Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you 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 26:26-29 ESV)
Depending upon your church tradition, you either celebrate communion once a week, once a month, or on some other schedule. However, I wonder how many Christians really know the significance of communion, or the Lord’s Supper? I include myself in this query because I fall into the habit of treating the Lord’s Supper as just another ‘thing’ the church does regularly. Why is it that we are called to “do this in remembrance” of him (Luke 22:19)?
Let’s analyze the context of the account. This is the night before Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion. It is also the night of the Passover celebration. Jesus is instituting a new covenant on the day of the celebration of the old covenant. Why? Because what we have here is a fulfillment of the old covenant and the establishment of the new covenant; one age is coming to a close and another is dawning. The time of promise is done, the time of fulfillment is at hand. All of these things are occurring at this moment in redemptive history. Furthermore, the Passover marked the most important event in redemptive history from a Jewish perspective. It was the celebration of God’s salvation of the Israelite people from their bondage of slavery to the Egyptians. The culmination of the ten plagues was going to happen and those whose homes were covered with the blood of the paschal lamb were protected from the Angel of Death.
The imagery and connection to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross should be unmistakable. Early on in John’s gospel, John the Baptist announced that Jesus was the “Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus is the Paschal Lamb. He is the one whose blood saves us from death. He is the one who brings salvation to his people. Whereas for the Jews, salvation was liberation from a physical bondage and slavery in Egypt and entrance into the Promised Land. For us, salvation is a spiritual liberation from bondage and slavery to sin and death as well as entrance into the new heavens and new earth where sin and death and everything associated with the fall is no more!
That is the significance of the Lord’s Supper, but why are we called to remember it? Because we are wont to forget it! In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we tend to get distracted; the good often crowds out the great! The Lord’s Supper is a visual reminder of that event nearly 2,000 years ago when our Lord established a new covenant in his blood on the cross. The elements of the meal represent the broken body and shed blood of Christ. The Lord’s Supper is the gospel in dramatic form. The Lord’s Supper is also a promise! It is a promise that Christ will return someday and bring everything to its ultimate restoration. So when we celebrate communion, we are not only remembering what Christ has done for us, but we’re also looking forward to what Christ will do upon his return.
Soli Deo Gloria!