The Cup - The Lord's Supper

Most New Testament scholars agree that in the Last Supper Jesus was celebrating the Passover, but there is no question that He was also reinterpreting it. As we already learned, He is not only eating the Passover, lamb He is the Passover Lamb.

This is also seen in the Lord’s statements about the cup. During Second Temple Judaism, part of the Passover included worshippers partaking in a series of four different cups. In the Last Supper, Jesus takes one of the cups. Here is how Luke records it:

And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.'” - Luke 22:20

Jesus is inaugurating the New Covenant here.

The Cup and the New Covenant

The Cup corresponds to the New Covenant. This is essential to understand. Someone might object and say, “But wasn’t the New Covenant specifically given to Israel? The New Covenant is for Israel, not the Church?” Yes, the New Covenant was foretold by the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and it is for Israel. Yes, Paul says that to them {Israel} was given, “the adoption, the glory, the covenants, etc..” (Rom. 9:4). But Gentiles in Christ have been grafted into these blessings (Rom. 11). So Paul is saying that by faith, Gentiles, are now partakers of the spiritual aspects of the New Covenant, the forgiveness of sins, and the Holy Spirit.

Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 2:12-13:
"Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

So while it’s true that the Church is now part of some aspects of the New Covenant, there are future aspects of the New Covenant that have not been fulfilled and are future. It’s already, but not yet.
When Jesus says “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” He is saying that through His blood covenant, we can be brought near to God. The bread causes us to look to Christ, it symbolizes His body. The cup causes us to look to Christ, it symbolizes His blood, His life, and the New Covenant, procured by the blood of Christ.

A Unilateral Covenant

For Israel, the covenants were of vital importance. For Israel, everything centered on the covenant. As Gentiles, it’s easy to lose appreciation for this. This New Covenant would not be based on our performance but on God’s performance. It’s not like the old because it is not dependent upon us in any way. It’s not a two-party covenant. The New Covenant is entirely God’s doing. Not once does the New Covenant mention anything we are supposed to do. Hebrews 8 emphasizes that this New Covenant is something that God does to us.

I will make” v. 8, 10
I made” v.9
I will put” v. 10
I will write” v. 10
I will be” v. 10, 12
I will remember no more” v. 12

The New Covenant, like being born again, is not something that we do, it’s something that happens to us. What a relief. And what a cause for praise and thanksgiving. The New Covenant causes us to take the bread, take the cup, look to Christ, our Host, and say thank you!
The Cup and the New Covenant now mean we have assurance. New Testament scholar Anthony Thiselton comments:

“It is precisely the death of Christ, the new covenant in my blood, which establishes the assurance of redemption, and which permits believers to know where they stand with God, namely, in identification with Christ the vindicated Messiah and exalted Lord on the basis of God’s promise duly ratified in the events of Calvary.”
The Cup of the New Covenant offers assurance. In fact, the cup is a physical sign of His covenant. Guy Prentiss Waters makes this observation when he writes:

“When we look at the various covenants that God made with people in Scripture, a striking pattern emerges--God appointed a sign to accompany the covenant that he made. The covenant signs were physical and tangible objects susceptible to the five senses. They were not newly created but already existing in the world of the first recipients. Each sign was given to the covenant community as a visible and perpetual reminder of God’s goodness in and through that particular covenant. God also intended his signs to confirm the truth of his covenant promises to the faith of his people.”

The cup is a gracious reminder of God’s unwavering and unbroken promises to His people. The cup was a bitter cup for Christ...but it’s sweet for us.

David Anderson

David Anderson is a pastor/elder at Littleton Bible Chapel in Littleton, CO where he lives with his wife and three kids. David also serves Biblical Eldership Resources in many areas, including hosting their new podcast.