25 In the same way He tookthe cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
Having infused the unleavened bread with fresh meaning, Jesus proceeded, after supper, to do likewise with the 3rdcup of the Passover meal. This cup, sometimes described as the ‘cup of redemption,’ or more particularly, the “cup of blessing,” would now truly epitomize blessing and redemption. Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood…”
A covenant was an agreement between two parties. The covenant represented by the cup Jesus was holding was the New Covenant, a covenant best understood against the backdrop of the Old Covenant. At least that’s how Jeremiah presented it in the portion of his prophetic book known as ‘the Book of Consolation.’ God promised through the prophet Jeremiah,
31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
After describing the New Covenant negatively – it was not like the Old Covenant (Jer. 31:32a), God described it positively in these ways: (1) the laws of God would be internalized (vs. 33a), (2) all who are a part of this New Covenant would know the LORD (vs.34a), and (3) all of this would be based upon the forgiveness of their sins (vs.34b).
This was in stark contrast to the Old Covenant! You could be part of the Old Covenant and only know God’s laws as an external requirement; you could be part of the Old Covenant and have one Israelite telling you “Know the LORD” because, even though you were under the Old Covenant, you didn’t know the LORD. You could have been under the Old Covenant offering sacrifices yet be dead in trespasses and sins. Whereas everyone who is part of the New Covenant has God’s Spirit graciously impressing God’s truths on their hearts; and everyone who is a part of the New Covenant has the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and knows the one true God and His Son Jesus Christ; everyone who is a part of the New Covenant experiences the forgiveness of sins and the God who knows all remembers their sin no more.
How could this be? Well as Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood.” The New Covenant would be ratified in blood – that’s how the Old Covenant was ratified. Consider Exodus 24:6-8 and the ratification of the Old Covenant. By sprinkling half of the blood upon the altar (Ex. 24:6), as well as, according to Hebrews – the book itself and the vessels of ministry (Heb. 9:18-22), and the other half upon the people (Ex. 24:8), both parties had been bound to covenantal commitments. So when we come to the New Covenant, if it was going to be ratified, there had to be a sacrifice. And part of the reason why the New Covenant is better covenant than the old is because it is based upon a better sacrifice (Heb. 9), the offering of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross. Perpetual animal sacrifices reminded worshippers of their sin, whereas the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus reminds worshippers that their sin has been decisively put away. Believers, then, have hearts that are sprinkled with Jesus’ blood, resulting in deliverance from an evil conscience (Heb. 10:22), and as result, when they come to the Lord’s table they lift the cup remembering their participation in covenant union with Christ because of the shed of blood of Christ.
Now Paul doesn’t include it here, but we’d do well to pull in a specific phrase recorded by Luke in his Gospel account. Jesus told His disciples: “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Lk. 22:20 emphasis added). Don’t miss those words: “for you.” Those words not only applied to those in the upper room but to all who would believe on Him through their ministry. If you are trusting in the person and work of Jesus alone for the forgiveness of sins, you ought to embrace the intimacy of those words, particularly as you recall the many ways in which the Scripture ties the shedding of Jesus’ blood of Jesus to you. It was with that blood that God purchased the church for Christ (Acts 20:28). God’s wrath was appeased by Jesus’ blood (Rom. 3:25). Believers have been justified by Jesus’ blood (Rom. 5:9), have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14), and have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13). Furthermore, the triune God has made peace with us by the blood of Christ’s cross (Col. 1:20); the blood of Christ cleanses our consciences from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14); we have boldness to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19); Jesus sanctified His people with His own blood in a salvific saving sense (Heb. 13:12); and Jesus continues to sanctify and conform His people to likeness in view of the blood of Christ:
20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, evenJesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom bethe glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb. 13:20-21)
He is the one who loved us and washed us from our sins with His own blood (Rev. 1:5).
So, in obedience to our Savior who commanded His disciples, “do this,” we partake of the cup that represents the New Covenant in His blood, and as often as we drink it, and among Gospel-believing churches the frequency varies, we do so recalling the central figure of the memorial, even as our Savior said, “Do this… in remembrance of Me.” We remember that our Savior left the table and went to the cross, so that we could have a place at the table because of the cross.