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Why this is important: Jesus came to atone for our sin. Jesus came to pay the price for our having missed God’s goal (sin) and bring in forgiveness. His blood was poured out for the forgiveness of our sin.

  • We are redeemed.
  • We are free.
  • We are whole.

The account of Jesus’ Last Supper in 1 Corinthians11 stands in striking contrast to the report of the Corinthians’ behavior. “Receive” and “pass on” in verse 23 reflect standard terminology for the transmission of oral tradition. So, when Paul says he received this information from the Master Jesus, we must not think of direct revelation. He is referring to that which the Master Jesus spoke while he was alive, words remembered by the disciples and widely repeated and even memorized in the early Christian community.

“Betrayed” and “pass on” both come from the verb “to deliver.” By this deliberate play on words, Paul thinks back to Jesus’ later arrest and crucifixion, an appropriate introduction for reflections on a rite that commemorates Christ’s death.

The focus of those reflections’ centers on Jesus’ so-called “words of institution” about the significance of the bread and the wine.

  • During the Passover, Jews ate unleavened bread to recall their hasty departure from Egypt when God rescued them from the hands of Pharaoh.
  • The head of the household would open the meal in prayer and then distribute pieces of the bread broken from a common loaf.
  • This historical setting makes any literal rendering of “is” in Jesus’ statement “this is my body” incoherent.

No one sitting with the Messiah at table would have thought he was saying that the bread was somehow a literal extension of his flesh or spirit. Rather the bread symbolized or represented his coming bodily death, an atoning sacrifice for the sake of all who would accept the forgiveness of sins it made available. Each time the Corinthians ate the bread of the Lord’s Supper, they should have recalled this death and acted in ways consistent with Christ’s immeasurable self-giving and grace on their behalf. The last line of verse is best translated, “Do this as my memorial.”

The cup that was drunk after supper would have been the third of four cups of wine consumed during the Passover meal, again with redemptive implications. This was the point in the ceremony at which the words “I redeem you” from Exodus 6:6 was read.

  • There is no chance that unfermented beverage was poured into the cup, since some who drank excessively were getting drunk.
  • The reason Paul, like the gospel writers, calls it the “cup” rather than using the word wine is because the expression would evoke Old Testament associations of suffering the “cup” of God’s wrath.
  • The Messiah’s shed blood proved that he accepted the wrath we deserved to experience and so made possible for us peace with God. In so doing he inaugurated the new covenant that had been prophesied.
  • “Whenever you drink it,” in verse 25, may hint at the fact that wine was not present with every meal. Or it may mean that bread and wine should form the center of the Lord’s Supper whenever it is celebrated.

The message about the significance of Messiah’s death which this ceremony re-enacts should be proclaimed throughout church history. Only when the Master returns will cross-centered Christianity become redundant, a fact that the Corinthians clearly had yet to learn.

  • 1 Corinthians 11:23–25 — 23 For I received from the Master that which I also delivered to you, that the Master Jesus in the night in which 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 He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
  • Matthew 26:26–28 — 26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.