Four Cups of Wine

by: Bill Bratt


Most of us Christians who keep the Passover realize that the Passover is a very solemn occasion picturing the death of our savior, Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Letís begin by focusing in on Jesusí last Passover that He spent with His disciples on the night before He was crucified.

The apostle Luke recorded in chapter 22:1 "Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover." ...... {7} Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. {8} And He (Jesus) sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat." {9} So they said to Him, "Where do You want us to prepare?" {10} And He said to them, "Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. {11} "Then you shall say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"' {12} "Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready." {13} So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover. {14} When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. {15} Then He said to them, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; {16} "for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." {17} Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; {18} "for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." {19} And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." {20} Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. {21} "But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table. {22} "And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!" {23} Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing" (Luke 22:1-23.)

After Jesus had washed His disciplesĎ feet, which is recorded in John 13, He then instituted the new Passover symbols of the bread and the wine to represent His body and His blood. We read this in the above passage in Luke 22:14-20.

Notice that in verse 15, Jesus calls this solemn service the Passover.

Notice in verse 18, that Jesus said "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." Here in the middle of the Passover service, Jesus gives a prophetic statement that He would not drink any wine until the "kingdom of God" comes.

Jesus was committed to preaching the gospel message of the "kingdom of God," and here at His last Passover He connects the Passover with His gospel message. "Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, {15} and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel"" (Mark 1:14-15)

The original Passover (Exodus 12) involved a lamb which was a sacrificial animal, taking itís blood and striking the door-posts, roasting the lamb for a sacrificial meal and including unleavened bread as part of the meal.

In ancient times, men sealed covenants with blood, similarly, the American Indians and the white man became "blood brothers" by cutting themselves and mixing their blood.

In a sense Israel was striking a covenant with God and confirmed it with blood.

On the occasion of Jesusí last Passover, He handed a cup of wine to His disciples, saying: "Drink from it, all of you. {28} "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:27-28.) Jesus gave us a new covenant and sealed it with the wine which represented His shed blood (Luke 22:20.)

Now letís realize something. Jesus was Jewish (Hebrews 7:14) and He kept the Passover as the Jews did. Notice Luke 22:8 where Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare the Passover for Himself and His disciples. As we have read in Luke 22, Jesus kept the Passover in the Jewish tradition as it had been established in the days of Moses (Exodus 12) and probably with itís modifications from the Babylonian captivity, and those traditions have been handed on down to the modern day Jews.

The Sedar and the Haggadah

The Jews call their ritual meal the Sedar (which means "order") which is served on the first night of the Passover, which commemorates their flight, exodus and liberation from slavery in Egypt.

During the Sedar the Jewish people use the Haggadah, which is the text that guides the performance of ritual acts and prayers at the Seder dinner celebrating Passover.

The Haggadah retells the story of the Exodus, offering commentaries that provide a religious philosophy of Jewish history and supplying answers to the traditional questions asked by children at the beginning of the Seder.

[Note: Letís be aware that the Jews in their Passover celebration have added numerous, yet unbiblical, traditions which are not incumbent upon Christians. As Christians we must use only the Bible as our guide to observing the Passover and all of Godís annual Holy Days including the Sabbath.]

Jesus kept the traditional Jewish Passover of His day and then He instituted foot washing which symbolized humility (John 13) and the new symbols of the bread, picturing His broken body (1 Peter 2:24) and the wine picturing his blood (1 Peter 1:18-19.)

Now that we have laid a foundation for the New Testament Passover, letís ponder something about the wine.

Most of us Christians who keep the Passover (the Lordís Supper or take communion) are familiar with the small thimble sized glass that is used for the wine which represents the blood of Jesus Christ.

Now letís notice something interesting. During the Jewish Passover Sedar there is an order of service of approximately fourteen parts as recorded in the Haggadah. Wine plays an important part in their Sedar and it relates to four cups of wine. This is not commanded in the Torah but it is a very ancient tradition of the Sedar.

Letís notice four promises that God made to the ancient Israelites in the following passages: "So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. {25} And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them" (Exodus 2:24-25.) God heard, He remembered, He looked and He cared for the Israelites and He made the following promises and He said to Moses: "Therefore say to the children of Israel: 'I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. {7} 'I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. {8} 'And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the LORD'" (Exodus 6:6-8)

It is in remembrance of these four promises that the Jewish people drink four cups of wine. In the ancient world slaves who were freed would be given "wine-bowls of freedom."

Letís look at these four cups of wine in relation to Jesus and see how He fulfilled the meaning of these four cups.

The Cup of Sanctification

This cup is based upon the first promise of Exodus 6:6: "'I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians."

In the Bible Egypt is pictured as a type of sin and God tells us that sin is the transgression of His law (1 John 3:4.) God wants us to repent of sin and become holy as He is holy.

The word sanctification means "to separate and be holy." For Christians, we must have faith in Jesus Christ, who sanctifies us to live holy and righteous lives: "You are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30.) (See also 1 Peter 1:16.) For God to hear us, we must repent of our sins and be baptized (John 9:31, Mark 1:14-15, Acts 2:38, 17:30.)

The Cup of Deliverance

This cup is based upon the second promise of Exodus 6:6: "'I will rescue you from their bondage (slavery)."

We are all slaves of sin and we need deliverance from death to eternal life and that can only come through the love of God who allowed His one and only son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for all of mankind: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16.)

The apostle Paul stated in Romans 6: {17} But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. {18} And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. {19} ..... so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. ....

{22} But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. {23} For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

We also need deliverance from Satan the devil and his temptations. Jesus taught His disciples to pray: "And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one" (Matthew 6:13.)

The Cup of Redemption

This cup is based upon the third promise of Exodus 6:6: "'I will redeem you with an outstretched arm."

The cup of blessing and redemption was taken after the Passover meal. (See Luke 22:20, Matthew 26:27, Mark 14:23, 1 Corinthians 10:16.)

Redemption is costly (Psalms 49:7-8.) Jesus is our redeemer and our redemption cost Him his life: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, {12} teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, {13} looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, {14} who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14.)

It takes God to redeem us from the power of the grave (Psalms 49:15, 78:35.)

The Cup of Praise

This cup is based upon the fourth promise of Exodus 6:7: "'I will take you as My people, and I will be your God." This cup is also called the Cup of Completion and the cup of the Kingdom. This cup was taken towards the end of the Passover meal.

In Luke 22:17-18 Jesus took the cup and gave it to His disciples but He did not drink of it because He knew there was another cup from which He had to drink. We remember that when Jesus was on the cross: "Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!" {29} Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. {30} So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit" (John 19:28-30.)

In Conclusion: At the last Passover that Jesus attended with disciples He probably prayed the following prayer: "Blessed are you, O LORD our God, King of the universe, who makes the fruit of the vine." As we take the wine this year at the Passover (the Lordís Supper) perhaps we could ponder JesusĎ involvement and fulfillment in the four cups of wine at His last Passover.