Condescending to our frailties and our existence as embodied creatures, God in Christ instituted baptism as a visible, tangible communication of spiritual truth and means of grace. Under the new covenant, however, baptism is not the only sacrament given to God’s people in order to depict gospel realities and strengthen us in the grace of the Lord Jesus. Christ has also given us the Lord’s Supper to strengthen our faith and union with Him.
We read the account of Christ’s institution of the Lord’s Supper in several places in the New Testament, including today’s passage. From Luke 22:14–20 we learn several things about the supper. First, we must note its connection to the Passover. Jesus commanded us to observe the Lord’s Supper in the context of the Passover meal, suggesting that the supper is in some way a replacement for that old covenant feast. Paul confirms this in 1 Corinthians 5:7, where he states that “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” As the Lord’s Supper commemorates the sacrifice of Christ, who died during the Passover feast and is the fulfillment of the Passover celebration, we see that the Lord’s Supper will serve some of the same purposes that the Passover meal served under the old covenant. In other words, as we will see in due time, we will need to understand the old covenant Passover in order to understand the Lord’s Supper.
Because the Lord’s Supper took place at a Passover celebration, we also know that the elements to which Jesus refers are bread and wine. Thus, the Westminster Shorter Catechism 96 speaks of the Lord’s Supper as involving the “giving and receiving bread and wine according to Christ’s appointment.” That these foods are consumed in the supper also points us toward the spiritual reality represented in the sacrament. Just as physical food nourishes our physical bodies, so do we find spiritual nourishment for our souls at the Lord’s Table when we gather in His name to eat the bread and drink the wine. At the table, as we will see, we feed on Jesus spiritually.
Finally, as we begin our look at the Lord’s Supper, we note that the sacrament is a visible depiction of the death of our Savior. As Jesus says in today’s passage, the broken bread represents His body and the poured wine in the cup represents His blood shed to institute the new covenant with His people (Luke 22:19–20). When we taste the bread and drink the wine, we are reminded of the high cost that our Lord paid to redeem us from sin and death.