The traditional Passover Sedar includes the drinking of four cups of wine. Actually this is taking four drinks of wine not drinking four glasses of wine as some people think. Each of the four cups has specific representation and takes place throughout the ceremony, they are as follows:
THE FIRST CUP: THE CUP OF SANCTIFICATION
The father lifts his cup and explains, “Sanctification means to be set apart. We are setting apart this ceremony as special to our Lord.”
The Jews remember Exodus 6:6a, “I will bring you out (set you apart) from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” God performed miraculous deeds to free Israel from Egypt. As believers, we remember the death of Jesus to free us. (Everyone take first drink of wine)
THE SECOND CUP: THE CUP OF PLAGUES
God poured out 10 plagues on Egypt, the last of which, the slaying of the first born, convinced Pharaoh to let the people of Israel leave the land.
(After this explanation, the father invites the participants to recount these plagues. He reads each plague aloud; they repeat it and then dip a finger into the: wine, letting a drop fall onto the plate to symbolize the plagues.) This is an especially fun part of the ceremony where the family works to remember the plagues in order.
THE THIRD CUP: THE CUP OF REDEMPTION
The Father says, “I will redeem you,” which is from Exodus 6:6, everyone drinks. Redemption means to buy out of slavery. The lamb offered on Passover was the price to deliver the nation of Israel. This third cup is what Jesus drank with His disciples as a symbol of His blood. (Matt 26:26 -28) This is the cup that instituted the sacrament of communion for the church.
“While they were eating, Jesus took somebread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying,“Drink from it, all of you;for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
THE FOURTH CUP: THE CUP OF PRAISE
As everyone lifts this cup, the father quotes Exodus 6:7, “I will take you for My people.” The Jewish nation looks forward to a golden age where everyone will be at peace. We, as believers in the Lord Jesus, eagerly wait for His return when He takes us home to heaven.
So, with the Passover ceremony finished, everyone drinks the fourth cup proclaiming, “Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.” And “Next Year in Jerusalem”
What I want to talk about this morning is the use of wine at Passover and by extension into the communion sacrament we celebrate in our churches. In modern times since somewhere late in the 1800 most fundamental churches substituted fermented wine at communion for grape juice. This can be directly linked to the temperance movement at the time and the fear that taking a sip of wine at church was going to make an alcoholic backslide into a binge of drunkenness. When in all actuality the move to unfermented juice instead of wine was a purely political cave in to the temperance movement and a financial boon to a Methodist Bishop by the name of Thomas Welch who owned Concord grape vineyards.
Since the use of grape juice in the place of wine for communion cannot be supported by scripture these churches began a campaign of re-interpreting the word “wine” in scripture to mean unfermented juice. They began teaching their congregations that the wine Jesus drank was not fermented wine, but merely grape juice. This teaching on wine cannot, in anyway by honest scriptural exegesis, be supported and the honest church leaders know it.
“Jesus drank wine, Jesus made wine, and Jesus told us to drink wine as we do it in remembrance of Him.”
WHY DOES IT MATTER IF WE USE WINE OR GRAPE JUICE IN COMMUNION?
I believe that the symbolism of wine is important and when we change the symbols we change the meaning. The reason wine is used to represent the blood of Jesus is because wine is complete in and of itself. The grape contains everything it needs to become wine. It has the liquid, the sugar and the yeast all in itself. When you crush it – it turns to wine. You have to kill the process in order to stop the fermentation.
Jesus’ Blood is complete in and of itself, we don’t need anything else, nothing has to be added to complete the process of redemption. When Jesus was crushed and his blood shed for us the process began and there is no stopping the complete process. We don’t have to add a thing it’s a complete work of redemption.
Using unfermented wine at communion is the same as using some other bread than unleavened bread, or not really getting someone wet when you baptize them. The symbols that have been given to us to use as church sacraments are given to us because they have meaning and we should honor that meaning and not mess with it due to political or other legalistic issues.
Raise your glass of wine at passover and say with me “L’Chaim” “To Life”
Grace and Peace