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First Corinthians 11:23-26


The church in Corinth was being severely rebuked by Paul for their abuses of the Lords Supper. Certain
affluent members of the assembly had been gathering together early at the home where the church met, and
partaking of a common meal together, which in Corinth took the form of a banquet, complete with
excessive drinking.
Meanwhile, the other members of the assembly would arrive later at this same home at the end of a day of
hard labor - something with which the leisurely upper class was unacquainted. It was then that the whole
assembly would take the Lords Supper together - with some members drunk, and others famished - in an
atmosphere filled with detachment and distraction - and mostly devoid of love - love for others.
Pauls dismay is apparent. And he makes it clear to these affluent Corinthians that their supper was not the
Lords Supper. What they were doing was dishonoring to the Lord, as well as shaming to their brethren.
What Paul records next in his letter are the Lords instructions for His Supper - by way of reminder, to the
church in Corinth. Lets go ahead and read that now.
[First Corinthians 11:23-26]
Pauls words here may represent the first time the tradition of the Lords Supper was committed to the
written record, as it is likely that the gospel accounts were written after this letter. And only here - back in
verse 20 - is it called the Lords Supper.
Why did Paul call it that? Well, he called it the Lords, because it was the Lord Jesus who appointed it,
as a remembrance of Him.
But why did Paul call it a supper? Because it was instituted on the evening before the Jesus died - at the
last supper that He ate, and shared with His disciples.
Those disciples received instruction from the Lord, and then delivered the tradition to others - others such
as Paul - because the Lords Supper was meant, not just for the first disciples, but for all who believed into
the Lord - not just in that day, but in our day - and every day, until the Lord returns.
So when Paul received the tradition, he recognized that he was in essence receiving it from the Lord
Himself. And Paul understood the inestimable worth of this tradition, and so he most carefully preserved it,
and delivered it intact into the safe-keeping of the churches as he established them - such as the church in
Corinth.
Paul was faithful to deliver the tradition; but despite what the Corinthians had apparently written to Paul in
their letter (11:2), they were not faithful to keep the traditions - at least, not this tradition. Some had
desecrated the Lords Supper, with the common - with the profane.
Pauls intent was not just to remind the Corinthians of the tradition, which he had undoubtedly taught them,
over and over, when he was in their midst. His intent was to remind them of the preciousness of what the
tradition represents; of its most vital meaning, particularly to them - at least to those who were genuinely
the Lords.

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Pauls hope was that the Corinthians would come to recognize the sacredness of what had been entrusted to
them - and the necessity of keeping it set apart, as holy unto the Lord. Only then would they be able to
truly partake of the Lords Supper - and be nourished by it.
Now as we consider what Paul has recorded here, we recognize that we are very familiar with the words.
Why is that? Because we have heard them said many a time in communion services at church; and in that
respect, the tradition has been maintained. Churches have been doing this in remembrance of Jesus, since
He died.
But in the simple rehearsal of the words, something can get lost. Certainly we remember that the bread
represents His body; the cup, His blood; and that these elements, in their separation, represent Jesus death.
So we remember His death; and maybe remember that His death was for us; a sacrifice. And those are
good things to remember, agreed?
But Jesus asked that He be remembered, in His sacrifice. And theres so much more to remembering Jesus,
as He committed Himself, to that death - a death of the greatest suffering, and the greatest significance.
In our few words of remembrance, it is easy to forget Him, and to forget His love - love that caused Him to
stay the course (Heb 12:2) - to accomplish the goal - to redeem us to God.
Of course, we understand that His death was the ultimate expression of His love for us. But how much do
we ponder that love? We see the obvious evidence of His love, in this passage - in the words of the
tradition. But what about the other evidence of His love here? Did we notice it? Look at verse 26.
Those who have believed into Jesus are to keep the tradition of the Lords Supper, that is, by it proclaiming
the Lords death, until when? Until He comes.
What is He coming for? Hes coming for us; for those who He gave Himself for - the church (Eph 5:25),
who He will receive to Himself - that where He is, there we shall be, also (Jn 14:3). Why is He going to do
that? Because He loves us. We are His beloved bride (Rev 21:9, 22:17).
