I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the Israelites, “I am the LORD, and I will set you free from the burden of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.
I will always remember the first Passover meal I ate. It was at the home of two Jewish Christians: Saul, a native New Yorker, and his wife Leah, a native of Israel. They followed the traditional Seder, or “order”, dating back from before the time of Jesus. Central to the Passover meal were four cups of wine symbolizing the joy of the Exodus journey from bondage into God’s Promised Land. The four cups were drunk at critical points in the evening’s celebration. Each of the four cups celebrated God’s four promises in today’s text.
The First Cup is called the “Cup of Sanctification” and commemorates God’s promise: “I will free you from the burden of the Egyptians”. The Second Cup is the “Cup of Deliverance” for remembering God’s promise: “I will deliver you from slavery”. The Third Cup is the “Cup of Redemption” and represents the promise: “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment”. It was this Third Cup that Jesus used in the Upper Room to institute the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion: “And Jesus did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood’” (Luke 22:20). Each time we drink from the Communion cup we are celebrating Jesus as our Redeemer who paid our redemption price.
The Fourth Cup is called the “Cup of Hope” calling to mind God’s promise: “I will take you as my people, and I will be your God”. The Fourth Cup reminds us that God’s deliverance is not yet complete, but we await the future with Messiah’s coming again. It was the Fourth Cup that Jesus did not drink at the Last Supper, saying to His disciples: “I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). We look forward to drinking this cup with Jesus in His Kingdom.
As we await God’s coming Kingdom, we worship Jesus our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). We will celebrate what the four cups teach us: through His cross Jesus freed us from burden, delivered us from the slavery of sin and death, redeemed us, and will take us as His people. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
- Reflect on the four active verbs of God’s promise to His people: I will free you; I will deliver you; I will redeem you; I will take you as my people. What thoughts and feelings do these words stir in you? Talk to Jesus about these thoughts and feelings.
- What new thoughts about the Lord’s Supper or Communion emerge for you today?