"This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." Luke 22. 20
I have an unusual box of eggs. They are not chocolate. A friend gave them to me several years ago but they are still fresh! Each of the 12 contains a symbol associated with the Easter story and so they serve like an Advent calendar, leading up to the big day itself...
Today is Day 3 and the egg contains a goblet. In the Gospel accounts of the last meal he enjoyed with his friends, Jesus is described as taking a cup of wine, blessing it and, when he had given thanks, sharing it with the disciples, saying: "This is the new covenant in my blood..." What on earth did he mean?
It appears that Jesus and his friends were sharing a Passover meal. Passover was one of the big three annual celebrations which all male Jews were expected to celebrate in Jerusalem. It recalled the time when Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. On account of the Egyptian king's reluctance to release the Israelites, God sent a series of plagues, the last and most terrible bringing about the death of every first-born child. Special instructions were given to the Israelites to daub the blood of a lamb on their door-posts, as signal for the angel of death to "pass over" that house, sparing the child within and enabling the escape of its inhabitants.
In raising the cup, Jesus was referring to that momentous event in the history of his people and giving it a new meaning. What he was about to do in offering his own, perfect life on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, was to set the whole world free from slavery to sin. He was presenting himself as the "lamb of God", so that everyone who receives his blood can look forward to their sins being "passed over" and their selves being set free.
It is worth pausing a moment to take it all in... Consider the tragic consequences of sin: moral failure, physical suffering, destruction of relationships and, ultimately, death. Jesus died to set us free from all that. What a Saviour!