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The Meaning of the Lord’s Supper

Many homes have two sets of dishes. The everyday plates are used for daily meals. The “good china,” however, is often stored in a cupboard or put on display. Sometimes it is more expensive than the ordinary plates but it does not have to be. What sets it apart is its special use.

The Lord’s Supper is a sacred meal in the same way. The elements that comprise the church’s supper are ordinary, made up of things we might eat and drink on a daily basis. What sets the Lord’s Supper apart is its meaning. This sacred meaning was not an invention of the church but was assigned to the meal by Jesus on the night He instituted it with His disciples. The observance of the Lord’s Supper is a Christian practice handed down from Jesus to His disciples with instructions for them to continue it. Jesus commanded the church to observe this tradition as a rite of remembrance (vv. 24–25).

The Lord’s Supper focuses our attention on Jesus’ work on our behalf. Each element used in the meal highlights one aspect of this sacrifice. The bread points to the offering of Christ’s body, “which is for you” (v. 24). This language highlights the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death on the Cross. Jesus offered Himself on our behalf.

The cup points to Christ’s blood, reminding us of His life, death, and resurrection (see Lev. 17:11). Jesus took the cup of blessing during Passover with His disciples and told them to drink from it: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20; Matt. 26:27). The New Covenant, which was prophesied by Jeremiah, promised a transforming righteousness that would reorient lives toward God by changing the heart and providing forgiveness (Jer. 33:33–35).

Apply the Word

The Lord’s Supper is simple, but it is not common. It reminds us that there is only one remedy for our sin: the work of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection. Only Jesus’ death in your place can take the penalty of your sin. Only His resurrected life in the presence of the Father can cleanse your conscience and change your heart.

BY Dr. John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

Dr. John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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