Message # 36 | 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 | March 5, 2017

Purpose Statement. The ground at the foot of the cross is flat. It tolerates no socio-economic hierarchy or division in the family of God. [Everyone’s equal at the foot of the cross. Don’t get a big head!]

The Lord’s Supper: A Fulfillment of the Passover

In college, I had the opportunity to go to two plays with some friends of mine. One of those plays was down town Milwaukee in a little theater. The theater was a room much smaller than our auditorium. There was a rough stage area in the middle of the room. There was no backdrop, just actors who walked through the crowd to find their way to the middle of the room to put on the play. This event was fairly inexpensive and if I recall correctly not a lot of people were dressed up very nicely. Instead of the effort going into a stage or set or scenery, that effort was exerted in the minds and imaginations of those attending.

I as well was able to go to Les Miserable in New York on Broadway. Needless to say, this was a different experience. It costs a lot more. There was a stage. There was a set. We dressed up really nice to go. Probably a couple thousand people sat in front of the stage as multiple times throughout the performance the stage changed entirely to reveal more and more dramatic scenery. This was an amazing experience. I didn’t have to work hard at imagining what was going on. They had done an amazing job of setting the backdrop for the story.

Let me pause for just a moment to make a point. The backdrop or the set was not vital to the performance. Theoretically the performance could have gone on either way. It may have been harder to follow, but in the end we probably could have figured out the main idea. The backdrop is just there to help us better understand and more fully appreciate the dialogue or the content and characters going on in front and around the backdrop.

So it is with Passover and the Lord’s Supper. Imagine, with me, that we have an opportunity to go to a play. It’s titled “The First Lord’s Supper.” Of course you would expect to find Jesus reclining with his disciples. You might imagine a table, low to the ground, food spread on it. Of course there would be some bread and wine present. But what is the backdrop? Well, you may imagine an upper room, stone walls, etc. While this might be true, let me offer a clearer backdrop and context to this “performance.” The backdrop is Passover. Jesus and his disciples were celebrating the Passover feasts.[1]

Matthew 26:17–30 (ESV) 17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?”

Mark 14:12–26 (ESV) 12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”

Luke 22:7–38 (ESV) 7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.”

Passover Celebration

We desire to fully understand and appreciate when Christ says, “this is my body which is broken for you” or “this is the cup of the new covenant in my blood.” To do so let’s take a look at a quick overview of a Passover Seder. As we go through, I’ll point out the moment when Jesus observes the different elements of the Lord’s Supper, and we will as well observe those elements.

KADESH. After the candles are lit and everyone has been seated, the Passover Seder begins by saying Kiddush (a ceremony of prayer and blessing) over the first cup of Passover wine. Four cups were toasted in remembrance of the 4 statements made in Exodus 6:6-7. (1) I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians (2) I will deliver you from slavery (3) I will redeem you, and (4) I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God. The first is called the “Cup of Sanctification.”

URCHATZ. Ceremonial hand washing.

KARPAS. The partaking of the vegetable dipped in salt water and vinegar. The vegetable symbolizes the lowly origins of the Jewish people, and the salt water signifies the tears shed as a result of slavery.

YACHATZ.  Three matzah that have been placed in a bag are taken out and shown to all. The leader takes the middle piece and breaks it in half. The larger of the two pieces is either placed in a cloth or bag and then hidden to later be found. Often the second cup of wine (cup of Deliverance) is poured at this time.

These three matzah are said to represent Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, respectively. The middle matzah is broken to recall how he was offered, himself, in sacrifice in obedience to the will of his father. The binding of Isaac is a clear picture of how Yeshua yielded himself to be sacrificed by God the Father.[2]

MAGGID. The Passover story, a story of redemption from slavery, must be told with joy and gratitude. Moses and the Israelites were in bondage to the Egyptians. God inflicted ten different plagues on the Egyptians and in so doing compelled Pharaoh to let the Israelite people go. The tenth and final plague involved the angel of death coming and killing every firstborn male. The only exception to this killing was in the homes where a lamb’s blood was smeared on the doorframe of the home. When the angel saw the blood on the doorframe, he passed over that home, leaving the firstborn unharmed.