Paul was reminding the Corinthians of the Lord, in His great love for them - personally. Jesus had died for
them, and Jesus was coming back for them, so they could be with Jesus, forever.
And what Paul does here is show the love of Jesus against the darkest backdrop imaginable, so as to
demonstrate to the Corinthians just how precious that love is; and what it cost. And what is that backdrop?
We find that in verse 23. Its the betrayal by Judas Iscariot.
The betrayal by Judas occurred on the very same night that Jesus created this memorial to His death - to His
love. Now, Paul is mentioning this for a reason, to the Corinthians. And in order for us to really
understand his reason, we need to refresh ourselves concerning the events of that night - the night before
Jesus died.
Turn to Matthew chapter 26. Jesus had just finished the last week of His ministry, in Jerusalem, which
culminated in a final rejection on the part of the nation Israel, of Jesus as their Messiah (Jn 13:37-41).
Matthew records that during this time, the rulers of the nation had gathered together to determine a way to
destroy Jesus.
Does Jesus know all of this? Yes, Jesus knows.
[Matthew 26:1-56]

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v. 1-2 John says that Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the
Father (Jn 13:1). Jesus knew not just the way that He would die, but the exact timing of it - and how it
would come to pass. And Jesus purposefully told His disciples - as a preparation of heart.
Jesus had previously told them that He would be betrayed to the rulers; that they would condemn Him to
death; that He would be turned over to the Gentiles, who would scourge and crucify Him; but that on the
third day, He would rise again (Mt 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19). But His disciples could never accept this;
they refused to understand it (Mk 9:32), and so they remained unprepared, for what lay ahead.
v. 3-5 Caiaphas was actually the son-in-law of the previous High Priest, Annas. This means that Caiaphas
had to be a counterfeit, because the High Priests were always the firstborn sons in the line of Aaron. He is
always shown to have particular malevolence against Jesus.
The rulers had been trying to ensnare Jesus for some time, but without success, for Jesus was under His
Fathers protection. The dilemma of the rulers had been Jesus popularity with the people, but that was
now waning.
They were determined to carry out their plot; nonetheless, they realized the worst possible time would be
during the feast, for thats when pious Jews from all over the Empire returned to Jerusalem, in conformance
with the Law. The rulers didnt want to spark a riot, which would bring their heavy-handed Roman
overlords down upon them.
But that was precisely the time that the Father had determined, and with circumstances suddenly favorable,
the rulers would grasp the opportunity - and take the risk - of finally doing away with Jesus.
v. 6-13 Matthews gospel is often not chronological. This event actually took place six days before the
Passover; before Jesus came into Jerusalem, in His triumphal entrance (Jn 12:1).
From the other gospel accounts, we find that the woman was Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus had
raised from the dead. Mary had learned, at the feet of Jesus.
The pouring of oil - on both the head and feet of Jesus - was a lavish expression of worship, which Jesus
interpreted as the anointing of His body for His burial - for so they anointed corpses. In verse 8, we read
that His disciples were indignant, for their interpretation was that it was a waste of expensive oil, that could
have been put to better use, such as for the poor.
It is John who clarifies for us that Judas is the one who expressed this, and not because he cared for the
poor, but because he was a thief. Judas kept the money box for the group, and later it became known that
he had been routinely stealing from it (Jn 12:4-6).
Now, Matthew does not interrupt the chronology without particular reason. So why did he placed this
account where he did? Lets read what follows it.
v. 14-16 Lets consider what precedes and follows the account of the anointing. We have the plotting of
the rulers, the enemies of Jesus; and then we have the plotting of Judas with them, to deliver up Jesus to
them; to betray Him, for money; thirty pieces of silver.

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Matthew is bringing out that this episode with the anointing was the last straw, for Judas. Judas was an
opportunist; he had hoped to benefit from his association with Jesus, if the people would accept Jesus as
their Messiah - the Ruler of Israel. But with that anointing - in the face of all that waste - and all that talk
of Jesus death - Judas had finally concluded that he was wasting - his time.
