24 April 2011 Leave a comment
The Golden Goblet by Max Lucado, from Six Hours One Friday
Flames leap from the hill. Pillows of smoke float upward. Orange tongues crack and pop.
From the midst of the blaze comes a yell — the protest of a prisoner as the dungeon door is locked; the roar of a lion as he feels the heat of the burning jungle.
The cry of a lost son as he looks for his father.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The words ricochet from star to star, crashing into the chamber of the King. Couriers from a bloody battlefield, they stumble into the King’s presence. Bruised and broken, they plea for help, for relief.
The soldiers of the King prepare to attack. They mount their steeds and position their shields. They draw their swords.
But the King is silent. It is the hour for which he has planned. He knows his course of action. He has awaited those words since the beginning — since the first poison was smuggled into the kingdom.
It came camouflaged. It came in a golden cup with a long stem. It was in the flavor of fruit. It came, not in the hands of a king, but from the hands of a prince — the prince of the shadows.
Until this moment there had been no reason to hide in the Garden. The King walked with his children and the children knew their King. There were no secrets. There were no shadows.
Then the prince of shadows entered the Garden. He had to hide himself. He was too ugly, too repulsive. Craters marred his face. So he came in darkness. He came encircled in ebony. He was completely hidden; only his voice could be heard.
“Taste it,” he whispered, holding the goblet before her. “It’s sweet with wisdom.”
The daughter heard the voice and turned. She was intrigued. Her eyes had never seen a shadow. There was something tantalizing about his hiddenness.
The King watched. His army knew the prince of shadows would be no contest for their mighty legion. Eagerly, they awaited the command to attack. But no command was given.
“The choice is hers,” the King instructed. “If she turns to us for help, that is your command to deliver her. If she doesn’t turn, if she doesn’t look to me — don’t go. The choice is hers.”
The daughter stared at the goblet. Rubies embedded in gold filigree invited her touch. Wine wooed her to taste. She reached out and took the cup and drank the poison. Her eyes never looked up.
The venom rushed through her, distorting her vision, scarring her skin, and twisting her heart. She ducked into the shadow of the prince.
Suddenly, she was lonely. She missed the intimacy she was made to know. Yet rather than return to the King, she chose to lure another away from him. She replenished the goblet and offered it to the son.
Once again the army snapped into position. Once again, they listened for the command of the King. His words were the same. “If he looks to me, then rush to him. If he doesn’t, then don’t go. The choice is his.”
The daughter placed the goblet into the hands of the son. “It’s all right,” she assured. “It’s sweet.” The son looked at the delight that danced in her eyes. Behind her stood a silhouetted figure.
“Who is he?” the son asked.
“Drink it,” she insisted. Her voice was husky with desire.
The goblet was cold against Adam’s lips. The liquid burned his innocence. “More?” he requested as he ran his finger through the dregs on the bottom and put it to his mouth.
The Soldiers looked to their King for instructions. His eyes were moist.
“Bring me your sword!” The general dismounted and stepped quickly toward the throne. He extended the unsheathed blade before the King.
The King didn’t take it, he merely touched it. As the tip of his finger encountered the top of the sword, the iron grew orange with heat. It grew brighter and brighter until it blazed.
The general held the fiery sword and awaited the King’s command. It came in the form of an edict.
“Their choice will be honored. Where there is poison, there will be death. Where there are goblets, there will be fire. Let it be done.”
The general galloped to the Garden and took his post at the gate. The flaming sword proclaimed that the kingdom of light would never again be darkened by the passing of shadows. The King hated the shadows. He hated them because in the shadows the children could not see their King. The King hated the goblets. He hated them because they made the children forget the Father.
But outside the Garden the circle of the shadow grew larger and more empty goblets littered the ground. More faces were disfigured. More eyes saw distortedly. More souls were twisted. Purity was forgotten and all sight of the King was lost. No one remembered that once there was a kingdom without shadows.
In their hands were the goblets of selfishness.
On their lips was the litany of the liar. “Taste it. It’s sweet.”
