I’ll never forget the day my dad and I took on the Porkasaurus challenge at Bailey’s, a diner in Omaha. This monstrous breakfast consisted of (takes a deep breath) pork, bacon, sausage patties, sausage links, country sausage, Canadian bacon, ham steak, Andouille sausage, red potatoes, jack and cheddar cheese, 3 eggs (any style), a buttered biscuit, toast, and sausage gravy (exhales).
It was, as the name suggests, an absolute beast of a meal, yet I entered the challenge completely confident in my ability to take it down. Despite my lanky frame, I can put down some food when I need to.
And I needed all my strength to tackle this obstacle. Though I worked quickly, about 10 minutes into the meal the amount of protein and carbs began to take its toll. I finished the challenge, but it was a grind, and I can fully admit I was too cocky at the beginning.
So it was with James and John, brothers and two of Jesus’ apostles, in Matthew 20.
There’s a red flag right at the beginning of this event. The two brothers wanted seats of power when Jesus established His kingdom, sitting at His direct right and left. But rather than ask for this blessing themselves, they had their mom pop the question.
After their mother presented the request, Jesus turned to the brothers. “Can you drink from the cup I am going to drink?” He was referring to the extreme pain and torture He would face at the hands of the religious leaders, Romans, and hell itself. That’s a pretty big ask.
Yet James and John were all game: “We can.”
These guys had no idea what they were saying.
Save for Judas, the disciples suffered greatly for their faith – it’s believed that 10 were executed for their beliefs. John died of old age, but not before being tortured and exiled. The cup was bitter indeed.
Our status as believers does not shield us from earthly struggles. In fact, Jesus promises calamity in this life in John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
It’s human nature to flee pain: who would want to sign up for it? Yet that’s what drinking from the bitter cup means. In the moment, it’s not going to taste good.
But we can have confidence that Jesus will always remain by our side: “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
We can’t take on the bitter cup alone. It’s too much for us to bear. But when we have Jesus by our side, things become more manageable. The impossible becomes attainable.
We don’t have to eat a mound of bread, breakfast meats, and eggs on our own. God is there to share the meal, painful as it may seem in the moment.