by Pastor David Grey
“This is my body, which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” — 1 Corinthians 11:24-26
The Lord Jesus spoke these words during the celebration of the Passover meal.
With those words, He gave new significance to the broken unleavened bread and the 3rd cup of wine which were part of the traditional celebration. Originally, the Unleavened Bread was called the “bread of affliction” and had been made and eaten in haste before the Exodus from Egypt.
When the bread is eaten during the Passover meal, the host breaks the bread and says something along the lines of “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in want come and celebrate the Passover with us. May it be God’s will to redeem us from all evil and from all slavery.”
When Jesus broke the bread His disciples were expecting to hear something very similar, however, He surprised them by saying, “this is my body broken for you.”
Though they would probably not understand his meaning until later, Jesus was saying to the disciples that He who is the bread of life, would become the bread of affliction as all our sin and shame were laid upon Him.
Jesus did something similar when He, “took the cup.” Throughout the Passover Feast He carefully followed the same format as Jews had done for centuries, but then, surprisingly, He broke from tradition with words that must have startled the disciples.
During the Passover service four cups of wine were served. The third was called the “Cup of Blessing.” This is the cup Jesus took when the gospels report that, “after supper he took the cup.”
The third cup was the one served immediately after supper. At this point the people celebrating Passover would say something like, “I will take the chalice of salvation and I will call upon the name of the Lord.”
However, when Jesus served this cup, He said “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,” pointing to Himself as the blessing and our salvation.
The Passover Feast was always meant to foreshadow the One who would come, the Lamb of God. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Passover for all who will come to Him; to all who will trust in His shed blood just as the original Jews celebrating the Passover trusted in the blood of the lamb sprinkled on the door frames of their homes.
David M. Grey is pastor of Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church