This is part 3 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible?”
Every church seems to celebrate Communion with its own unique style, typically following an age-old tradition. There’s nothing wrong with traditions per se. The only thing we have to watch out for is when traditions become the focal point, instead of the thing the tradition is pointing us to. Almost as if we are celebrating the celebration (see Isaiah 1:11-14; Mark 7:1-8).
In 1054 AD the Great Schism occurred between the Roman church (in West) and the Byzantine church (in East). One issue that led to this schism was Communion. The West used unleavened bread, saying that sin was removed. The East said that sounded like they were adopting Judaism, so they used leavened bread, saying that the “rising” symbolized new life.
Even today there are differences and disagreements—only administered by a priest … only certain church officials can “bless” the elements … a common cup … individual cups … unfermented juice … fermented wine … unleavened wafers … pieces torn off a full loaf of bread. The Bible never says about Communion, “Do it this way.” All of these are man’s traditions.
Passover was first instituted in Exodus 13. This is before the Law is given through Moses (Exodus 20) and before the instructions for the tabernacle are given (Exodus 25). In the first version, the sacrifice of the lamb was in individual homes, the lamb’s blood was shed on the doorposts of that home, and the family ate the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs together at home.
After the tabernacle was operational, there was a change (Deuteronomy 16). Now the sacrifice of the lamb was in the tabernacle, the lamb’s blood was sprinkled on the altar, but the family still ate the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs together at home.
By the time of Jesus, there were newer traditions which weren’t prescribed in the Bible that involved as many as five cups of wine, a very specific order that the meal was presented, and the singing of Psalm 113-118 (sometimes people sang all the way through Psalm 138).
In the last supper Jesus shares with His disciples, we see some of these later elements. We read about the different cups of wine, the unleavened bread, the supper of lamb, and the singing of a hymn (Luke 22:14-20; Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
I want to specifically focus on the second cup of wine Jesus used in this supper. Paul calls this cup the cup of thanksgiving and the cup of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:16, 21). Why? Because Jesus switched cups with us!
The Bible tells us that we have all sinned, and therefore we are supposed to drink the cup of God’s wrath—For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup of His wrath, and the wine foams and is red, well mixed; and He pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth must drain it and drink its dregs (Psalm 75:8 AMP).
But Jesus switched cups with us. He took the full wrath of God upon Himself, and then gave us God’s new covenant of forgiveness—“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke My covenant…. This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. … For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 33:31-34).
Jesus said, “When you drink this, do this in remembrance of Me.” THIS is what we’re called remember and celebrate!
It’s not HOW we celebrate Communion but WHO we remember when we do celebrate.
Let’s not celebrate the celebration, but let’s celebrate the Savior who paid the price so that we could celebrate the forgiveness of our sins under God’s new covenant!