Over 2000 years ago, the Lamb of God instituted the Lord’s Supper hours before his suffering and death upon the cross:
“And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God'” (Mark 14:22-25, ESV).
The Messiah established this holy meal in order that “the many” would remember his suffering and death in our place. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he rebukes the early Christians for profaning the Lord’s sacred meal. Rather than administering it in a genuine spirit of worship to their Lord, these believers partake of it without waiting for each other, with ongoing sin in their lives, with gluttonous behavior, and in the midst of division (1 Cor. 11:20-22, 27-34, ESV). It is a ghastly account of this early church; however, I find that its behavior mirrors many of today’s churches. What is so important about the Lord’s Supper?
The answer is simple: our Lord and Savior commanded its observance. Until he returns or calls me home, I am to partake of the bread and wine. It is a solemn act of worship wherein I proclaim Christ’s suffering and death: a righteous life died for the unrighteous (Romans 5:6-8, ESV). Redeeming sinners cost the life of God’s Son; therefore, I take the command to observe the Lord’s meal and to examine my life in earnest. I have no desire to eat and drink judgment into my soul (1 Cor. 11:28-30, ESV). One of the ways that God’s people demonstrate their love is through obedience to his commands (John 15:10, ESV). This has nothing to do with earning his love. Instead it is about sons and daughters obeying their Father. If I claim to be his son, then my life needs to show it.
Before I bring this to a close, there is something else that needs to be said about Christ’s suffering and death. According to the book of Hebrews, the Shepherd of our souls scorned the shame of the cross in order to secure redemption for his people, whom he called brothers (Heb. 2:11; 10:11-12a; 12:2, ESV). Jesus lived and died for an equally magnificent purpose in addition to suffering and dying in the place of his brothers. Now, it must be stated clearly before I proceed any further that our Lord came to die, and he prophesied this fact many times during his earthly ministry (Matthew 16:21-23; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33, ESV). There is a parallel truth that goes along with Jesus coming to die for the sins of his people. The prophet Isaiah states that “…when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring…” (Isaiah 53:11b, ESV).
Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant depicts the convergence of extremes: “…he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted…,” and “his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance…” (Isaiah 52:13-14, ESV). Jesus experienced the most debased form of death according to the Scriptures; however, the Spirit of God reveals through Isaiah that this act ensured that he would be exalted and see “the many” or “his offspring” (Isaiah 53:10-11; Galatians 3:13, ESV; see Deuteronomy 21:22-23, ESV). Isaiah’s prophecy compresses these events associated with Christ’s two advents: in his first coming, he suffers, dies, rises from the dead, and ascends to the right hand of the Father; in his second, he returns to raise his offspring from the dead with glorified bodies, to defeat his enemies, to judge the world in righteousness, and to set up his eternal reign.
When I eat the bread and wine, I proclaim Christ’s suffering and death. I also declare his future return and my future glorification. There is something else that I testify to through my participation in the supper. I am a member of God’s family or the household of God (Gal. 6:10; Ephesians 2:19; 1 Timothy 3:15; 5:4; 1 Peter 4:17, ESV). This truth comes packaged with Christ dying for my sins. It is foolish to separate them. My life testifies to the reality of Christ’s redemptive work in justifying and adopting me as his son (Eph. 1:5-10, ESV). No longer am I an outcast and an orphan in this world. No longer am I just a face in the crowd. I bear his name on my forehead and in my heart. This man has no problem repeating these words in the Song of Solomon: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3, ESV).