John records that the devil put it into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus (Jn 13:2) - and the heart of Judas
proved to be receptive. So Judas decided to cut his losses - and make whatever profit he could - however he
could. His actions reflect an evil heart of unbelief; an utter contempt for Jesus; Judas counted Jesus for
nothing.
Of course, the rulers were delighted. Judas would know of the solitary places that Jesus would go to pray,
away from the multitudes - places where He could be taken, without inciting a public disturbance. And
they must have derived a smug satisfaction from the fact that it was one of the disciples chosen by Jesus
Himself, who had come to them.
So Judas began to look for an opportunity to betray Jesus. But could he do so at any time? No; he could
only do so according to the timing of the Father.
v. 17-19 Unleavened Bread included the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits - all on three
consecutive days, in the Spring. The first of Unleavened Bread would mean the Passover.
According to the way time was reckoned by the Jews, this extended back to the evening of the previous
day. The Passover meal that the disciples would eat with Jesus was the evening before the Jews would eat
their Passover - because by that time, Jesus would be dead, and the disciples scattered.
In reflecting back on this, Matthew is pointing out that the meal was technically still eaten on the Passover,
by them. That puts it in accord with the original account in Exodus; the meal came before the deliverance.
The LORD had originally instructed that each household was to take a lamb, keep it for four days, and then
sacrifice the lamb, and apply the blood to the door of the house. The LORD would protect from death the
inhabitants of any house that had the blood on the door (Ex 12:3-13).
By Jesus day, the religion of Judaism had made the commemoration more convenient. On the very day of
the Passover, the lambs were both purchased by the people and then sacrificed by the priests right at the
temple. The blood was poured out at the altar, and the fat burned on it. The carcasses were hung up for
collection, to be randomly retrieved by the purchasers, and then taken home and roasted. The picture of
Christ in the Passover lamb was blurred beyond recognition.
What I want you to see is that, when the disciples had their meal with Jesus, there were no lambs available,
and there is no mention of a lamb, in the accounts. It would seem they prepared the Passover, but without
the lamb.
Luke records the words of Jesus: With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I
suffer (Lk 22:15) - this Passover - in which the Lamb of God Himself would bring the feast to its
fulfillment - through the sacrifice of Himself, once for all (Heb 9:26).
So with His hour now fully in view, Jesus took the feast, about to be rendered obsolete (Heb 8:13), and
drew from it the elements that would serve as a glorious memorial, to His fulfillment of it.

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v. 20-25 John records that Jesus first washed the feet of His disciples - an example to them of the service of
love, which they should afterward render to one another. But, Jesus said, not all of them were clean (Jn
13:10); for Jesus knew who it was who would betray Him.
Jesus chose this time to disclose what He had always known - giving Judas an opportunity to have a change
of heart - or to harden his heart, and to carry out his wicked deed.
It was after they began eating that Jesus spoke more directly. The disciples could not be more dismayed, to
hear that one of them would betray Jesus; at least, all but one of them were shocked.
At a meal such as this, large communal dishes were used for serving, and the food was scooped out by the
guests with pieces of bread. All of the disciples had dipped their hand in the dish, with Jesus; but Judas
knew it was his hand that would carry out the betrayal.
One by one, the disciples asked Jesus if they were the one: Lord, is it I? They sought to have Jesus
confirm that they couldnt do such a thing. Judas would not have wanted to stand out, and so he also asked:
Rabbi - teacher - is it I?
Judas never called Jesus Lord, for Jesus was not his Lord. Although Jesus affirmed it was indeed Judas,
none of the other disciples seemed to become aware of it. It may be that Judas was reclined next to Jesus,
and so no one heard.
But John records that he himself asked Jesus who it was; and Jesus then answered John that it was the one
to whom He gave a morsel of bread, that He dipped. To give such a piece was considered a gesture of love
and friendship. And that is what Jesus extended to Judas, as He dipped the bread, and put it in the mouth of
Judas.
Judas could not help but see the love of Jesus for him. And he accepted the bread - but in his heart, he
refused Jesus, the Bread of Life - by which a man might eat and live forever (Jn 6:48-51).
