Can you drink from my cup?

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” Matthew 20:20-22 

Dear members and friends,

The two sons of Zebedee are James and John, who became leaders among the first Christians in Jerusalem after the ascension of Jesus. In Matthew, their mother requested that they should sit at Jesus’s left and right side in the kingdom of heaven. To this Jesus replied, “You do not know what you are asking.” Then added, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” For this, both James and John answered, “We are able.” Reading the story about 2,000 years later, we know for sure that John and James did not know what they were asking for or what it meant to say “we are able to drink the cup of Jesus.” What might have caused this misunderstanding? Why couldn’t they understand the true purpose of Jesus’ messages, especially about his kingdom? 

In a way, it is a noticeably clear theme in the entire Bible, or even in the entire sacred Scriptures in the world, that people always misunderstand or misinterpret the message from their Divine. Why? The heart of the problem is quite simple: humans have a strong tendency to make all messages fit into the reality where their minds dwell, whose foundation is the physical reality. This is problematic because the message of Divine is often purposefully designed to elevate human minds to the spiritual reality, while human consciousness is innately and experientially attached to the physical reality. In short, human minds at birth are incapable of perceiving or understanding the true meaning of Divine message due to the fact that the divine message speaks to them in a way that is different to their reality (in the Bible this is what it means to say to be “holy.”). Consequently, most humans have done what we all are good at: they customized the Divine message to make sense to their earthly-bound minds. Therefore, all religious teachings, even ancient philosophies, emphasized the necessity of the inner transformation (or re-birth by Jesus), which is a process of enabling our consciousness to perceive the message from the Divine.  

The very first step of this inner transformation happens within us by accepting and admitting a universal truth: we are not born with the truth, and therefore must find and learn it. However, finding and learning truth is a complex journey. As the Chinese sage Confucius, emphasized 2,500 years ago, no one is born with knowledge. In other words, all our knowledge is a combination of what was articulated and taught by other humans and what we have personally learned and articulated. The key aspect is that all of our knowledge is from humans, including ourselves, whose consciousness is innately attached to the physical reality, while the truth taught by the Divine message illustrates matters and issues that are essentially non-physical. So, how and where can we search in hope of finding the spiritual truth? Swedenborg’s recommendation is to search for truth in the Sacred Scripture of one’s religious orientation, because they are divinely enabled to teach, inspire, and guide us in elevating our consciousness into the spiritual reality. 

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee