It’s understandable, I guess, that Christian Haggadot under-appreciate the fourth cup. After all, Jesus and His disciples didn’t partake of the fourth cup during the Last Supper. Instead, Jesus broke the bread (the afikomen), drank the third cup, and then declared “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.” (Matthew 26:29)
If the fourth cup wasn’t necessary for Jesus and His disciples, why should we bother with it?
This is where I think the majority of Christian Haggadot miss out.
When Jesus said that he wouldn’t drink again of this fruit of the vine, was he saying that he wouldn’t drink grape juice or wine again until heaven? I think many would answer yes.
This interpretation of Jesus’ words results in some confusion when, only a chapter later, Jesus is given a sponge filled with sour wine to drink (Matthew 27:48). Note that this is NOT the wine mixed with gall that Jesus refused to drink a few verses earlier in Matthew 27:34. This time, Matthew makes no mention of whether or not Jesus drank the proffered wine. But John’s language in his account of the same incident suggests that Jesus did consume the sour wine: “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished.'” (John 19:30)
So, if Jesus’ statement was NOT saying that he would not consume any more liquid derived from grapes until paradise, in what way did Jesus mean his statement “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”?
I believe that Jesus was referring specifically to the Four Cups of the Seder–and that he was announcing that this was not his ultimate (last) Seder, but his penultimate (next-to-last) Seder. Jesus stopped with the third cup, the cup whose symbolism He would fulfill the very next day. He announced the meaning of the cup of redemption and stopped there, for his disciples to meditate on its meaning as they watched the events of the next few days unfold.
The fourth cup, the cup of rejoicing, Jesus saved for later–for the final feast, where the final promise of Exodus 6:6-7 would be fulfilled:
“I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.”
This is the third part in a four-part series on the four cups of the Seder. Stay tuned for the rest of the posts, which will be rolling out over the next couple of weeks.