Instead, Judas chose death and everlasting torment for himself - for the little gain he could have in this
world, he would lose his own soul.
Having refused Jesus with finality, Judas was now open to Satan, who empowered him to carry out the
betrayal. And John records the words of Jesus to Judas: What you do, do quickly (Jn 13:27).
Jesus was dismissing Judas. Jesus would have the say, even concerning His own betrayal. And Judas
readily went out from His presence, for the Light had exposed him. He went out into the night, to
orchestrate his wretched deed.
We understand, then, that Jesus did not share the elements of His memorial with His disciples until after
Judas had departed. The leaven had to be put out of the house, in order to partake of the sacred.
v. 26-30 The unleavened bread would have been part of the Passover meal - as would have been the wine.
But the sense is that when Jesus took these elements and spoke these words over them, sharing them with
His disciples, it naturally would have brought the Passover meal to its conclusion.

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Jesus would have taken a fresh loaf of the bread from the table, and blessed it - thereby consecrating it, for
this sacred purpose. Then He broke off a piece for each of His disciples. Together they ate it, taking in His
words - understanding that the bread represented His body, which would be broken for them, in death (1
Cor 11:24).
Luke records, This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. The body of Jesus
would be given in death; broken, that they might have His Life. One body - one Life - shared, by all who
are willing to take Him in - the Bread of Life.
Jesus repeated this pattern with the cup - consecrated, and then shared with each of His disciples. The wine
represented the blood of the new covenant.
New covenant means the covenant that supersedes the old. So what is the old covenant? The covenant of
the Law - which was broken so long ago by the children of Israel, rendering it null and void. But the old
covenant of the Law continued to give the knowledge of sin, and to picture the One who would come and
save from sin.
The new covenant is the eternal covenant - for eternal life, through faith in Christ. Jesus was about to shed
His blood on the cross, in order to ratify the eternal covenant.
Sin would no longer be covered over, as with the blood of animal sacrifices; sin would be forever put away
- the complete remission of sins. Together, they were to drink of the one cup - and continue to do so,
remembering that the Life that they share came forth out of His death, to save from sin.
Look at what Matthew records Jesus as saying afterward, in verse 29. In His words, Jesus was once again
making clear to His disciples that He was about to die; but it is also very clear that He is reaffirming to
them the He will live again; for He will drink the fruit of the vine new in His Fathers kingdom; and He will
do so with them. I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also (Jn
14:3).
So Jesus took the elements from the Passover meal, to create a memorial to Himself, a memorial to be
shared by those who believe in Him. As Passover had looked forward to the coming of Jesus as the Lamb
of God, so now the Lord=s Supper would look back to His death on the cross.
We know from Johns gospel that Jesus shared many things with His disciples that night in the upper room,
and as He proceeded to the garden. And Jesus prayed for His disciples, and for all those who would
believe into Him, down through the ages - that they may be One, with the Father and with the Son. One, as
the taking of the Lords Supper represents - one in love - the bond of perfection.
Matthew records that they sang a hymn together, and proceeded to the Mount of Olives. It was there that
Jesus lovingly sought to prepare them in another matter.
v. 31-35 Jesus knew that all of His disciples would abandon Him; and that Peter would deny even knowing
Him. But in His love for His own, Jesus assured them all ahead of time of His forgiveness; He would be
restored to them in His resurrection, and they would be restored, as they turn back to Him.
But none of the disciples seemed to know themselves as well as Jesus knew them; they were confident that
they would never forsake Him - and Peter was the most vocal of all. They were all certain that they would
die, with Jesus.

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But it turned out that couldnt even stay awake, with Jesus.
v. 36-46 The disciples were filled with grief, because they knew that Jesus is about to die; He had told
them so. And in their overwrought emotional state, they fell asleep - instead of watching and praying, with
Jesus.
Jesus was alone in the garden; alone on earth, in His time of greatest distress - as He confronted His hour,
which was now upon Him. But He turned to One through whom He was never alone - His Father in
heaven - and there He sought the strength to go forward.