Pharoah let them go. They immediately picked up all their belongings and left, only to be followed by Pharoah and the Egyptian army. Once again God delivered them with a pillar of fire to protect them from behind and made a dry path through the sea for them to cross safely. Once they had passed, God closed up the sea as the Egyptian army attempted to cross.

This story of redemption and provision continues as God provides food and water. He cares for their shoes and clothes. He provides the law to direct them. He protects them from invaders. He leads them to the Promised Land. At the end of the story, the second cup of wine is drank.

Rachtzah. This involves the washing of hands with a traditional blessing.

Motzi Matzah. The leader removes the top and middle piece of matzah from the bag. These two represent Abraham and Isaac. The Lord directed them to eat this “bread of affliction” to commemorate their Exodus from Egypt when they had to leave with haste and take their bread dough before it was leavened (Ex 12:33-34). They are to remember having only eaten matzah from the time they left Egypt until they crossed the Red Sea and left Egypt forever (Ex 13:3-6).

Maror. This involves the eating of bitter herbs to remember the bitter affliction of the people of Israel. Not only do they remember their deliverance from Egypt but they as well reflect on the reality that they had been enslaved.

Korech.  This step is of rabbinic origin and not necessary to the seder. It involved the eating of the Hillel sandwich which consisted of two pieces of matzah with charoset on one end and the bitter herb on the other. The charoset was a sticky and sweet paste. The sandwich was to be eaten starting from the bitter side and eating to the sweet side. In so doing, symbolizing the bitterness of bondage and the sweetness of deliverance.

Seder Meal.

Tzafun. At this point the hidden matzah is retrieved and eaten. The first matzah was eaten in remembrance of the “bread of their affliction.” This half is eaten in commemoration of the Passover sacrifice. It is likely this piece that Jesus Christ took and broke. He then told his disciples, “this is my body that is given for you, do this in remembrance of me.”[3]

Barekh. At this point the third cup, the cup of redemption, is taken. It was this cup that reminded the Jewish people of God’s promise, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm” (Ex 6:6). This wine recalls the shed blood of the lamb that was applied to the doorposts in Egypt. It was most likely, when this cup was served, that Jesus Christ said to his disciples, “this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). In the same way that the blood of the lamb saved them from death in Egypt, Christ’s blood redeems us from slavery and bondage to sin.

Let us again be silent for a moment . . . Close your eyes and hold this cup in your hands. This Cup of Redemption represents God’s New Covenant, and the very blood of [the Messiah] that was shed for the forgiveness of your sins on the cross . . . Let us recite the traditional blessing, and then drink this cup full of assurance that we are accepted and beloved by our Lord.[4]

The Traditional Jewish blessing: “Blessed are Thou, Lord our God, King of the universe Creator of the fruit of the vine.”

Hallel. This is a time of praise. At this point, a child would be sent to open the door welcoming Elijah the prophet. This fourth cup, the Cup of Restoration, was the cup of Elijah, who would herald the return of the Lord at the end of the age. It is likely this cup that is referenced in Matthew when Jesus says, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matt 26:29).

Nirtzah. Passover is now complete. The customs fulfilled. “Leshanah hab’ah bey-yerushalayim” – “Next year in Jerusalem.” We are hopeful that one day soon we will enjoy fellowship together with the Messiah himself in his coming kingdom!

Threefold Significance

It’s past significance. The Jewish people look to the past and remember the lamb’s blood that was placed above the door. In so doing they remember being protected as the angel of the Lord came by.  For us, the cup now reminds us of the perfect Lamb who’s death and blood protect us from the wrath of God. More clearly, it is this death that provides “for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26:28).

