~by Randy Bushey
In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20).
All over the pandemic-stricken world, Christ-followers are missing the pure, simple delight of the shared experience of being together as a gathered community of faith.
And one of those particularly rich times – from the time of New Testament church until the present – is assembling around the Lord’s table for the breaking of bread and drinking of His cup.
Here’s what I find interesting: when Christ celebrated His last Passover with His disciples, the cup of wine was central to the meal. And yet, the instructions of the Lord through Moses for that first Passover Seder (called Pesach by the Jewish people) mentioned no cup, no wine.
The concept of the cup has a rich biblical heritage, a metaphor through the Old Testament as a dual symbol of God’s blessing and cursing; of judgement and salvation; of wrath and redemption.
The psalmist famously asserted, my cup runneth over in Psalm 23 and delighted the cup of salvation (Psalm 116).
Conversely, the prophet Isaiah referenced the cup of trembling and the cup of fury in speaking of God’s anger. And Ezekiel added to the metaphor: the cup of horror and the cup of desolation.
Over the intervening 15 centuries from the time of Moses to the time of Christ, the Hebrew tradition evolved to add 4 cups of wine to the Passover celebration. Each was a symbol, although Jewish authorities are not agreed on what the 4 cups precisely represent.
Does each cup symbolize Hebrew freedom from 4 periods of national exile – from Egypt, from Babylon, from Greek subjugation, and finally from the current global oppression – from which their coming Messiah will ultimately liberate?
Or, does each cup look back to release from that Egyptian bondage: the 1st representing sanctification, the 2nd the plagues of Egypt, the 3rd redemption, with the 4th being called the hallel, meaning praise for vindication?
Regardless, the historical reflection on the Exodus story of violence in Egypt and victory in Hebrew liberation evoked binary memory of God’s blessing and cursing; of judgement and salvation; of wrath and redemption.
It is believed that when the Lord Jesus invested the cup with new meaning of His impending death and the blood He would shed, He chose the 3rd cup – the cup of redemption – to represent the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.
And later that same evening He again used the cup metaphor in His anguished pleading: My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will…He went away a second time and prayed, My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done (Matthew 26:39,42).
Takeaway: the shared experience of consuming that cup as instructed by Christ at the Last Supper, evokes memory and comprehension of the New Covenant it represents.
The Covenant He had not yet been finalized with His blood. But hours later as He finished His work on the Cross, the twofold consequence is clear:
a) for Him the cup was filled to the brim with cursing, judgment and wrath; but
b) for us, it pours out abundantly God’s blessing of salvation and redemption!
- graphic by Marcus Buckner, freeimages.com