“This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” – Exodus 12:14
“and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” – 1 Cor 11:24-25
Just like the Passover, the Last Supper instituted an ongoing meal the people of God were to take to remember God’s actions on his people’s behalf. The remembrance at the Lord’s supper has its roots in the Passover. This meal is a memorial. It sends our minds back to real events in real space and real time among real people who really lived and the very real things which they did. This is the beauty of the historical nature of our faith. These acts were public acts, confirmed by contemporary historians who had no interest in advancing the Christian faith or worldview.
When we take the Lord’s supper, we remember. We look back. It takes us back to those world-shifting, faith-building moments that Friday when the Lamb of God was killed and his blood was shed for our protection.
The Last Supper and the Lord’s Supper not only look back. They also look forward,
“for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” – Luke 22:18
“I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” – Matt 26:29
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” – 1 Cor 11:26
The supper is taken in hope. It is taken in eager anticipation and expectation of what is yet to come and we know it will come precisely because we are called to remember all that God has already done, which assures us that his promises of what is to come are true and sure. The Lord’s supper points us forward. It points us to a new reality. It points us to a new kingdom, reminding us that this meal is subversive…a direct confrontation of those who stand opposed to God and God’s people (be it Pharaoh, Caesar, or Satan himself).
Last, the supper grounds us in the present. We take the bread. We take the cup. We eat. We drink. We proclaim. We await. We hope. This is our spiritual formation. The meal is a formative event. It’s built in remembrance and forward looking anticipation work in tandem to shape our soul to be more like the one who truly presides over the table. The meal grounds us in the tension of mourning and celebration…altar and table…blood and wine…bread and body…death and resurrection. This shapes us like nothing else can.
When we gather around the table. Let us look both backwards and forwards. Let us allow those two components of the meal change our lives in the present.