It’s present significance. There is community significance in that this was a meal. Meals have been and continue to be a community affair. A Jewish meal would have been a key point in which the family members would gather and would be identified together as a family. “It was the high point of the annual celebration for Jewish families.” In a rather significant and dramatic fashion, Jesus called the disciples out from their families and he identified them as His own true family. This is what he declared in Matthew, “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt 12:50). This is a radical redefinition of identity for the disciples.[5]

It’s future significance. The Jewish people look forward to their Messiah, and sadly have missed his coming. As believers, we as well look to the future. The Last Supper is not intended to only look back at the death of Christ, but as well involves the surety of a future, greater meal. We look for the second coming of Christ. At that coming, he will set up his eternal kingdom and reign. There’s a greater meal coming.

Corinth: Lord’s Supper or Snobbish Feasting?

The Cultural Setting in Corinth. Let’s consider once again our passage in 1 Corinthians. “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not” (1 Cor 11:20–22). This kind of behavior, on the part of the Corinthians, sounds a lot like the behavior some first century historians and poets wrote about.

PLINY’S LETTER TO AVITUS. It would be a long story, and of no great importance, to tell you by what accident I found myself dining the other day with an individual with whom I am by no means intimate, and who, in his own opinion, does things in good style and economically as well, but according to mine, with meanness and extravagance combined. Some very elegant dishes were served up to himself and a few more of us, whilst those placed before the rest of the company consisted simply of cheap dishes and scraps. There were, in small bottles, three different kinds of wine; not that the guest might take their choice, but that they might not have any option in their power; one kind being for himself, and for us; another sort for his lesser friends (for it seems he has degrees of friends), and the third for his own freedmen and ours. My neighbour, reclining next me, observing this, asked me if I approved the arrangement. Not at all, I told him. “Pray then,” he asked, “what is your method upon such occasions?” “Mine,” I returned, “is to give all my visitors the same reception; for when I give an invitation, it is to entertain, not distinguish, my company: I place every man upon my own level whom I admit to my table.” “Not excepting even your freedmen?” “Not excepting even my freedmen, whom I consider on these occasions my guests, as much as any of the rest.”[6]

MARTIALIS. Seeing that I am invited to dinner, and am no longer, as before, to be bought, why is not the same dinner given to me, as to you? You partake of oysters fattened in the Lucrine lake; I tear my lips in sucking at a limpet. Before you are placed splendid mushrooms; I help myself to such as are fit only for pigs. You are provided with a turbot; I with a sparulus. The golden turtle-dove fills your stomach with its over-fattened body; a magpie which died in its cage is set before me. Why do I dine without you, Ponticus, when I dine with you?[7]

The Problem in Corinth. Apparently, similar behavior was occurring in the context of the Corinthian church, and even more specifically in the context of the Lord’s Supper.  The Corinthians failed to identify themselves as those who are redeemed by Christ, united in faith, and children of God. Instead “the splits at the Lord’s Supper [were] imposed by prideful, insensitive humans seeking to differentiate the top-drawer members from the common rabble.”[8] A meal that was to be the symbol of a new united community was being enacted in a divisive manner. So much so that Paul tells them, “when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat” (1 Cor 11:20).

There are a couple notable realities present within the first Lord’s Supper that point to a dramatic disparity in what Christ instituted and what the Corinthians were observing. (1) At Passover, everyone was provided wine and food for the celebration. All men were required to come to Jerusalem for Passover, and it was required that everyone, poor or rich, had the wine for the meal. [9] This is in great contrast to the Corinthians who gorged themselves and were drunk as the poor or lower classes looked on hungry. (2) As well, Instead of sitting in the elite positions like the Corinthians, Jesus humbled himself and took on the position of a slave and washed the feet of the disciples.

