By Randy Dillon
Matthew 26:29; Luke 22:16; John 19:30
The Christian ordinance of the Lord’s Supper (also called Communion or Eucharist) was instituted by Jesus with His disciples on the eve of His arrest, trial and crucifixion. It was established at the Passover, or Seder, a time in the Jewish calendar of feasts which recalled God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt. It involves eating bread, representing the body of Christ, and drinking of wine, which represents the blood of Christ, Partaking of the bread, symbolic of Jesus’ flesh, is fairly straightforward in its meaning. But the drinking of wine is not as easily understood since there are four cups to be taken, each one with its individual significance;
The first cup, called in Hebrew kiddish or kadeish, is also known as the cup of Sanctification. Mixed with water, it denoted a preparation of the heart and soul to acknowledge what God had done for Israel. At this time the required elements of the Passover meal were presented at the table, but not eaten. A tray containing samples of the foods prescribed by God to the nation of Israel was also presented on a platter. This included unleavened bread, bitter herbs, sauce, and roasted lamb. Hor ’d oeuvres were also served. For Christians, this represents the “body” of Christ which was sacrificed on the cross. Apparently, both Jesus and the disciples drank this cup.
The second cup, called in Hebrew haggadah or maggid, is also known as the cup of Proclamation. It is also mixed with water. The father at the table would recite the story of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. The four sons, if there were so, would ask four questions about the meaning of the Seder beginning with the oldest son who asked, “Why is this night different from other nights?” The father would then recite his response from Deuteronomy 26:5-11 . Then followed the singing of the first two sections of the Hallel from Psalms 113-114. At the Lord’s Supper this second cup would also have been drunk by all.
The third cup, called in Hebrew Barakah or Bareish or Birkat Hamazon, also known as the cup of Blessing or Redemption, is the beginning of the actual Seder meal. The food is eaten, the cup is blessed and the participants drank. At the Lord’s Supper, Jesus passed the cup to His disciples but did not drink from it himself since he did not require redemption and He was himself to be the blessing to humanity in His death, burial and resurrection. Cup three represents the blood of Jesus.
The fourth cup, called in Hebrew Hallel, also called the cup of Praise or Thanksgiving, and the cup of Consummation, completed the Seder as the meal was finished, the cup was drunk and the participants completed the singing of the Hallel, Psalms 115-118. At the Lord’s Supper this fourth cup was not served. Instead, Jesus led His disciples to the Mount of Olives and to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. In Matthew 26:29 Jesus said, “I will not henceforth drink of this fruit of the vine, until I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” We may ask why this fourth cup was not consumed?
One suggestion is that the Lord’s Supper is a “bridge” between the death of Jesus and His second coming. In Luke 22:16 Jesus said at the beginning of the Passover meal that He would “not any more eat thereof (the Passover meal) until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” He was indicating that the Last Supper could not be completed until His second coming when God’s kingdom would be established for eternity. Because the Passover meal with the disciples did not conclude, when Christians participate in this ordinance they are replaying the third cup of blessing or redemption in anticipation of the second coming of Jesus, thus bringing the meal to an end. Likewise, when Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) He referred not only to the sacrifice made for mans’ redemption from sin, but also the coming completion of the fourth cup of the Passover meal. All that is left is the return of Jesus to complete the praise and thanksgiving portion of the fourth cup at the beginning of His eternal kingdom reign.