It is hard to overestimate the importance of the Passover in the thinking of the faithful people of God, which makes the ending of it so much more dramatic and significant. This meal was intended to be an annual reminder of the faithfulness of God (Ex 12:26-27). It pointed to God’s foundational work of preserving His people, namely, setting them free from slavery in Egypt. A lamb was roasted, and its blood was spread on the doorposts, a sign that they were to be under the protection of God from the wrath of God. The fact that the disciples were having this meal these centuries years later is a testament to God’s upholding of His promise. God has freed and preserved for Himself a people.
This is a cherished command, but this is the last time it will be done by the faithful people of God. It is called the “Last Supper” because, yes, this is the last meal that Christ will have prior to His crucifixion, but it is also the last official celebration of the Passover. The covenant that the Passover remembers is going to blossom into a new and glorious covenant, just as predicted (Jeremiah 31:31-40). God is about to do something very new, so we are going to need a meal to remind ourselves about it.
Just like God instituted the Passover meal before the Passover event happened, Christ institutes the Lord’s Supper before His crucifixion happens. In the midst of the ordinary, the profound is revealed. The Passover meal consisted of roasted lamb, bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and wine. Jesus is about to pick out out these elements for the Lord’s Supper, the New Covenant meal.
Christ’s hand moves over the roasted lamb, a symbol of sacrifice meant to picture Jesus’ own sacrifice for sins (1 Corinthians 5:7) to instead pick up the bread. The new symbol for the sacrifice made for us is now going to be the bread. He takes it, breaks it, and tells His disciples that it represents His body which is given for them and all other disciples of Christ. The action that Christ is about to undergo isn’t a painless one. His flesh will be torn, and His body will be brutally beaten. But Jesus choses that this will not be symbolized by the lamb sitting on the table. The answer to why is in His choice of the wine.
The disciples don’t have any time to process that Jesus is doing something very different with this Passover before Jesus picks up the chalice of wine. It symbolizes the new covenant sealed, made official, permanently-in-effect, by Jesus’ own blood. This spilling of blood will be the last time payment is made for sin. No more lambs will be slain for the covering of sin because no more shedding of blood will be necessary! There is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22), but because of Christ’s work all sin in the elect is about to be wiped away forever (Hebrews 10:4-14,17)!
This is also the last covenant that will ever be made. When God made His covenant with Abraham, animals were slain (Genesis 15:7-21). When God made His covenant with the nation of Israel, animals were sacrificed, and blood was sprinkled on the people (Ex. 24:3-8). But here, with this new covenant, blood will be shed, but it will be the blood of the Son of God. There is no higher, more royal, more pure blood that could be shed, so if the blood of a lamb could cover sin, how much more could the blood of Christ take sin away forever (Hebrews 9:14).
No more sacrifices. It is finished. The cup and the bread symbolize His death for us, and when we eat that supper, we not only remember and proclaim this reality, but we dine with Jesus Himself, for He is a risen, living Savior. Thoughts for prayer: Take a moment to remember Christ’s physical and spiritual sacrifice for you. Christ shed His real blood and offered His real, physical body for you.