Communion connects us to the Passover, and the cup of wine that Jesus had... or was it cups? And why are these cups not mentioned in Exodus?
““These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the Lord’s Passover. On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the Lord! But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:11–13, NLT)
This morning, as is our custom on the first Sunday of each month, we celebrate communion. So, I thought this would be a great Sunday for us to look at one of the elements of this celebration so that we can better understand and respond to the work of Christ that we remember.
There are 2 elements that are presented in the Lord’s Supper, or communion. Actually, there are a lot of other amazing components to the Passover meal – the lamb, the bitter herbs, etc, but as we, the post-resurrection church of Christ, celebrate communion, we have 2 specific elements that we share: the bread and the cup.
NOTE: previously I did a sermon on the bread, you can watch that online on our website.
Today, as we examine Communion (the Lord’s Supper), I want us to look at the CUP.
SIDENOTE: the cups that are referred to are wine. Yes; alcoholic, fermented wine. The fact that Paul condemns the Corinthian church for getting drunk during communion (1 Cor 11) should be proof enough of this.
I think we have to be clear that the Bible does not condemn wine or alcohol – Jesus even turned water into wine! The Bible does condemn drunkenness, not drinking alcohol.
In 1869, Dr. Thomas Welch figured out how to preserve the juice of grapes without fermenting by pasteurizing it. Since he was a prohibitionist and a communion steward at First United Wesleyan Church of Vineland NJ (https://sites.google.com/site/vinelandfirstumc/home/celebrating-150-years) introduced “Dr Welch’s Unfermented Wine” which we now know as Welch’s Grape Juice. This started a large movement of churches to offer non-alcoholic communion juice, especially during the Prohibition years.
As a church, we choose to use grape juice and not wine. Not because there is anything wrong with alcohol or wine, but because it would be illegal for us to offer it to the children publicly, and because we do not want to temp anyone that might struggle with alcoholism.
- If you have questions or conflicts with the bible’s view of alcohol use/abuse, please feel free to email me your bible study notes on the topic so that we can setup a time to dialog about it.
Since Pastor Len will be continuing in the book of 1 Corinthians in September, and chapter 11 talks about communion, I am going to avoid that passage J Instead, I would like look at Dr Luke’s words:
“When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.” He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.” (Luke 22:14–20, NLT)
The Passover is what Jesus was celebrating with his disciples, as the verses in Exodus 12 pointed out. However, that OT passage does not mention cups of wine or breaking bread. Where did that come from? For us to understand the significance of the cups, we need to understand the traditional Jewish customs.
The Passover Seder included the reading of the Haggadah – a guide for the rituals of the meal and the history of the Exodus. In our main passage, you have 2 cups mentioned. One before the meal and one after the meal. However, in common Jewish practice of the Passover Seder, 4 cups were consumed.
For a free PDF of the Haggadah (the script for the Passover Seder) visit: http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0066/6142/files/Free_Passover_Haggadah.pdf?1298
CUP 1 – is consumed at the conclusion of the Kiddush or blessing over the wine and the holiday. Immediately after this the second cup is poured.
After this, there is the washing of hands, a vegetable in salt water is consumed, and the matzah (unleavened bread) is broken.
THEN the Maggid (story) of the Exodus is shared/read which obviously includes the First Passover that took place in Egypt.
CUP 2 – at the end of the story, a blessing is recited over the second cup and it is consumed.
After this there is another washing, blessings over the grains and matzah, and some of the matzah, the bitter herbs and the dinner are consumed. After dinner, a special piece of the matzah is consumed as “dessert”.
CUP 3 - After the meal & dessert, the third cup of wine is poured and the Barekh (grace after meals) is recited. At the end, a blessing is said over the third cup and it is consumed.
The fourth cup is poured at this time, and the door is left open. This cup is set aside for the prophet Elijah who will herald in the Messiah.
The Hallel (praises) take place next, with several psalms being recited.
CUP 4 – After the Hallel, a blessing is recited over the last cup of wine and it is consumed.
Each of the 4 cups had a name:
For more information about the Jewish custom of the cups, check out the first 2 pages of this document: http://www.jewsforjesus.org/files/pdf/newsletter/newsletter-2002-03.pdf
During the meal recorded in the Gospel of Luke, there is breaking of bread and drinking of wine. We should not be surprised as that is what Jesus was doing with his disciples. By reading through the Haggadah you understand a little more about the blessing of the cup and the blessing of the bread. It was all part of the meal.
The passage in Luke is the only one that references more than one cup, Matthew & Mark only reference one cup, after supper.
In Luke, the first cup that is mentioned is before the meal, so it would have been one of the first 2 cups. Scholars seem to disagree on which, and we can only speculate. There would be significance in both!
If the first cup, then the blessing of the holiday – of the reason for the celebration – would be significant as showing Jesus’ acceptance and even thankfulness for the horrid but necessary events to come.
If the second cup, after the story of the exodus, then it would be a pungent statement as that cup took place after the “telling” of God’s redemption from slavery.
The gospels talk about the breaking of the bread (which comes after the story and the second cup of wine). This would be part of the Passover meal.
In 1 Corinthians, and Luke the passage is clear, “after supper he took a cup”. In the most literal sense this would be the cup shared after the “Grace after meals”. In 1 Cor 10:13 Paul talks about the “cup of blessing” in connection to the Lord’s Supper, which would also connect it to the 3rd cup.
When Jesus associated his blood with the third cup, he was connecting his coming death with the redemption part of the Exodus. In essence, he was declaring himself our redeemer.
The blessings, breaking bread and drinking the wine is NOT what was revolutionary about the Lord’s Supper. The twist that Jesus put on it was that it was a meal that foreshadowed HIM and his death of the cross.
NOTE: just as we pointed out last week that the OT points to Jesus and the that book of Ruth points to Jesus as the redeemer of his bride and one who provides and inheritance, the OT Passover points to the sacrifice that turns away God’s wrath and frees us from slavery to sin.
This morning we celebrate and remember the completed work of Christ on the cross.
“It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.” (Hebrews 11:28, NLT)
Just as obedience through faith saved the Israelites from death and God’s judgement passed over them, every person living today can experience freedom from the slavery of sin and the punishment of God by believing in the work of Christ through faith and obeying him:
““For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17, NLT)
If you have believed in Jesus, then the work on the cross was accomplished for you! You are free! If not, why not? It is a simple as a prayer, “God, I know I deserve death. I believe that you sent Jesus to earth to die for my sins. Forgive me for my sins and give me new life – eternal life. I trust you. I want to live for you with Jesus as my Savior and boss of my life. Amen”
Closing Blessing (to be read AFTER communion)
“Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood— may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20–21, NLT)
Here are the other places in the Gospels where the Lord’s Supper is presented:
“As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Matthew 26:26–30, NLT)
“As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.” And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mark 14:22–26, NLT)