Matthew 26:26-29 (Click to read passage)
Imagine if you were to watch a scene of a movie that you haven’t seen before. The one scene you see is somewhere in the middle. What would it be like? Would the movie make sense? Perhaps it’s the climax of the movie and you see the audience having a strong reaction to the story. Would you understand why? It’s likely you would be lost. For many, when we talk about the Last Supper, people may have thoughts about DaVinci’s painting or Holy Communion. But in order to understand the Lord’s Supper, we have to see it in the context of history.
The Bible can be understood as not only a series of small little stories, but also one big story. It’s sometimes called by theologians, “The History of Redemption”. It’s the history of how God has saved and rescued us. The Lord’s Supper (sometimes known as Communion or Eucharist) has connections to the past, connections to Jesus’ time and to the future when Christ comes back and restores all things.
When we look at the past, we see that Jesus was connecting the Lord’s supper with the story of Israel. It wasn’t an accident that the meal happened during Passover. Jesus was connecting what was happening with Israel’s rescue from slavery in Egypt in the story of Exodus. Several plagues had devastated Egypt and God promised one more plague. This was the death of the firstborn son. The Israelites were told to take the blood of a sacrificed lamb and paint the blood over the doorpost. When the plague hit, those who were in a home where the blood was painted were spared. Families that were not in a painted home, suffered the loss of the firstborn sons. This was the night where Israel was set free and became a nation.
Jesus was saying in effect to his disciples that God was starting a new promise or covenant with humanity through what Jesus was going to do that night. Like the Israelites who were set free from bondage to Pharaoh in Egypt, believers will be set free from the powers of sin and Satan. Jesus is beginning a new Kingdom that includes both Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews). Instead of a lamb, Jesus would be the one who will have his body broken and his blood spilt so that those who trust in him would be safe.
When considering Jesus and the disciple’s present state of things, the Last Supper was meant to point to the cross. It was meant to point to what Jesus willingly did by his sacrifice on the cross. One of the big disagreements Protestants have with our Catholic friends is the nature of
Communion. The Catholic church has long taught that the bread and the wine really become the actual body and blood of Christ. One of the problems that has resulted is that there has become a focus on the Communion itself. But to focus on the communion is to miss the point. It is like a person standing and taking a picture at a sign to a destination but not going to the destination itself. The communion is meant to point to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection. Jesus’ act of saving and redeeming us is what saves us and makes us holy, not the communion itself. When Jesus said, “this is my body” and “this is my blood of the new covenant”, his disciples were not confused. They understood Jesus meant it symbolically.
But there’s a third thing about the Lord’s Supper we’re supposed to understand. It’s supposed to point to a guarantee that those who believe in Jesus will one day sit with Jesus in a new and transformed world. Like a wedding feast, God’s people will be the bride, and Jesus will be the groom. Sin and death will be no more. Jesus mentions this when he says that he will not drink again of the fruit of the vine, “until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom (Mt. 26:29).”
The Last Supper reminds us that we serve a faithful God. God keeps His promises (covenant). He is the same God who was faithful to the Israelites of Old. He is the same God who died on the cross and was raised again from the dead. He is the same God who promises to make all things new again. In this season, of Lent as Easter approaches let us remember that we serve a God who has, is and will be faithful to us.
Questions for Meditation:
- As we think about the past, we can see how God wasn’t under the control of God’s people, but God was faithful nonetheless. How does this make you feel knowing that God is not under your control but graciously promises to be faithful?
- As we consider how the communion points us to Christ, how does the cross remind you that God is faithful to forgive your sins and continues to love you?
- As you think about the future promise of communion, how does having an eternal hope encourage you today?
- What were some attitudes you had as you came to communion before in the past? Were you indifferent? Distracted? Focused?