1 Corinthians 11:23–34 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.
There is an old cultural maxim for “good luck” that has survived the years, although not nearly as popular as it once was. It was addressed to brides and went like this:
Most of however may not know that there is a closing line that almost never gets mentioned and it is:
And a silver six-pence in her shoe
Borrowing from that simple framework, I would like to modify it as we come to the Lord’s Table this evening. And my version goes like this:
And all things by Jesus, made brand new.
As is clear from Mark’s Gospel (at least) the Last Supper was in fact a Passover meal. At the end of it however, Jesus co-opts the meal and transforms it in something entirely different than the original, and leaves it for His Church to continue until He returns. It still has ties to the Passover meal, but by virtue of Christ’s fulfilling all that the Passover foreshadowed, it must, by necessity undergo change.
You will remember that the Passover meal was quite specific. An entire roasted lamb, which could have no blemish and no broken bones, to be consumed in its entirety. Unleavened bread – to signify the haste with which the Jews would need to leave Egypt. Naturally there would be wine. And there were to be bitter herbs, to remind them of the bitterness of their captivity. The lamb was slain at twilight, and the blood of the lamb was to be applied to the doorposts and the lintel of each household – so that when the Death Angel visited Egypt that night, those who had complied with these directives would be spared the loss of their firstborn sons. Where as all those not complying – certainly virtually ALL of the Egyptians, would suffer that loss.
But now we come to the Last Supper. The meal ended, Jesus broke bread (the word for common bread is used in the text, not unleavened bread – something to be discussed at a later date) and took the cup and established the pattern the Church was to follow until He comes back.
So let us notice 4 things:
- Something blended / In the Communion meal, there is no lamb to be consumed by us, because on the Cross, the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world was completely consumed. The type had been fulfilled. And, Jesus, as the very Bread of Life come down from the Father, not for the Jews only, but for all who would believe in Him – was broken for us. The Lamb and the Bread combine in the person of Christ who fulfills both. It is a magnificent transition signifying all fulfillment in Christ Jesus.
But then too – there is –
- Something New / In vs. 25 Jesus says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood”. He inaugurates the New Covenant at this moment. The Old Covenant is no longer the one which the Believer is under – and hence the removal of the Passover meal, and the installation of the Lord’s Supper – perpetuated until His return. A more stunning display of the total transition from one covenant to the other cannot be imagined. No Lamb, for THE lamb has died. And now the cup – not a prospective of an atonement to come – but a retrospective on an atonement accomplished! A, THE, New Covenant indeed.
And then there is something truly astonishing. For sometimes, great truth emerges from what is NOT there, as much (if not more) from what is. IN this case:
- Something Missing / Utterly missing now, are the bitter herbs. Bitter herbs (as we know) symbolized the bitterness of the Israelites’ struggles in Egypt. God instituted that as part of this Passover meal. But in the Lord’s Supper, there is no place found for bitter herbs any more. For the Jews, the Passover meal was all retrospective – and that in remembering former bitterness. We’ll come back to this in a moment. But hear this now – in Christ, all bitterness is taken away in Him! It has no place in our remembrance at the table any more.
Lastly, there is:
- Something True / The death of Christ and the New Covenant He established is a PRO-spective. It looks forward. So when Jesus established is He says: “And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Luke 22:14–16
This then is the truth of our final state: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev. 21:1-4
NO BITTERNESS there! No crying. No mourning. Christ Himself wiping the tears from our eyes. And the Table bids us look there and taste something of that glory in the taking of the elements even now.
Many of you here have drunk a full cup of bitterness in this life. Death of a loved one. Betrayal. Unwanted divorce. Chronic illness. Disappointment. Abuse. Loneliness. Failure. All the effects of sin, of the Fall in the Garden – not to mention the failures and lost battles against sin itself in our own lives. Some have suffered extremes of bitter things in this life, so as to make it a wonder that you still stand today.
But! SO great is our redemption in Christ, that in the New Kingdom when it comes in full – even our memories of all which transpired in this life – will be purged of all of its bitterness. There will be none left even in our most prefect recollections. For looking back we will see His glorious hand in every trial. His divine purposes in perfect wisdom. How He led and kept and sustained and used every bitter sip as part and parcel of preparing our eventual blessedness. So we will not look back on a one with sorrow any more – but only with understanding, joy and grateful worship.
No, that may not be possible now – but it WILL be reality then. This is the redemptive work of Christ. And in these elements tonight, we get to taste it in advance.
So Revelation 21:5 “And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”