“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:26-29).
During the Easter period it is good to focus upon what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. Many great sermons will be preached on that important subject. Our remembrance of the day Christ died for our sin is not limited to a date on our calendar though, for He gave us the means by which we can remind ourselves of it. The bread and cup are the only Christian symbols that the Lord has authorised, and in fact, according to Jesus’ word in our text, they will remain throughout eternity. It is upon this sacrifice alone the New Covenant was established.
The meal that Jesus and His disciples were enjoying was the commemoration of the first Passover. This Jewish celebration was a yearly reminder of how God miraculously delivered Israel out of bondage in Egypt. The Lord took this feast day much further, for instead of looking into the past only, He was pointing to a future deliverance from sin. The Jews slew the Passover lamb as a sign of their deliverance, and Jesus is “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Only unleavened bread was used during the Passover meal because it symbolised purity and sinlessness. So when we take of the bread, it is not just a reminder that Christ’s body was broken, but that He is the sinless Saviour too. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). If you see the point here, you will notice that Jesus remains the only one who can deliver mankind from sin. He is still our perfect Saviour. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21), which is the source of our salvation.
The bread of course reminds us that the Lord Jesus suffered in our place, the sinless for the sinful. Just as the Passover lamb was the innocent party with regards to man’s sin, so Jesus was completely innocent. He was stripped of His clothes, beaten, made to carry His cross, spit upon, had a crown of thorns that pierced His brow, nailed to the cross and mocked. Today we would say that Jesus was tortured for our sin in our place. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:4-7). How can we even begin to imagine what He suffered for us, but the worst of it came when His Father turned His face away from the awful scene. “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). It is not that the scene socked God, for it was foreseen before the world began, instead it grieved Him to have to pour the full weight of His wrath upon the One who took our place. Why did He have to go through this anquish to save us? Scripture says, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13) and “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). The Father saw the sin of the whole world hanging on that cross. This was the only time in all eternity that the Godhead suffered such anguish, just so that we could be saved from sin. Thus the “Bread of Life” was broken for us (John 6:48).
The contents of the Passover cup represents the sacrificial blood of Christ. As the sprinkling of the lamb’s blood on the doorposts caused the angel of death to pass over that house, so those who believe in the sufficiency of the blood of Christ have everlasting life. “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). It is through His blood that we have been completely delivered from the power of sin. “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).
When we partake of the cup do we actually reflect upon what the Lord suffered on our behalf? Do we bother to think about what a solemn thing it is we are doing? A part of the Jewish Passover feast included remembering how God delivered Israel out of slavery. At the Lord’s table we are required to both think about what it cost Christ to save us and to consider own lives. “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Corithians 11:23-29). If we know of any confessed sin, then we ought not take of either the bread or the cup, nevertheless the remedy that solves the situation is still found in the blood of the Saviour. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7,9).
The Lord has left us a way of reminding ourselves of what it cost Him to bring salvation to the world. This celebration ought not be a cold, lifeless, religious act, but a reverential reminder and an opportunity to thank Him for such a precious gift. There is no other feast that has so much meaning in the Bible, and yet it is the simplest of them all. It is not meant to be a joyless celebration, instead it is a memorial which states that God truly loves us. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).