Exodus/ Passover Motifs in the New Testament… "The Cups"

I have been doing some thinking and study about Exodus/Passover motifs in the New Testament. One of the most obvious ones is found in the gospels when Jesus is in the upper room with his disciples. Most scholars agree that the Last Supper was shared by Jesus during a Passover meal or “Seder” (I am choosing not to go into the problem of John’s Gospel and the difficulty it presents to this theory, but am personally convinced that even the fourth evangelist’s account of Jesus can be brought into harmony on this issue).

Something that I recently learned is that Jesus did not drink the communion cup that we Christians associate with our celebration of Eucharist until after the dinner was complete. What this means is that this was the third cup of wine in the Passover meal of four cups. This cup is called the “cup of redemption.” The potential imagery of this is powerful when you consider that Jesus seemed to have not indulged in the fourth cup (reference in Mark 14.25) which appropriately is called “cup of consummation.” As Marvin Wilson states in his book, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith:

“The unfinished meal of Jesus was a pledge that redemption would be consummated at that future messianic banquet when he takes the cup and ‘drinks anew in the kingdom of God.’” (p 247)

What are your thoughts on the above “cup” image? What are some interesting and often overlooked connections of Exodus/Passover motifs that have inspired you?

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  • Kurt, I agree very powerful imagery in the cups and the meal itself. I was reading Rob Bell’s “Jesus Wants to Save Christians” a month or so ago and thought he incorporated the Exodus/Passover theme to great effect throughout the book.

    As far as what overlooked Exodus themes have stood out to me, I would have to say Luke 9:31, where during the Transfiguration Jesus discusses his “departure (Greek is exodus) which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem”. This gives much more depth to what Jesus is doing than some of the popular accounts I think, and it seems also to tie into Wright’s end of exile themes quite well which I’m rather partial to.

    • Mason,
      this is great insight! I doubt that this is a coincidence, but i just read about the ‘departure’ theme that you describe about 5 minutes before reading this comment!!!!! Great thought!!!!!

  • Jon


    It so happens that I have this book too but I havent read it yet. Bought it a few years back. Thanks for alerting me to this!

    This knowledge of Jesus “not indulged in the fourth cup” bring such rich flood of understanding. I especially like the symbolism of the cups mentioned above. The third cup symbolizing redemption and the fourth symbolizing consummation.

    It sort of makes 1 Cor 11:26 in a clearer light
    “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

    It is no wonder the resurrection is ‘not mentioned here’. I was somewhat baffled and at times frustrated why Paul just mentions “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” The cup speaks about redemption but a further picture down the line is consummation!

    At this point i am seeing the the supper in a much more clearer light. Not just as a remembrance meal but a meal that paints the picture of the present and future in a much more clearer picture.

    Well now that you have alerted me to the book I think I’m going to start reading it soon.

  • Kurt,
    Thanks for this post, something to think about. I was recently challenged listening to someone brought up as a Jew who has become a Christian contrasting the atmosphere of joy and celebration at Jewish festivals with Christian festivals which, to them, appear to lack this element of joy.
    There is much for us to reflect upon in the cup given to us.

  • Kurt, though I don’t normally think of the Last Supper in Passover terms (beyond the obvious historical note that Passover was ostensibly what they were celebrating), the comments you make resonate with an observation that has meant something to me. Jesus says in all 3 synoptic Gospels (Matt. 26:29, Mark 14:25, and Luke 22:18) that he will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom is consummated (my paraphrase). Taken together with 1 Cor. 11:26, I have come to see the cup in the communion as somewhat akin to the concept of an Irish wake. . .where the living drink a toast to their departed friend who they trust they will see again.

    So when I take communion, I have taken to raising my glass and whispering “Till he comes” as a toast to our departed, but coming, Lord.

    I don’t know if this connects to anyone else but it’s been meaningful to me.

  • Kurt,
    Good thoughts here, and I agree that the Last Supper was in all likelihood patterned or influenced by the Passover meal.

    No lamb is mentioned at the Last Supper of Jesus with the disciples. That’s because Christ himself is our Passover, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. I guess I might say that’s a favorite theme of mine from that. But I need to read up on it again.

    That time of communion to come will bring to unending fulfillment what is begun now through Christ’s death for us. Just beyond me now, even to imagine it.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Ted. I have not thought of the fact that perhaps the lamb is intentionally left out of the gospel narratives… obviously this would point to Jesus as you indicated. Have a good rest of the weekend and fun in the snow!

  • Dan… great thoughts about the anticipation of Jesus’ return. “Till He Comes…”

  • have you seen the Van Der Laan videos on this topic?

    • I usually like what RVL has to say. Sometimes he can be a bit ‘modern’ in his approach, but overall i really have learned much from his website, videos, and audio files. I commend them to anyone!

  • RianJepson

    I have carefully read the new testament but didn’t pay attention to this particular detail. It’s an interesting point of view and I will have to document myself on this issue. Thanks for bringing up this idea.