June 22, 2008

The Lord's Supper as Covenant Seal

Luke 22:14-20

He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
Luke 22:20


If you are a new believer, it can seem strange to visit a Christian worship service and watch believers eating a piece of bread and drinking a cup of wine or juice.

On the surface, this eating and drinking seems quite simple. But this action is packed with meaning best understood in terms of vivid poetic images.

In our text today, Jesus says, “This cup [we drink] is the new covenant in my blood.” The word “covenant” is not much used today, but it refers to an arrangement based on firm, binding promises.

Marriage is a good example of a covenant. And at its best, marriage is not so much defined by a contract as by a trusting relationship. Though it is a legal arrangement, a marriage is so much more. It’s about promises and faithfulness for the sake of love.

That’s also true in the church’s relationship with God. God promises, “I will be your God.” The church responds, “We will be your people.” The covenant promises are sealed and confirmed whenever we drink the cup and eat the bread of the Lord’s table.

That’s why the Lord’s Supper need never be somber. There is too much to celebrate! Yet it’s also why the Lord’s Supper should be solemn. The promise-based relationship we have with God through Jesus is too weighty for anything less.

God of the covenant: we praise you for being faithful to all your promises. Help us to live today as faithful children, looking to you alone for our spiritual nourishment. Amen.

About the author — John D. Witvliet

Dr. John D. Witvliet has served as a professor at Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary for the past 11 years, as well as serving as Director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. He and his wife, Charlotte, have four children.

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