To start with, here is the full quote from Luke’s gospel 1:
When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.Luke 22:14-20
The Passover meal that they were eating had enormous significance. The Jewish people had been observing this annual meal for well over a thousand years. It commemorates the night of their deliverance from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. That night, they were instructed to kill a perfect lamb from their flocks, spread its blood on their doorposts, and eat the meat entirely 2 and in haste. God was going to kill the firstborn of every house that did not have the lamb’s blood on it 3. In reaction, the Pharaoh was finally going to let them leave, and they needed to be ready to leave quickly (Exodus 12:1-28). Jews today still celebrate Passover and the seder meal.
Christians see the Passover lamb as a foreshadowing of Jesus, the perfect and innocent One who gave His life to bring us deliverance from the death of permanent separation from God. Then we have His own words quoted above, that the broken bread symbolizes His broken body, and the wine symbolizes His blood shed for us.
While Passover is an annual event, Christians celebrate the Lord’s Supper at any time during the year. Some congregations choose to do so at every gathering; others at specific times like monthly or quarterly; others not at any specific interval. A common time is on the Thursday night before Good Friday of Easter week, matching the time of the original meal with the disciples. The “meal” is usually condensed to just the one bite and one sip, although Christian churches do respect and sometimes re-create the Jewish seder in order to better appreciate its meaning.
In each case, though, the emphasis is on Jesus’ words “Do this in remembrance of Me”. The Apostle Paul admonished the church to treat the remembrance solemnly, as an occasion to examine ourselves and renew our relationship with Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:23-28).
We remember the occasion with SORROW. Jesus suffered horribly, and it was because of me. He was dying in order to pay the penalty for my sin, to make a way for me to be reconciled with God.
We remember the occasion with GRATITUDE. I was hopelessly separated from God. I had no way to fix the situation myself. Jesus fixed it for me, and I thank Him for it.
We remember the occasion with LOVE. The reason that Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself for me is because He chose to love me. It’s not that I am lovable; it’s that He is love. He created me to receive, and then to return, that love.
We remember the occasion with HOPE. Jesus died, but He didn’t stay dead! He rose 4 5, and because He did, I will one day share a feast with Him when it is “fulfilled in the kingdom of God”. I’m pretty sure that it will be more than just one bite and one sip 6. 🙂
There is a song, often sung as part of the occasion, that expresses this well:
In remembrance of Me eat this breadRagan Courtney 7
In remembrance of Me drink this wine
In remembrance of Me pray for the time
When God’s own will is done
Take eat and be comforted
Drink and remember too
That this is my body and precious blood
Shed for you, shed for you
Do this in remembrance of Me
Do this in remembrance of Me
In remembrance of Me
Footnotes and Scripture References
- The matching passages in other gospels are Matthew 26:26-29 and Mark 14:22-25. John has a much longer record of the supper in chapters 13 through 17, but doesn’t mention the bread and wine specifically.
- Any leftovers had to be burned.
- This was the last of the ten plagues.
- Matthew 22:1-10, then Revelation 19:9. I hope you’ll join me at the party!