What was this cup of which Jesus speaks, that He asked if possible, to pass from Him? It was all that He
must suffer, to take away the sin of the world.
There was the physical agony unto death, to be endured, to be fully experienced by His human body. But
more, there was the unimaginable spiritual anguish, as holy God, bearing the sins of the world upon
Himself.
But for this purpose, Jesus came; as He said, Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me? It
was the Fathers will, to which the Son had agreed, in Eternity Past; and now, having come in the flesh,
Jesus laid His will inside of the will of His Father, determining to drink that cup to its dregs.
Jesus had prepared Himself with His Father for what lay ahead. But for the disciples, there was no such
preparation as they slept; and so they stumbled right in to the temptation of which Jesus had warned them
(26:33, 34, 41).
v. 47-50 Behold Judas, one of the twelve. One of those chosen by Jesus - whom He always knew to be a
devil (Jn 6:70); a traitor. The depth of his treachery is to be seen in the very act of his betrayal; he betrayed
Jesus with a kiss.
The embrace and kiss on the cheek was reserved for the most intimate relationships, showing the closest
kind of love and affection. Mark and Luke use the intensified form of the word, showing that Judas
prolonged the kiss - likely to be certain that the soldiers had time to identify Jesus. It was a despicable act,
a vile return, for the love that Jesus had always shown him.
But Jesus took no offense by it. At the same time, He made it clear to Judas He knew exactly what he was
doing. The word for friend here is unusual. It denotes a false friend; one who attaches himself to another
for what he can get out of him; an opportunistic companion.
The question Jesus asks of Judas is obviously not because He is unaware of why Judas has come; so why
does Jesus ask it? It is for Judas sake; much as the LORD has asked Cain, where is your brother? (Gen
4:9).
Judas had come for the opportunity to make money on his misplaced investment in Jesus. Jesus was
inviting him to confess his sin; to repent. But Judas didnt take the invitation, and the cohort of soldiers he
had brought seized Jesus.
Now the disciples, awake but unprepared, reacted brashly to the arrest of Jesus.
v. 51-54 Jesus took control of the situation, knowing that the disciples must not resist the arrest, both for
their own sakes, and so that all could be fulfilled concerning Jesus.

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John mentions that it was Peter who cut off the ear of the servant (Jn 18:10). And Luke records that Jesus
healed the ear (Lk 22:51); a kindness, and an opportunity for those who were present to recognize that
Jesus was truly the Messiah, the Son of God.
But it would seem they already had their minds made up. Yet Jesus continues to engage them, endeavoring
to pierce their hearts. He points out the absurdity of what they are doing.
v. 55 Why didnt they just arrest Jesus, when He was teaching, if they knew He was an imposter? They
would have been justified in doing so. But they didnt do it, because they feared the people.
And why had they brought an entire cohort of soldiers to arrest Jesus, in a garden, where He was praying?
Does that not say that they knew of His power; that He had more than the natural abilities of a man? Yes.
They did indeed know who He was. But as Jesus foretold in a parable, they were willfully determined not
to have this Man rule over them (Lk 19:14).
Jesus makes it clear that everything they are doing is in fulfillment of the Scriptures. God will have His
will done the entire way to the cross - and through it - and beyond.
v. 56 The disciples abandoned Jesus, just as He said. And the account continues to reveal that Peter would
deny Jesus - just as He said. Much as they loved Jesus, their fear of man was still greater. But their love
for Him and their faith in Him would be strengthened in the fire, through the anguish that they would
endure, as they beheld the sufferings and the death of Jesus.
All of this was on that same night - the night that the Lord Jesus shared with His disciples the elements of
His death - an expression of His love, for which He would have them remember Him.
The love of Jesus glistens brilliantly against the dark background of men in their fear, in their selfabsorption, in their greed - and in their contempt and hatred for Him - rising far above it all, to meet the
need of all mankind.
As we continue in our account in Corinthians next week, well see how Paul brings this to bear on the
situation in Corinth.
Reading: 1 Cor 11:17-34, Mt 27:1-10, Acts 1:16-20, Heb 12:1-11.