GARLAND. The Corinthians “take” on their own behalf; Jesus “takes” on behalf of others. The Corinthians act selfishly; Jesus acts unselfishly in giving his life for others. The Corinthians’ actions will lead to their condemnation; Jesus’ action leads to the salvation of others. Each believer gets an equal share of the benefits of his sacrifice. That reality should be symbolized by what happens during the Lord’s Supper. The Corinthians’ observance of the Lord’s Supper, in which one has more than enough and gets drunk while another has too little and goes hungry, hardly proclaims the meaning of the Lord’s death for all. Call it what you will, but do not call it the Lord’s Supper.[10]

WINTER. When Paul declared that it was not the Lord’s supper v. 20, he did not mean that it was sacramentally defective, but rather their own action invalidated it because they acted towards one another in exactly the opposite way Jesus did at the Messianic Passover. . . . They were acting on their own behalf, but the Christian is obligated to act on behalf of others.[11]

We are going to consider verse 33 as we work through this chapter, but let’s take a quick look right now. Paul writes, “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another” (1 Cor 11:33).  This verse is not really about waiting for one another but instead receiving one another (vs. 33). The context seems to indicate that they were present together, but were eating while the others were present and unable to eat. It’s not that they needed to wait for them to arrive, but instead receive them when they were together. Those who had were to bring in or receive those who did not have. “To refuse to receive at the Lord’s Dinner in the fullest sense of the word, those whom Christ has unreservedly received, both denies the reality of the Gospel to break down all barriers, and brings to light in the banquet of the new age those socio-economic divisions that belong to the age that is passing away.[12]

An exhortation

Let’s consider another theater, that theater being the stage of our lives here at Cornerstone. We enter into the theater to see the actors immersed in a reenactment of Communion. The backdrop or the setting for this performance, this reenactment, is Jesus Christ and his disciples at “The First Lord’s Supper. As we have discussed this morning, the backdrop or setting goes so much deeper than we may have realized. The setting for the Lord’s Supper goes back another 1300, beyond Christ, to Passover and the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. The stage and context is set.

What ought to be true of us, the players in this theater? What kind of behavior ought to characterize us, so that we are truly observing the Lord’s Supper and not failing like the Corinthians? We’ve established that if our observance of the Lord’s Supper is to be consistent with what Christ desires, we ought to see unity and equality. “The ground at the foot of the cross is flat.” We ought to see sacrificial and humble service towards one another. We ought to see the development of community.

I would argue that we are not struggling in the same way as the Corinthians. I would go so far as to suggest that we are probably truly observing the Lord’s Supper. I think it’s possible that we have come to look on the Lord’s Supper with too little importance. But, maybe even more significantly, we are missing the unity and community that is to be characteristic of those around the Lord’s Supper. We don’t actively divide people in some kind of caste system. We don’t isolate the poor from the rest of the group. We don’t eat a meal while others look on with nothing.

I would like you to consider whether or not our disunity takes two forms. The first form is that of indifference for others, and the second is that of individualism. We can be so focused on our own lives that we simply overlook the family of God worshiping next to us each week. The individualism of this society has taken root in the church as well and the consequence is that believers are indifferent to one another. Christ didn’t die for us so that we could be a group of distinct and separate individuals. Prior to his death, he prayed for all of us that we would experience the unity that he and God the Father experience. It is that unity that ought to be our goal here at Cornerstone.

Additional Quotes

WINTER. Reading the Corinthian correspondence is not unlike listening to a person engaged in a telephone conversation. You have to piece together the situation without the advantage of hearing both speakers. Furthermore the people engaged in the discussion are mutually aware of the situation about which they speak and as a result their communication with each other does not necessarily enlighten the stranger. . . . It will be argued that it is in the presence of the have-nots that the others are eating their own dinner and they are doing so within the context of the Lord’s Supper. Paul’s solution is, that the Christians who have, should welcome those have-nots by sharing their food with them.[13]

THISELTON QUOTES HANS FROR’S BOOK, YOU WRETCHED CORINTHIANS. “They’re bothering about veils, as though one had only to throw away a bit of material and everyone would be equal at the Lord’s table.… ‘Not slave and free, not poor and rich! That makes me laugh! Clearly the better class gentlemen have been looked after for quite some time in the dining room when our kind comes rushing along. They eat lavishly, drink the finest wines.… They mix up the well-laid table of the master of the house with the Lord’s table.… If we’re lucky, all that’s left for the shared meal is a bit of bread and a sip of wine.… We get the bits.”[14]

PENNINGTON. It looks back to the cross as the place of Jesus’ broken body and poured out blood; it looks around at the present with its emphasis on Communion with each other and the presence of the risen Lord with His people; and it looks forward to the day when this meal will be seen as a mere tidbit from the banquet buffet of the eschaton.[15]



[1] The accounts found in the Gospel of John often produce some confusion as to the timing and nature of the Lord’s last supper with his disciples. “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). “. . . It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover” (John 18:28).

