The Cup

1communion4_JNBy J. Michael Shannon

The Christian world has long been fascinated with the cup of the Last Supper. One legend says that Joseph of Arimathea took the cup to England. There, it seems to have gotten mixed up with grail legends and become a part of the King Arthur stories. Dozens of churches claim to have the cup. A seventh-century legend says the cup was at one time in a church in Jerusalem. It was described as a two-handled silver chalice. In Genoa, Italy, there is a hexagon-shaped cup made from green glass that some thought was an emerald. In Valencia, an ancient hemisphere-shaped cup made from red agate was thought to be the chalice. Antioch had a silver cup that found a home in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, though it no longer is believed to have been from Jesus’ final meal.

People obviously would love to see the original chalice. An item with that kind of history would be treasured. It’s interesting that all of these chalices were quite ornate. Research reveals there are Communion chalices and cups made of gold, silver, wood, plastic, and even paper. Dr. David Grubbs, a retired missionary doctor and former college president, tells of receiving Communion in Africa from a cup made with dung.

In the end, it is not important what the original cup was made of, or if it can ever be found. More important than the cup itself are its contents, and even more important is what those contents represent.

Paul calls it a cup of thanksgiving (1 Corinthians 10:16), and indeed, we are thankful. Some translations call it a cup of blessing, and indeed, we are blessed. The content of the cup is the fruit of the vine, which reminds us of the blood of Christ. The blood of Christ was shed for the remission of our sins. It was shed by Jesus of Nazareth, Messiah, Lord, and Son of God.

That makes the cup beautiful, what-ever it looks like. That makes the cups we use beautiful, whatever they look like.

J. Michael Shannon serves as a professor at Johnson University, Knoxville, Tennessee.

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