The Cup, Part Three: Leadership is a Call to Die

By Francis Frangipane

In Matthew 20:17-19, Jesus sought to prepare His disciples for the hardships that awaited them. He warned that a time was coming when He would be mocked, scourged and crucified for the sake of redemption. In the midst of this utterly sober warning, incredibly, the mother of James and John requested of Jesus fulfillment of her family's ambitions! She said, "Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left" (v. 21).

She's thinking advancement, position and place; Jesus is thinking scourging, mocking and death. She's looking for the crown; Christ spoke of the cross. Jesus' answer speaks not only to silence her ambitions, He speaks to ours as well: "You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" (v. 22).

Amazingly, they said to Him, "We are able." In truth, they hadn't any idea of the price that was to be paid. It was only pride, ignorance and ambition talking. Yet, listen to how Jesus answered them: "My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father" (v.23).

Hear this you who desire true spiritual fulfillment. Jesus was telling them, I cannot fulfill your ambitions. I can only show you how to die.

Yet, even in their immaturity, Jesus knew they would overcome. He assures them, "My cup you shall drink." They would outgrow human ambition and become great examples for us. And we too shall drink His cup. Jesus describes the elements of that cup as He continued, again slaying the dragon of ambition,

"Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give Himself as a ransom for many" (vv. 27-28).

If we will advance with Christ, consider the words He uses to describe the doorway into power: "slave . . . serve . . . ransom." Notice, He didn’t point out the rewards, which are many; He showed them the way to true resurrection power. Give yourself as "a ransom" for the sake of your family, your church or city. Position yourself in prayer, fasting and faith for others. Stand in the gap so others might live. This is the cup that leads to spiritual fulfillment.

But let me assure you, this is not a gloomy path; this is the path to the life of heaven. For when Christ lives in us, He comes with an overwhelming, sustaining joy. The Scripture says, looking at the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross (Heb. 12:2). The cross delivers us from the prison of self-absorption; it releases us into the true reality of God, in whose "presence is fullness of joy" and in whose right hand are "pleasures forever" (Ps. 16:11).

One may argue, "You don't understand Francis, I've been hurt."

Yes, we all face heartache and disappointment, and the pains we experience can be deep. Yet, in seeking justice for ourselves, we must guard against the voice of self-pity. Indeed, self- pity keeps all our wounds alive. Instead of carrying the cross, we carry the offense. We must rebuke self-pity and command it to leave. We are followers of Christ! Therefore, forgive the offense and let it go. This is not a deep truth; it is the basic path of Christ!

Paul wrote of the source of miracles and virtue in his life. He said, "That the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted . . . but not crushed . . . always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus might be manifested in our body" (2 Cor. 4:7-10).

What is this "dying of Jesus"? It is dying in the manner Jesus died: when offenses come, when we are struck with injustice, when people fail or even betray us, we position ourselves in redemption; we pray the mercy prayer, "Father, forgive them." The only way ambition can be fulfilled is if we are ambitious for Christ to be revealed through us.

Paul continued,

"For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you" (2 Cor. 4:11-12).

Beloved, death has a work that it accomplishes in us. Is this not exactly what we desire above all things: "the life of Jesus . . . manifested in our mortal flesh"?

Paul says, "So death works in us." In the hands of our eternal Designer, death is not our enemy; it actually becomes an ally in the transformational process of our souls. It performs a work in us we cannot otherwise fulfill. For the death of our old self leads to the manifest life of Jesus.

Here abides true spiritual fulfillment, not in our striving to create a place for ourselves, but in laying down self to create a place for Jesus.

Leadership is a call to die. Spiritual maturity is to drink deeply of the cup of Christ.