Jesus’ final meal with His disciples is referred to by several different names: the Last Supper, Communion or the Lord’s Supper.
As the Last Supper, it indeed was the final meal on record that Jesus had with His closest followers. As Communion, it surely was a time of memorable communion between the Lord and His closest companions. To be sure, as the Lord’s Supper, it was an event hosted by Jesus, who had conceived the idea of a gathering with the disciples around a table in a borrowed upper room.
Whatever designation we might use to speak of it, what are some of the basic features attached to this significant occasion that have lingering significance for us today?
Remembering the past
The Lord’s Supper is an opportunity for remembering the past. The bread is a reminder of the incarnate body of our Lord which He laid down as the perfect sacrifice for sin. The wine is a reminder of His lifeblood which He willingly shed for the remission of sins.
The visual reminder about His body and blood is a powerful incentive for gratitude for us. Jesus introduced the element of thanksgiving into that first Lord’s Supper.
The account given in Luke 22:17–19 specifically mentions that when the Lord took the bread, He gave thanks before breaking it and sharing it with the disciples (v. 19). He also gave thanks with the cup He passed among them (v. 17).
It is almost beyond human understanding how Jesus could express His gratitude for the privilege of sacrificing Himself for the sins of others.
Looking to the future
The Lord’s Supper is also a reminder of the future. Speaking to His closest followers, He said, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29). This should infuse every occasion of Communion with the hope of salvation. Our destiny will bring us into unbroken, eternal fellowship with Christ and with one another.
The memorial of the past and the anticipation of the future combine to give us an incentive for praise in the present. It was just such an occasion for Jesus and His disciples when they sang a hymn at the conclusion of the supper (Mark 14:26).
Praise, whether sung or spoken, is a fitting way to conclude our fellowship at the Lord’s table.