by Roland Mills
In the Bible, we have recorded for us what is called the “…feast of the LORD” (Leviticus 23:4). Seven feasts are recorded in Leviticus 23. Together, they tell us the marvelous story of God’s dealings with His chosen people and the nations as a whole. The Passover is a feast that has been celebrated for over thirty-five centuries. It pictures for us God’s amazing redemption through His Son Jesus Christ. On the first Passover evening, the meal was very simple. It is recorded in Exodus 12:8 that they were to eat lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. Since that first night, many traditions have been added to help tell the story. The three matzos, the hidden afikoman, the roasted shank bone of a lamb, the fresh parsley, the salted water, the boiled egg, the sweet haroset, the cup of Elijah, the lit candles, the restful pillow, the empty chair, and other elements of revealing symbolism all help tell the greatest story ever told.
The Four “I Wills”
During the night at different times, the participants in the celebration will partake of four cups of wine (grape juice). This is what has become known as the four “I Wills.” It is taken from Exodus 6:6-7.
Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments: And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
The first cup, “I will bring you out,” is the cup of sanctification. The second cup, “I will rid you out of their bondage,” is the cup of praise. The third cup, “I will redeem you with a stretched out arm,” is the cup of redemption. The fourth cup, “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God,” is the cup of acceptance.
The Cup of Redemption
After a festive meal and the search for the afikomen, the third cup of wine (juice) is raised and drank. It is not by accident that the cup of redemption is used at this point in the service. Later, we will note the significance. Redemption has been God’s plan since before man’s fall in the garden. The Scripture states in Revelation 13:8 that the Lamb was “…slain from the foundation of the world.” God was certainly not taken by surprise by Adam’s fall in the garden. He already had a plan in place to redeem His fallen creation. That redemption would be through the shedding of the blood of the innocent for the guilty.
Scripture tells us, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul,” Leviticus 17:11. In Exodus 12, on the first Passover night, the lamb was to be killed and they were to take the blood of the lamb and strike it on the two side post and on the upper door post of the house where the lamb was to be eaten (Exodus 12:7). God said that He would pass through the land of Egypt and execute judgment upon all of the first born of the land. The only ones that were spared were those that were inside the home of blood stained doors. God said “…when I see the blood, I will pass over you…” Exodus 12:13. Later, the whole sacrificial system was dependent upon the blood of the sacrificial lamb that was applied to the mercy seat that would cover the sins of the people. This sacrifice is laid out very graphically in Isaiah 53:6, 11-12,
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 shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
In Hebrews 9, we have recorded for us the importance that God places on the blood. Verse 7 records that the High Priest enters into the Holy of Holies “…once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people…” In Hebrews 9:11-14,
But Christ being come a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Verse 22 states, “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” You can see the absolute necessity that God places on the blood.
Let us now return to the Passover meal and the third cup (the cup of redemption). This cup is a reminder that God has redeemed His people from Egyptian bondage. A historical note worthy of mentioning again is the fact that Jewish people have been observing the Passover for thirty-five hundred years. Does this have significance for today?
The Upper Room
Jesus came into the world to save sinners (Luke 19:10). In order for Him to do that, He had to live a perfect and sinless life. This was the requirement for the sacrifice which Jesus met as stated in I Peter 1:18-19, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot…” One day as John was baptizing, he identified Jesus as “…Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) In Matthew 26, Jesus sends His disciples to make ready the upper room where He will eat the Passover with them. This is where Jesus institutes what has become known as the Lord’s Supper or Communion. After Jesus dismisses Judas to go out and betray Him, He takes the bread (matzo), blesses it, and breaks it. This breaking of the bread has become known as the afikomen. The meaning of the word has great significance. Everything in the service is Hebrew in origin except the afikomen. It is a Greek word which means “I came”. With that, Jesus takes the third cup (the cup of redemption) and instructs his disciples to drink it all. After this, Jesus rises up and goes out to become our Passover Lamb. The perfect sinless Son of God became sin for us that He might redeem us from the curse of the law. This third cup symbolizes the redemption that was purchased by His own blood. It is sad that there are those who would take what God intended to be a way for us to look back at what Christ accomplished at Calvary on our behalf and try to attach saving grace. It is nothing more than a solemn time and occasion to reflect and rejoice in a joyous redemption.
Fellowship with the Lord
Rich truth is connected with this third cup of redemption as recorded by Paul in I Corinthians 10-11. In I Corinthians 10:16, it is called the cup of communion (fellowship). When we partake of this cup, we are actually having fellowship with Christ Himself. Paul instructs us in verse 21 that this cup is a cup of separation. The world has no fellowship with Christ. Paul calls it the “…table of devils.” The cup of redemption calls us to separate from worldly activity that is contrary to the will of God. As we have already mentioned above, it is a cup of remembrance (I Corinthians 11:25). But, it is also a cup of prophecy. In I Corinthians 11:26, the Scripture states, “For as often as ye…drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come.” The afikomen, I came, has promised that He will come again. This cup of redemption reminds us that Jesus is coming again.
The third cup of the Passover table teaches us many things as believers. The cup of redemption speaks of the past, present, and future. First and foremost, it reminds us of the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus, which was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. It challenges us presently to be separated from the world, and unto Him, for service. Finally, it reminds us that Jesus is coming again. When we come to this cup during communion, as believers, it should cause us to remember and rejoice in what has been accomplished at Calvary…