“Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you… For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread…” (1 Cor. 11:2, 23)
Here, Paul praises the Corinthians and reminds them of the traditions that he has delivered to them, and these traditions are those which the Lord Jesus began, the central one being the Lord’s Supper. The word for tradition literally means something like ‘hand down’ or ‘deliver.’ A tradition is that which is handed down from Father to Son, from generation to generation. A tradition is kept when it is delivered successfully to the next generation. In the case of the Lord’s Supper, Paul has delivered not only a way of celebrating a meal, but he has previously explained that this cup which we bless is the communion in the blood of Jesus and this bread which we break is the communion in the body of Christ. Jesus Himself had said that unless we eat of His flesh and drink of His blood we will not have life within us. When Paul handed down this meal, when he delivered this tradition to the Church in Corinth, he was delivering Jesus to the Corinthians. And this is why Paul is so concerned for their abuse of the table. Fighting and getting drunk at the Lord’s Supper was not just impolite or rude, it would make someone guilty of the body and blood of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:27). What’s striking is that the same root word for ‘tradition’ and ‘deliver’ is also used to describe the betrayal of Jesus. When Jesus was betrayed, He was handed over, delivered over to the Roman authorities. Later, Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified. It’s likely that Paul has this parallel in mind when he warns the Corinthians about being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. As we celebrate this memorial, this Eucharist, we are communing in and with Jesus, but we are also the communicators of Jesus. As we speak to one another, we say, “the body of the Lord/the blood of Christ,” and we are either handing over and delivering Christ in faith and love or we are handing Jesus over in unbelief and envy. We are either covered by the blood of Jesus or we are guilty of the blood of Jesus. We are either delivering that which we have been given in Christ, or we are handing Christ over in betrayal. But this is the blood that was shed for the remission of sins. This blood was shed even for those who are guilty of it. When Peter preached his Pentecost sermon, he addressed some of the Jews who had a hand in the actual crucifixion of Jesus. And Peter assured them that they too would find in Christ, a Savior who would wash away their sins. This is what we have been given, this is what has been handed down, the tradition of the apostles, even Jesus and forgiveness in Him. And now we come to share this Jesus, this forgiveness and peace with one another.