Matthew 26:17-30 Part 5


I love the solemnity and the simplicity of the sacrament.  The simplicity is there for a reason.  It’s supposed to be simple.  It’s not to be polluted by disorder, showmanship, fanfare, mystery or magic.  Both of the signs are very real, very doctrinal, very emotional… spiritually filling.  They signify and seal the salvation of God’s people which was promised in eternity.

As we began this passage on the Lord’s Table, we looked at all the information that was available… in the Gospels and in Paul’s writing.  And we saw what was done, who did it, and how it was done.  The sacraments are the focus for much contention in the Churches; but if the Lord’s people would just stick to what the Scripture says…!  Then if there’s a question we can just say, “Show me in the Word.”  There really isn’t much information here about it; so it’s all important.  That’s the way it is; and that’s the way it should be.  God gave us all we need to know so that we may observe it in simplicity, in holy reverence, in quiet.

In the second approach to the passage our attention was turned to the body of Christ.  Jesus said, “Take.  Eat.  This is My body.”  The entire German reformation was split from the reformation in the rest of Europe over these words.  Martin Luther said that somehow, because of the “blessing”, or consecration, of the bread, the flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ was physically present in and around the bread.

But Calvin’s understanding of it was infinitely more Biblical; and so much deeper.  And the reformation of the Church (with respect to the sacrament) was complete.  There is a Biblical distinction made between the words “flesh”, and “body”.  Calvin said that Jesus instructed His people to partake of His Person.  His “body” did not mean His physical flesh.  The word “body” has much broader implications than that.

Eating the bread signifies a union between Christ and His people… and a union and fellowship among all believers, who are brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are new creations… a new humanity in Christ; and therefore the table should be shared by the entire Church.  You see, if union is signified, then this isn’t an “individual” thing.  There’s no such thing as a “private” celebration… it’s for the Church.  The Church is in union with Him and we are now His body!

But we should never make the mistake of saying that there exists a union between us and Christ because of communion.  The union doesn’t occur as we eat the bread, but the communion signifies what has, indeed, taken place.  And what is true is sealed to us.  We must never confuse the sign and the reality.  The covenantal relationship and the sign of covenantal relationship are not the same.  The communion service is not the union itself… it is the sign of that union – and the seal of its Truth and factuality.

But the union of Christ and His Church is very real.  Eating the bread is the sign of our being in Him and feeding upon all that He is.  He is the bread of life… our source of life.  Our life isn’t centered in Adam’s flesh.  We have a new source of life… the body of Christ!  As His “new creations” we now have a new humanity, and we have “put off” the old one.  And that “new humanity” is Christ!  As we were in covenantal unity with Adam before (in the flesh)… we are now in covenantal union with Christ.  His body now determines our very existence.  And eating this bread is the “sign” of all that… and it “seals” that it is true.

Today we want to spend most of the time with verses twenty-seven and twenty-eight concerning the blood of Jesus.  Let’s read those two verses one more time.


“And having taken a cup and having given thanks, He gave to them saying, ‘All of you drink of it, for this is My blood of the covenant which, concerning many, is poured out in remission of sins.’”


“This is My blood of the covenant… all of you drink of it.”  (Not, as some would require the text to read, “drink all of it.”)  He requires of all of us… “all of you drink of it.”

But what does He mean by, “this is My blood of the covenant”?  And may I say that, due to the answer to this question, this may be the most important sermon you’ll ever hear.  Not because I developed it and I’m preaching it, but because of the answer.  And I plead with you to listen carefully and stay tuned in; and let this Gospel proclamation sink deeply into your minds and hearts and bloom there into the beauty of salvation in Christ Jesus.

But be attentive.  Stay focused.  Even though the answer is simple, it requires an understanding of the covenant.  (Jesus did say, “This is My blood of the Covenant”.)  And remember, the sacrament (the Word of God visible), is a sign of the covenant; and the Truth of God gives the sign its vigor and vitality.  Therefore the sign ought to be a great stimulant to our understanding of the salvation wrought by God on our behalf!

