While writing a recent communion meditation, I discovered something in the Bible as obvious at is was startling: Wine is never mentioned as being in the cup of Christ.
This isn’t to argue whether in fact wine was served in the upper room at the Last Supper; it stands to reason it was. Nor am I here to argue the disciples drank blood; it stands to reason they did not. I was just surprised that for all the symbolism and tradition tied to the wine of communion representing the blood of Christ, the Bible never actually says “wine” describing that first communion.
At his last meal on the eve (Maundy Thursday) of his crucifixion (Good Friday), Jesus told his disciples he was “going away,” broke bread representing his body and passed the cup describing its contents as “my blood of the new covenant” (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24) or “the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25). Jesus told them henceforth to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
That remembrance of Jesus is what we celebrate in communion.
But, blood of the new covenant? What could that mean if it wasn’t literally blood? It stands to reason it meant this: Jewish law, tradition and faith all said “life” existed in the blood (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:11, etc.). The “new covenant” is the restored relationship of fallen mankind with a loving almighty God, of our faith in and salvation through Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of our sins covered by the shed blood of Christ. It’s our eternal presence in the infinite light of the Lord God.
Blood of the new covenant means, “life forever, in faith.” These are just my words, and there are 2,000 years of theological descriptions and witness far better than mine. But if we look at the cup and see only the shed blood of Jesus on the cross, of pain, suffering, guilt, fear and the general turpitude of this mortal coil – of the misery of this human life – then we are missing the most important aspect of the cup of Christ.
In the new covenant, this cup is a cup of life, love and freedom, not death. It is a cup of hope and grace, not a threat. It is a gift, not a debt or a transaction.
The cup contains the life of Jesus Christ and our hope of eternal salvation.
And to that, I say, “Cheers!”