And, true to the words of the King, where there was poison, there was death. Where there were goblets, there was fire. Until the day the King sent his Prince.
The same fire that ignited the sword now lit a candle and placed it amidst the shadows.
His arrival, like that of the goblet bearer, did not go unnoticed.
“A star!” was how his coming was announced. “A bright light in a dark sky.” A diamond glittering in the dirt.
“Burn brightly, my Son,” whispered the King.
Many times the Prince of Light was offered the goblet. Many times it came in the hands of those who’d abandoned the King. “Just a taste, my friend?” With anguish Jesus would look into the eyes of those who tried to tempt him. What is this poison that would make a prisoner try to kill the one who came to release him?
The goblet still bore the seductive flavor of promised power and pleasure. But to the Son of Light its odor was vile. The very sight of the goblet so angered the Prince that he knocked it out of the hand of the tempter, leaving the two alone, locked in an intense glare.
“I will taste the poison,” swore the King’s Son. “For this I have come. But the hour will be mine to choose.”
Finally that hour came. The Son went for one last visit with his Father. He met Him in another garden. A garden of gnarled trees and stony soil.
“Does it have to be this way?”
“Is there no one else who can do it?”
The King swallowed, “None but you.”
“Do I have to drink from the cup?”
“Yes, my Child. The same cup.”
He looked at the Prince of Light. “The darkness will be great.” He passed his hand over the spotless face of his Son. “The pain will be awful.” Then he paused and looked at his darkened dominion. When he looked up, his eyes were moist. “But there is no other way.”
The Son looked into the stars as he heard the answer. “Then, let it be done.”
Slowly the words that would kill the Son began to come from the lips of the Father.
“Hour of death, moment of sacrifice, it is your moment. Rehearsed a million times on false altars with false lambs; the moment of truth has come.
“Soldiers, you think you lead him? Ropes, you think you bind him? Men, you think you sentence him? He heeds not your commands. He winces not at your lashes. It is my voice he obeys. It is my condemnation he dreads. And it is your souls he saves.
“Oh, my Son, my Child. Look up into the heavens and see my face before I turn it. Hear my voice before I silence it. Would that I could save you and them. But they don’t see and they don’t hear.
“The living must die so that the dying can live. The time has come to kill the Lamb.
“Here is the cup, my Son. The cup of sorrows. The cup of sin.
“Slam, mallet! Be true to your task. Let your ring be heard throughout the heavens.
“Lift him, soldiers. Lift him high to his throne of mercy. Lift him up to his perch of death. Lift him above the people that curse his name.
“Now plunge the tree into the earth. Plunge it deep into the heart of humanity. Deep into the strata of time past. Deep into the seeds of time future.
“Is there no angel to save my Isaac? Is there no hand to redeem the Redeemer?
“Here is the cup, my Son. Drink it alone.”
God must have wept as he performed his task. Every lie, every lure, every act done in shadows was in that cup. Slowly, hideously they were absorbed into the body of the Son. The final act of incarnation.
The Spotless Lamb was blemished. Flames began to lick his feet.
The King obeys his own edict. “Where there is poison, there will be death. Where there are goblets, there will be fire.”
The King turns away from his Prince. The undiluted wrath of a sin-hating Father falls upon his sin-filled Son. The fire envelops him. The shadow hides him. The Son looks for his Father, but his Father cannot be seen.
“My God, my God… why?”
The throne room is dark and cavernous. The eyes of the King are closed. He is resting.
In his dream he is again in the Garden. The cool of the evening floats across the river as the three walk. They speak of the Garden — of how it is, of how it will be.
“Father…” the Son begins. The King replays the word again. Father. Father. The word was a flower, petal-delicate, yet so easily crushed. Oh, how he longed for his children to call him Father again.
A noise snaps him from his dream. He opens his eyes and sees a transcendent figure gleaming in the doorway.
“It is finished, Father. I have come home.”
If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe
that God raised him from death, you will be saved.
For it is by our faith that we are put right with God;
it is by our confession that we are saved.
— Romans 10: 9-10 (Good News Translation)
Blessings to you on this Resurrection Sunday.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!