God because I’m forgiven. I can become conformed to the image of Christ because I’m forgiven. While I deserve God’s wrath for all the times that I have turned against Him, I receive grace that doesn’t just overlook my sin, it obliterates it and throws it as far as the east is from the west. Now comes the hard part: because I am not subject to wrath, because I am forgiven, I need to forgive others. I need to avoid showing wrath even against people whom I have every right as a human to be angry with. Dare I say that when I became a follower of Christ, I gave up that right? God’s grace and forgiveness compels us to show grace and forgiveness to others.
Oh Lord, I can’t thank You enough for Your mercy and grace in my life. Remind me when I get angry or hurt that the best way to thank You is to show Your mercy and grace to those who hurt me. Let me follow Your example.