The night Jesus was betrayed, He met with His apostles and together with them ate the Passover. During the supper, He took a cup and said, “I shall not drink from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come” (Lk. 22:18). These words served to heighten the apostles’ expectation that the kingdom (which John, Jesus, and they themselves had preached was “at hand”) was eminent. All the synoptic gospels record these words of Jesus (Luke says Jesus spoke them twice, 22:16, 18), but Mark adds a further fact. Not only was the kingdom close, but Jesus would drink this cup with them in His kingdom (Mk. 14:25).
Jesus drank from two cups with His disciples that night. One cup was connected with the Jewish Passover, the other connected with the new memorial Jesus established that night. This latter one was to be ongoing until He returns, and to be something every disciple, present and future, would observe, remembering the sacrifice the Lord made for the whole world.
In Luke’s account Jesus spoke the words during the first meal. Mark has Jesus saying similar words during the memorial supper. The fact that Luke does not mention that Jesus said those words during the memorial supper does not mean that He did not nor does it mean Mark contradicted Luke. If all the gospels related all the facts the others did of Jesus’ life, adding nothing the others had written, there would be no need for the four records. Look at it this way: neither of the other two accounts of the supper mention Jesus saying anything about the kingdom during the Passover meal, yet that does not mean He did not, for just as Luke’s omitting Jesus’ promise to drink of this cup “in His kingdom” does not contradict the accounts of Matthew and Mark that He did. Neither does the failure by both Matthew and Mark to mention Jesus saying He would drink of the cup in the kingdom while they ate the Passover meal contradict Luke. The truth is Jesus spoke these words during both the Passover and the memorial supper. How important then is the drinking the cup in the kingdom of God?
The similarities of and the significance of these two “Passovers” and the meals eaten in remembrance of what they memorialized could hardly be clearer. The institution of that first Passover (recorded in Exodus 12) came the night that Israel, slaves in Egypt, were freed from their slavery by the gracious gift of God. Through Moses and Aaron God had worked nine great miracles to force Pharaoh to release Israel. Then came the tenth, the most important of all. A lamb was slain and its blood sprinkled on the lintels and doorposts of each home (Exo. 12:22). That night God’s angel passed through the land and wherever there was no blood, the angel would strike the firstborn in that household with death. From the lowest peasant to the highest ruler, Pharaoh, there was no exception: if there was no blood, there was death. But when the angel saw blood on the dwelling of a household, there was no death, fulfilling God’s words: “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exo. 12:13). On the fateful night when Jesus and His apostles were gathered, it was the eve of the sacrifice of another Passover Lamb, He who John introduced with these words: “Behold, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). The first Passover celebrated Israel’s salvation from physical death; the second Passover celebrates salvation from eternal death for Christians.
The similarity does not end with the two Passovers, it continued with the celebration of that memorial from then forward. The Jewish Passover was a yearly event for the kingdom of Israel. As long as Israel existed as a nation, the Passover was observed by its people. How much more should the memorial of the second Passover be part of the spiritual kingdom God promised to set up, a kingdom that would stand forever (Dan. 2:44).
There are also differences, one being the frequency these suppers were kept. The Jewish Passover was an annual affair, the memorial in God’s kingdom is weekly. The first record of this feast is found shortly after the church’s (kingdom) beginning: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, in the fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). The historian mentions neither the day it was kept nor how often it was done but he added that to our knowledge in Acts 20:7: “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them …” The significance of the “first day” should not be overlooked. It was on the first day that God brought a world into existence from nothing. It was on the first day of the week Jesus was raised from the dead (Mark 16:9). It was on the first day of the week that the church (kingdom) began (Acts 2:1-4). It was on the first day of the week that the Corinthian Christians were command to take up a collection for the relief of poor saints (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Truly the first day of the week is the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10). No other day is identified as the day the disciples “broke bread.” The frequency of the memorial is determined by the specific statement “upon the first day of the week the disciples came together to break bread.” It was the first day of the week, not the first day of the month or the first day of the year. The last statement would have set the feast annual; the second would have implied the observance was monthly. “The first day of the week” tells us the observance was weekly.
Thousands of years ago, a prophet named Balaam, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, said of Israel, “What hath God wrought!” (Num. 23:23). Wonderous was that which God had wrought: a nation had been born in a day! Several weeks would pass before the law for that nation was given. However, they had been spared from death the night of their Passover, and from that moment were slaves no longer. They were free! If the bringing forth of the people of Israel as a “nation in a day” was an event to memoralize, how much more when God formed from Jew and Gentile one new body in Him making them His spiritual kingdom a marvelous matter.
What marvelous things Christians have to ponder each week as we break the bread and drink the cup in His kingdom remembering the sacrifice God’s Son made for us. Truly we should all with thankful hearts exclaim, “What God hath wrought!”