Jesus greatly desired to eat this last supper with his disciples, for he says in this scripture, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;
16 for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Verses 15-16) It was at this time that he established one of the great ordinances of the New Covenant and gave us a process to remember what he had done for all of us.
Breaking of Bread
Jesus broke bread with his disciples, which is part of the process of the Passover feast, but he imputed a new meaning to this process. He said to his disciples, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Verse 19)
The bread we eat when we come together in church, whether you call it breaking bread, eating the Lord’s supper or communion, is for remembrance. When we take the bread and eat it we are reminded that the Lord gave his body to die for us. He came for that very purpose, to teach us the ways of God and then in His death to provide a way to enter into God’s Kingdom.
Jesus says this in John 6:53-56, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
The Jews took offence when Jesus told them this, but they failed to understand what He was telling them. And we get this same reminder in the act of breaking of bread or communion.
When you eat something you consume it and it goes into your body to nourish you and sustain you and give you life physically. But Jesus is spiritual and his teachings are spiritual. So what He was telling us to do was to “consume” his teachings so that they would nourish our spirits and gives us eternal life.
Communion or the breaking of bread reminds us that we need to take in the knowledge of Jesus and to learn his ways. We need to consume the teachings of Christ and so be fed the spiritual food that will lead us to life. That is what we do when we break bread. We are reminded firstly of the suffering of the Lord on our behalf, and them reminded to learn from him and consume his teachings.
Taking the cup
In a similar way Jesus then gave the disciples the cup and said, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Verse 20) Again we have this reminder that Jesus died and suffered for us so that we may have life, but there is much more than just this remembrance in His words and actions here.
Every time a covenant was established, it was ratified or brought into power by the shedding of blood. Before the blood was offered the covenant does not exist. There needs to be a death to occur for the covenant to come into effect. Under the Old Covenant in the Law of Moses the people had to offer sacrifices for sin, and the sacrifices were firstly to bring the covenant into effect and then to act as the sin offering.
As the write of Hebrews states, “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22) Its the same for a person who writes a will. Before they die the will has no effect as it only comes into effect at their death.
Likewise the New Covenant did not come into effect until the death of Jesus. So when he said his blood is the New Covenant, what He was saying is that at his death the New Covenant comes into effect and into power. From the point in time when He died the New Covenant began for that is when his blood was “…poured out for you” and when we take the cup at our church services today we need to remember this and give Jesus the glory for this wondrous act on our behalf.
The New Covenant
The New Covenant is not like the Old Covenant for under the New Covenant we have freedom from sin. Jesus came to “…take away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) and he achieved this at his death. In His death he conquered sin and conquered Satan and opened the way for us to come to him to find perfection.
Through his death we can become perfect. Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) What he is saying is that we earn death because we die.
When a person goes to work they give their time and labour to a boss and the boss is indebted to them for their work efforts and in return they get paid a wage. It is the same with sin in our life. During our life on earth we have sinned and built up a debt of sin that gets paid when we die. The wages we earn from sin is death and the debt is completely paid when we die.
But Jesus came and died and we can take on His death as if it were our own and pay off the debt of sin early. Through baptism we take on the death of Jesus as if it were our own, (Galatians 3:27, Romans 6:3) and through the Grace of God, He sees it as if it were our own death and when we believe it to be so, God in his grace proclaims us righteous through our faith.
And having taken on the death of Christ in faith through the New Covenant we now need to think differently. “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)
This is the essence of the New Covenant. It is the essence of the new life we have as new creations in Christ Jesus. And it is in the practice of the breaking of bread and drinking the cup that we remember these things and bring these things to memory as we praise Jesus for the sacrifice He made on our behalf and the blessing He gave to each of us in obedience to the Father.