This coming Sunday our church will observe one of the two ordinances of the church: Communion, or The Lord’s Supper. Paul tells us about the night that our Lord instituted this ordinance for his church:
23 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. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)
Our church observes this ordinance 6 times a year. Some of our church members wish we did it more often. I’m sure a few wonder why we do it at all. Because we’re observing it this coming weekend it’s good for us to take a moment and consider it’s meaning in order to receive it with a glad heart on Sunday. In this post consider one aspect of the Lord’s Supper:
This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
In order to understand what Jesus means when he says that the new covenant is contained in his blood we have to go back and read another passage from the Old Testament:
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” – Jeremiah 31:31-34
The previous covenant that God made with his people through Moses laid conditional blessings and curses upon the people. God had saved them by his grace in delivering them from Egypt, and if they obeyed God they would live in the land of promise, and God would give them peace from their enemies. If they disobeyed the commands of the covenant God would curse the people; driving them from the land.
Now in Jeremiah, having disobeyed and incurred the curses of the mosaic covenant the future of the people of God looked bleak. In their captivity God told of a coming day when he would make a covenant with them and would forgive their sin, he would put the law within their heart (allowing them to obey), and they would know the Lord.
Covenants like this were always ratified with a blood sacrifice. When God met with Abraham and promised to bless him he walked through a bloody stream between cloven animals. At the mosaic covenant Moses sprinkled blood on the people. The meaning is clear: blood will be shed by any party that does not keep its end of the agreement. In order to experience the benefit of the covenant blood is shed.
What’s significant about the Lord’s Supper is that Christ says the new covenant is actually contained in his blood. In order to ratify this covenant, and bring about it’s blessing Christ doesn’t sacrifice an animal. He doesn’t offer a goat or a bull. Why? Because, the blessing of the new covenant is forgiveness of sin. The only way to accomplish this blessing is to make atonement for sin, and the blood of bulls and goats can do no such thing. Only a human can pay for the sins of humanity.
The only way to ratify this covenant is to shed human blood.
Thankfully, it has been the eternal plan of the Father to tear his own Son to pieces to ratify this covenant. It has been the eternal purpose of the will of the Son to submit himself to death out of love for us. It has been the eternal plan of the Spirit of God to communicate to us the forgiveness of God in Christ Jesus.
Further Reading before Sunday: Hebrew 9:11-28