The Bread and the Cup – The Body and the Blood

 

If you are married, do you remember that night before your wedding?  You laid awake thinking about what you were about to enter into – the wonderful love that you had for the man or woman you were about to marry, your desire to be the best husband or wife, your longing for your beloved, your excitement about being a part of their life, spending your lives together, all the things you would do, all the places you would go, someday your children and what that would be like.  And admit it – a little bit of trepidation.  It’s a huge commitment marrying someone – a lifetime commitment and it can be a bit overwhelming.  It’s not something to be entered into lightly.

 

The Bible calls that covenant.  Don’t confuse that with contract.  A contract is between people who don’t know each other – a bank and a borrower, a car dealer and a car buyer – you do your part, he does his part and everyone gets along.  One of you defaults and the contract delineates the terms and penalties for separation.  When the deal is done or the work is finished the relationship is over.  Everybody walks away and life goes on.

 

Covenant is a lifetime relationship.  It’s for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.  Covenant doesn’t obligate us until one of us defaults – it says we’re in this for the long haul and we work things out.  There is no expiration date – we are bound together for life.

 

When you get married you exchange rings and every time you look at that ring, you are reminded of the day you said, “I do.”  It’s not a piece of jewelry, it’s a reflection of your covenant.

 

When you enter into a covenant relationship with God you are buried in the water of baptism – it is the believer’s wedding ceremony.  It is a commitment to a lifetime relationship.  It’s for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.  When you are baptized into Jesus Christ, Paul says, you die to yourself so that Christ becomes your life.  We are bound together, not just for life, but for eternity.

 

If baptism is the wedding ceremony, the Lord’s Supper is our wedding ring.  Every time we take the bread and the cup we are reminded of that commitment.  It’s not a ritual, it is a reflection of your covenant with God.

 

This morning, we want to spend some time thinking about that covenant and how the supper reminds us of that moment when we said, “I do” to God.

 

Songs:  Come Share the Lord, How Beautiful, By Christ Redeemed, Break Thou the Bread of Life

 

The Bread

The Lord’s Supper didn’t happen in a vacuum – it has a rich heritage of meaning.  In fact, it was instituted in the middle of the Passover that the disciples had gathered to eat on the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion.

 

Now, the Passover was more than just bread and wine.  The ceremony involved four cups, three loaves, bitter herbs, salt water, charoset, an egg and a lamb (following the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70, the lamb ceased to be used in the ceremony and instead a lamb’s shank bone was substituted to complete the imagery).

 

It was near the end of the Passover ceremony that Jesus paused and gave new meaning to a familiar ritual.  Let’s go back, though, and see the preparations that set the table for this new meaning.  As the loaf of unleavened bread was set upon the table, a piece was broken off and wrapped in a napkin and hidden in the room – this hidden piece was called the “afikomen” – literally “that which is coming.” 

 

The Passover progressed through the different cups and breaking of bread, the explanations and the prayers – the symbolism of the bitter herbs and the charoset to remind them of their slavery and suffering in Egypt.

 

Then came the meal itself, followed by the third cup.  And then the search for the afikomen – the hidden loaf.  When it is found, the father of the family would say:  “What is broken shall be made whole.  What is shattered shall be restored.  Our messianic hope is in our children, to find what is lost, to bring together what is broken, to restore our faith.”

 

And they would all recite together,

 

“The Prophets teach us:  For in the end of days it shall come to pass that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills.  Out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  And he shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide concerning the mighty nations afar off.  They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.  But they shall sit, every man under his vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of Hosts has spoken. 

The Torah teaches:  The stranger that sojourns with you in your land, you shall not wrong.  You shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  I am the Lord your God.  You shall not hate your brother in your heart.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the Lord.”

 

But when Jesus unwrapped the hidden loaf, he said this:

“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

He was the fulfillment of the prophecies and the law – all of the OT anticipated this moment.  Jesus was the bread of life, he was the perfect Passover lamb, he was the embodiment of all of Israel’s hopes.  He was their deliverer from slavery, he was their sacrifice from sin, he was the redeemer who bought them and gave them back their lives.

 

And as he broke the bread his mind was on the events of the next day as his body would be broken for them.

 

Prayer.  Take the bread together.  Say together:  His body, given for us.

 

Songs:  Nothing But the Blood, There is Power in the Blood, Have You Been to Jesus, Just As I Am

 

The Cup

As the third cup was emptied, it was filled a fourth time – this cup was called the Elijah cup – it was the anticipation of Elijah’s return, heralding their messiah.  They quoted the words of Malachi:  “Behold, I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.  And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”

 

As Jesus lifted the cup, he said, “Drink from it, all of you.  This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

 

These words must have sounded strange in the disciples’ ears.  His blood?  New covenant?  But it would become very clear as they watched the blood drip from the wounds on his hands and feet and the spear be thrust into his side, that he wasn’t speaking in hypothetical, metaphorical language, but that his blood, was the blood of the perfect Passover Lamb of God. 

 

And from that moment on, they would never be able to drink the cup without thinking of his sacrifice for them.

 

Prayer.  Take the cup together.  Say together:  His blood, shed for me.