As a result of this apparent inconsistency, some have concluded that the meal was not a Passover meal. You may be wondering why it matters . . . (1) It matters because the integrity of Scripture is at stake. (2) It matters because our understanding of this event is drastically affected by the conclusion one draws in regards to this discussion.

Consider the potential resolutions to these apparent contradictions. (1) In 13:1 when John writes, “before the feast of the Passover,” likely refers to the following foot washing not the meal itself. Prior to the Passover meal, Jesus washed the disciples feet. (2) In John 18:28 we are told that the Jews refused to enter Pilate’s palace because they would have become unclean and thereby unable “to eat Passover.” At face value it appears the Passover meal is going to follow this event, therefore the Passover meal couldn’t have been observed with Jesus and the disciples earlier. In response to this, we must remember that the Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted seven days and in Luke is as well titled “the Passover.” “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover (Luke 22:1). When referring to the Passover, the Jews may have been referring to the specific meal or the entire week of “the Feast of Unleavened Bread.”

[2] Parsons, “Worthy Is the Lamb: A Messianic Passover Haggadah,” 18.

[3] Following Luke’s narrative of this event, it seems possible that Jesus made this connection during Yachatz when the three pieces were pulled out and the middle one broken. Luke says that they took the cup after they had eaten. Is he referring to having eaten the meal? If Jesus connected himself to the bread prior to the meal then it must have been during yachatz. If he connected it to the observance of tzafun then he must be referring to after they had eaten the bread – not necessarily the meal. It probably doesn’t matter because either way he would have been referring to the same broken piece of matzah.

[4] Parsons, “Worthy Is the Lamb: A Messianic Passover Haggadah,” 49.

[5] Matthew R Crawford and Thomas R Schreiner, The Lord’s Supper. (Nashville: B & H Pub. Group, 2011), 49.

[6] PLINY and Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, LETTERS OF PLINY (PergamonMedia, 2015), 19. [Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, (61-113), better known as Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. Pliny the Younger wrote hundreds of letters, many of which still survive and are of great historical value. Some are addressed to reigning emperors or to notables such as the historian Tacitus.]

[7] Marcus Valerius Martialis, Martial: Epigrams in Latin + English, ed. Paul Hudson, 2 edition (Paul Hudson, 2013), Kindle Location 10851-10856 Epigrams 3.60. [Marcus Valerius Martialis (Martial) (between 38 and 41 AD – between 102 and 104 AD) was a Roman poet from Hispania (modern Spain) best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between AD 86 and 103. In these short, witty poems he cheerfully satirizes city life and the scandalous activities of his acquaintances, and romanticizes his provincial upbringing. He wrote a total of 1,561, of which 1,235 are in elegiac couplets.]

[8] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 539.

[9] Crawford and Schreiner, The Lord’s Supper., 22.  [Jesus served wine at the Last Supper (Matt 26:29 and parallels). This is notable since water was usually the drink of choice in everyday life and at ordinary meals and since wine was reserved for festive occasions. Drinking wine at Passover was not optional but mandatory, even for the poor.]

[10] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 542.

[11] Bruce W Winter, “Lord’s Supper at Corinth: An Alternative Reconstruction,” The Reformed Theological Review 37, no. 3 (September 1978): 79.

[12] Ibid., 82. [It is suggested that the issues are far deeper than simply ‘to wait for’ one another or ceasing to hold the Lord’s Supper in the context of a meal. The issues revolve around the significance of ekdechomai — to receive one another. The Corinthians could only declare their love for God by demonstrating their love to their needy brother. . . .]

[13] Ibid., 73–74.

[14] Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 851.

[15] Crawford and Schreiner, The Lord’s Supper., 53.

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