But an entire generation (maybe two full generations) has so mauled, and so reshaped and reinterpreted and superficialized the sacraments… and demythologized them… that the Gospel which they signify and seal is nearly unrecognizable.  And so, where is the grace and mercy of God in Christ to be seen?

“This is My blood of the covenant; all of you drink of it.”

We know that the covenant is a promise, or a pledge, of certain action taken by God on behalf of His people, and a required response from us – an obligation.  He “unilaterally” cut a covenant to have a certain people set apart for Himself.  It’s legal (by the mouth of two or three witnesses).  And He is faithful to execute all the stipulations of that pledge.  (This, by the way, is the verity of God, the faithfulness of God, which in turn requires us to be faithful to do all that we say and all that we pledge… in full and on time.  So be careful about what you say; and do all you say… without prevarication, without reinterpreting the words to your benefit… in the full light; that is, without covering anything up.  God made a covenant.  And He, in the full light of the sight and hearing of men, fulfills every single word and meaning.  And He requires us to be faithful in the same way.)

But the covenant is One which was cut in the Triune Godhead.  And it was promised to His Own people and their seed by natural generation.  Men who received the pledge of God were to pass that covenant down to their children by teaching them.  And they were to teach it, in full, to their children.  The entire life of the family was to be lived in that covenant – to live and breathe and work and eat and sleep in the promises of God.  The father was to see to it that the family lifestyle was just that… it was the center; it was the foundation, the end, the chief aim of life for God’s people.  And the children were to learn all about the covenant from their fathers, who were to teach when they were lying down, when they were sitting, when they were standing and when they were walking in the way.  They were to teach all the time… because everything was to be understood, everything was to be viewed, everything was to be perceived from the standpoint of the family’s position in the covenant.  There was to be no other way to look at things, because that’s where the family was!  As Joshua said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

And God “ratified” (“validated”) His covenant with the shedding of blood.  The animal was killed.  It’s “life” (the blood) was poured out.  And God passed, as fire, between the divided pieces of the sacrifice!  In this awful, bloody spectacle, men are made to see the fearsome ramifications of God’s covenant.

Today, from the pulpits of the Churches and from television and radio, we hear that Jesus died on the cross for all men; and that individuals need to “believe” in Him and “accept” Him into their hearts.  And he now stands waiting patiently and pleading with you.  If you love Him and include Him in your life, and if your faith is strong enough, He will change your life.  “Try Jesus for a change!”  That’s so different from the covenantal salvation which we read in the Scriptures, isn’t it?

A great preacher once said that there are at least ten different “definitions” of Jesus in the “so-called” Church today.  But you can’t be a Christian unless you know the real Jesus… the One Who defines Himself – in His Word!  So if you worship someone who is not Jesus, you worship an idol.  And one cannot be saved who worships an idol.  The Jesus we must worship is the One Who has defined and revealed Himself… in His Word!

The eternal covenant of God, ratified in the terrible sights and sounds and smells of the bloody, divided animal, is something seldom heard now.  Because the covenant is a bond in blood.  It is a pledge to life… or death.  And it’s in the context of the inauguration (or ratification) of the covenant that the Biblical term “to cut a covenant” is to be understood.

Blood has great significance in Scripture because it represents life.  Not because it’s crude or bloody, but because the life is in the blood (Leviticus seventeen, verse eleven).  And the shedding of blood represents a judgment on life.  The Biblical blood sacrifice shows the relationship between life and blood.  The pouring out of life-blood is the only way of relief from the sanctions of the covenant.

God’s covenant is a “bond in blood”.  And it commits the participants to loyalty… on pain of death (the shedding of blood)!  Once the Covenant has been cut, nothing less than the shedding of blood may relieve one of the sanctions if the covenant has been violated!  Covenant breakers are to die.  Their blood is to be shed.  And they are to be dismembered!

