For many Christians, the meaning of the Lord’s Supper has been limited to the idea of remembrance. We hold our breath, muster a contrite heart, and try and remember what Jesus has accomplished through His death on the cross in a way that doesn’t get us killed (1 Corinthians 11:29-30). And while this understanding is accurate, as far as it goes, it doesn’t go very far.
The importance of the Lord’s Supper goes way beyond a brief remembering.
The Lord Jesus established the sacrament known as the Lord’s Supper, or communion, on the night He was betrayed. It looks back as a memorial to God’s faithful promises. It looks around at those we are called to love, and it looks forward to a banquet with the Lord.
Scripture also links the Lord’s Supper with a central Old Testament feast rich in meaning: The Passover.
From Exodus 12, we learn that it was the Lord’s Passover, it was a celebration of God’s power to deliver His children and punish the Egyptians. It was a feast before the Lord and involved the killing and eating of a lamb.
It was also a family meal. Everybody in the house ate it.
Blood was put on the doorposts of the houses of those who ate so that when God passed by, seeing the blood, He would be gracious and hold back His judgement. And it became an annual feast that Israel was to celebrate as a memorial to the Lord’s deliverance.
In Luke 22:18, Jesus says that the meal He was eating with the disciples was a Passover meal, thus connecting the Lord’s Supper to the Old Testament feast. And so, in order to fully appreciate the supper, we also need to keep in mind the Passover and all that it represents.
For believers, the Supper, like the Passover, is the gospel made visible.
It looks back…
The Lord’s Supper looks back, and, like the bow in the sky that God would see and thereby remember His promise to never destroy the world in a flood again (Genesis 9:16), the supper is a memorial to the Lord.
More than a remembrance, it is a memorial that we hold up, asking God to look, remember and keep His covenant with us. With bread and wine in hand, we look back on the finished work of Christ with confidence that every sin we have committed is washed away by this blood.
Judgement has passed by our door and we have been shown mercy.
It looks around…
The Supper also speaks to the present. In the Supper, we call upon God to renew His Covenant promises to us. Christ is present at the Supper to provide strength and nourishment to our faith for today.
At the Lord’s table, we are brought into the heavenlies to commune, not only with Jesus but also with one another. And so we are told by Paul to look around and recognise that the people among us are part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:33-34).
It looks ahead…
Finally, the Supper looks ahead to the Great Marriage Supper of the Lamb that we will one day enjoy in full. It promises that on the day when God visits this world in terrible judgement, His wrath will pass us one last time and we will remain; safe and secure for all time.
The meal is simple but its promises are monumental. In it, God is present and remembering His promise of mercy. Through it, we are united to one another in Christ.
But we enjoy all of these things only as we come to the table. So, come and eat with hearts assured.