NCC 46 – What is the Lord’s Supper?

The following is an excerpt from the Introduction to Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper by John H. Armstrong.

“Most scholars agree that the Lord’s Supper has its roots in the Jewish Passover celebration. The Passover meal consisted of lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread. It was instituted to celebrate and commemorate God’s liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The story is told in Exodus 28. The meal was celebrated as a thanksgiving for the gifts of food, fellowship, and freedom. When Israelite children would later ask their parents, “What does this ceremony mean to you?” (Exod. 12:26), the parents were to refer them to these great events.

When Jesus instituted the meal that we call the Lord’s Supper, it was not a Passover meal he celebrated but rather an entirely new ceremony within the context of the Passover. It was not celebrated yearly, as the Passover, and it involved only two simple elements – bread and wine. And though Jesus is “the Lamb of God,” who sacrifices himself for our sins (John 1:29), a literal Passover lamb was not involved in the Lord’s Supper, as in the Passover. The differences between the two meals are important to note, but the parallels are also worth careful consideration:

During the Passover meal, someone, usually the youngest son, was designated to ask the question, “Why is this night different from other nights?” At this point the host would retell the story of Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt and the meaning of the various elements of the meal. As the host of the Last Supper, Jesus would have retold the story. Later, the parallels between the Passover and the Last Supper which Jesus was establishing would be quite apparent.”

Christ commanded all Christians to eat bread and to drink from the cup in thankful remembrance of him and his death. The Lord’s Supper is a celebration of the presence of God in our midst; bringing us into communion with God and with one another; feeding and nourishing our souls. It also anticipates the day when we will eat and drink with Christ in his Father’s kingdom.

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