Life of Christ 166
One of the least appreciated aspects of the Last Supper is just how tremendously important it is in the transition from Judaism to Christianity. Perhaps I could say that more biblically by referring to the old covenant and the new covenant. The old covenant was entered into by the Jewish people in Sinai under Moses. The sum and substance of it was contained in the Mosaic Law. It was entered into in a solemnized blood-sprinkled ceremony.
7 And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.
8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.
If the Old Testament shows us anything it shows us that the Jewish people singularly failed to live up to their promise. The history of the Jewish people prior to the time of Christ is a history of one failure after another. In just a few hours they will exponentially compound those failures by executing their own Messiah.
Of course, none of this surprised God. Indeed, the Old Testament prophets themselves spoke of this (Isaiah 53 for instance). They also spoke of the necessity of a new covenant. Understanding this is very important for the Christian for it speaks directly to the transition from Judaism to Christianity.
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, That I will make a new covenant With the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers In the day that I took them by the hand To bring them out of the land of Egypt; Which my covenant they brake, Although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, And write it in their hearts; And will be their God, And they shall be my people.
The Old Testament prophecy of a new covenant is the scriptural support that Jesus and the Apostles used to explain their shift from an ethnically centered religion of ceremony to a world-wide religion of personal experience from the heart. This new covenant had a new chosen people – the Church (though Israel's role is not yet finished). This new covenant had a new Scripture – the New Testament (though the Old Testament is still Scripture). This new covenant had a new mission – propagation via the Great Commission.
This new covenant also needed a new ceremony. The old covenant was symbolized best in the Passover observance. This was designed to point the people forward to the redemptive role of the coming Messiah. They totally missed this but that was its point nonetheless. With the arrival of that redemptive sacrificial death tomorrow there would be no more need for the Passover observance. Instead of looking forward toward the sacrifice of the Lamb of God the new covenant would look backward on the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. The purpose of the Lord's Supper as observed in the Church is to focus us squarely back on the cause and meaning of it all – Jesus Christ. This do in remembrance of me. (Luke 22.19)
Thus it is that the Last Supper, a Passover seder, became the Lord's Supper and marked forever the transition from Judaism to Christianity.
1 Corinthians 11:23–27
23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.