Jeremiah, in chapter thirty-four, at verse twenty, tells Israel of their disloyalty to their covenant obligations; and he reminds them of that event where God passed as fire between the pieces of the sacrifice.  By their transgressions they have called down on themselves the curse of the covenant.  Therefore their blood will be shed, and they can expect dismemberment of their flesh.  And they “shall be food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth.”

You see, the party who violates God’s covenant must die.  His blood must be poured out, because the covenant is a bond of life or death!  And it’s in the context of covenantal death that the death of Jesus Christ is to be understood.  Christ’s death was a substitutionary death.  Christ died as a substitute for the covenant-breaker!  That’s essential for the understanding of the death of Christ.  Christ died in the place of the sinner.  Because of covenant violation, men are condemned to die.  Christ took on Himself the curses of the covenant and died in the place of the sinner.  His death was a covenantal death… a covenant of life – or death!

It was a covenantal meal that was being celebrated on this occasion.  It was in the context of the covenantal meal of the Passover that Jesus introduced the provisions of the new covenant meal.  And it’s clear that His intention was to proclaim Himself as the Passover Lamb Who was taking on Himself the curses of the Covenant… “This is My blood of the covenant….”  His blood was “poured out” for His people.  He inaugurated the New cutting!  He was cut off from His people.  He was crucified, and His blood was poured out for His covenant people.

God’s covenant as been the same from the beginning – a bond in blood, sovereignly administered; and we can’t confuse the fact that the substitute sacrifice has been the promise of God from the beginning!  We can’t be redirected from this.

We cannot be led off track that the term “new covenant” means something else… that the promises are somehow different now than they were then.  The Covenant has always been a covenant of promise… and curse; and covenant of life and death; a bond ratified in blood between the God of Heaven and Earth and His people, who are violators of His Covenant.  The covenant is a commitment of God to His people… formalized by blood-shedding!

God is the One Who dictated the terms of this Covenant; and the shedding of blood must take place – because you and I are covenant breakers.  Christ’s blood had to be shed in order that the Covenant of God might be satisfied!  That’s the reason for the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.  You and I are covenant breakers; and, under the terms of the covenant, we had to die.  But His blood, His life, was poured out instead.  Our violations of the Covenant put Him there.  Someone had to have His life poured out… so God the Son poured out His Own blood to satisfy the terms of His Own covenant – which we refused to keep.

The covenant is one of life and death.  “The life is in the blood…”  When we lift the cup to our lips and drink, we do acknowledge that God has fulfilled His promise.  The new covenant meal is the sign and the seal that God did what He said He would do.  “This is My blood of the Covenant…”, Jesus says.

This isn’t the blood of sacrificed animals, animals which could do nothing toward forgiving man’s sin; this is My blood which, concerning many, is shed for the remission of sin!!

God fulfilled the terms!  He brought it to pass exactly as He said.  And Jesus paid… with His blood!  When you drink the wine, you signify that.  And its truthfulness is sealed.  There’s even a promise here from Jesus that He will once again drink wine with us… when all is new.  There will be joy and celebration, with Jesus, because of the remission of sin!

In the meantime, this is a covenant of life… and death; of promise… and curse!  Many will participate, and pay for their own sin!  And many others won’t even bother to participate – and pay for their own sin.

It’s all around them – in the creation; it’s even in them.  And it’s in the Word and the preaching.  And it’s in the Word made flesh.  And there’s no excuse.  And it’s signified in the sacrament… and sealed by God that it’s true!  And they’ll pay for their own sin anyway!

God fulfilled all the terms of the covenant… “Why will you die?” He says.  Why will you turn away from it?  It’s all been done – just as He promised; so why will you not live in it?

Here is My covenant, God says.  And I have fulfilled all that I said.  It is a covenant of life… and death.  And the sacrament signifies and seals its Truth – so, I have set it before you visually!  So now, turn and live in the covenant.  Repent and you’ll have life.  If you will not, then you will suffer eternal payment for your own sin!

Life… or death.  Promise… or curse.  All of you drink of it.