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Four Cups

He drank a cup of wrath that we might drink a cup of joy!

Pastor Paul Kemp

Last night we celebrated Passover at church. It was such a sweet time of fellowship and worship. Our pastor led us through the Exodus story and reminded us about the cup of joy.

Our pastor taught us about the cups a few years ago – the cup of joy stuck with me.

I enjoy digging into the metaphors in Scripture and thinking about the cup intrigued me.

Cups in Old Testament Scripture

  • Job 21:20 NIV: “let them drink the cup of the wrath of the Almighty” referring to the wicked
  • Psalm 16:5 CSB: “Lord, you are my portion and my cup of blessing” from a Psalm of trust
  • Psalm 23:5 NIV: “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” refers to being an honored guest at a banquet table, abundance or blessings overflow.
  • Psalm 116:13 NIV: “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord” symbolizing God’s blessings and/or deliverance!
  • Isaiah 51:17 NIV: “Rise up, Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath” referring to divine punishment and later in this chapter, the cup of wrath is being removed from Jerusalem and given to her tormentors.
  • Ezekiel 23:33 NIV: “You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, the cup of ruin and desolation” signifying God’s wrath.

Cups in New Testament Scripture

  • Matthew 20:22 NIRV: “You don’t know what you’re asking for,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup of suffering I am going to drink?” Jesus spoke this to the disciples vying for the right and left of His throne.
  • Matthew 26:39 NIRV: “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. But let what you want be done, not what I want.” from the prayer of Jesus in the garden before his death.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:16 NIV: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ?” symbolizes the third cup in the Passover, the prayer of thanksgiving prayed at the Lord’s Table.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:25 NIV: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me” The cup symbolizes Jesus’ death and the establishing of the new covenant.

Clearly, the cup most often refers to judgment. But the Psalmist mentions the cup of blessings and salvation.

Four Cups

In the Lord’s supper, we remember the greater Exodus!

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Colossians 1:13
Israel remembering and proclaiming their redemption from EgyptChristians remembering and proclaiming their redemption from the dominion of darkness
This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. … When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.
(Ex 12:14, 25-27)
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 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.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
(1 Cor 11:23-26)

“I will” statements

There is a relationship between the four cups of Passover and the last supper Jesus spent with His disciples. Notice the “I will” statements …

Therefore, tell the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord. I will bring you out from your enslavement to the Egyptians, I will rescue you from the hard labor they impose, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you to myself for a people, and I will be your God. 

Exodus 6:6 – 7

In the traditions of Jewish Passover, the four cups correspond to those four “I will” statements in Exodus 6.

  1. The first cup is the “Cup of Sanctification,” which means the setting apart or making holy the meal being shared.
  2. The second cup is the “Cup of Praise.” (The Cup of Deliverance, the Cup of Thanksgiving, the Cup of Judgment). Not only did God bring the nation out of Egypt, but He also removed their bondage. The second cup offered praise because God was the source of deliverance!
  3. The third cup is the “Cup of Redemption!” God was reclaiming His chosen people as His own.
  4. And last, the fourth cup is the “Cup of Acceptance.” (Also, the Cup of Praise, the Cup of Anticipation and the Cup of Completion). It celebrates Israel as a nation and looks forward to the time of the Messiah!

The Lord’s table

That brings us to the Lord’s Table and the connection to the cups. Luke describes the last supper Jesus shared with His disciples as a Passover meal. After the supper, Jesus took the cup which would have been the third cup in Jewish tradition, the “Cup of Redemption.” This is what Paul calls the “cup of thanksgiving” (or cup of blessing) in 1 Corinthians 10:16.

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” … In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

Luke 22:14-16, 20

The Cup of Redemption represented more than Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. It represented the purposes of God from the beginning of time! In that one cup, judgment and salvation, wrath and redemption are joined – the mystery of the new covenant being revealed! The disciples would have recognized this language – a new covenant – from Jeremiah 31:31-34.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus said, “I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Some speculate that this referred to the fourth cup of the Passover. One day He will return in power and glory!

May This Cup …

After the “last supper,” Jesus went to the garden to pray. There He prayed, “My Father if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus asked to be spared the “cup of suffering,” but He humbled Himself and was obedient to death – even death on the cross. On the cross, Jesus took the “cup of wrath” for you, for me … that we might be free from sin and death – Hallelujah!

Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the spirit.

1 Peter 3:18

Each time we partake of communion at the Lord’s Table, we remember the death of Jesus as the Passover Lamb of God, the one perfect sacrifice!

Ours is definitely a cup of JOY, knowing that we have been redeemed and that we will one day sup with Him at the wedding feast of the Lamb!

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