The ordinance of the Lord’s Supper is a memory meal. It’s something Jesus wants his people to eat over and over again. The things the people of the church eat and drink during it are signs pointing to something much greater. In 1 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul gave the church instructions about the meaning of Jesus’ special supper.
1 Corinthians 11:23-24 says, “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’” The first thing Jesus gave us to eat in the Lord’s Supper is bread. It was a special flat kind called “unleavened bread.”
Leaven is something you add to bread to make it nice and fluffy. Because the bread of the Passover contained no leaven, instead of puffing up, it stayed flat as a pancake. The color of the bread would have probably looked not all that different from Jesus’ own body.
The bread of the Lord’s Supper is a sign that points us to remember what happened to Jesus’ body when he saved us. The Bible tells us his body was beaten with fists. His back was ripped to shreds with a whip. And his head was pierced with a thorny crown.
When the people of the church eat bread during the Lord’s Supper, they are to remember Jesus’ broken body. It was a picture of just how serious our sin problem is. Jesus came to suffer the punishment our sins deserve. And as we think about the dreadful punishment the Son of God endured, we get a pretty clear picture of just how seriously wrong sin is.
1 Corinthians 11:25 goes on to explain, “In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” After telling his people to eat bread, Jesus gave his disciples a cup of wine to drink from. Wine is made by squishing the juice out of grapes. Its bright red color can certainly remind you of the color of blood.
The cup of wine in the Lord’s Supper is a sign that points us to remember Jesus’ blood. As his hands and feet were nailed to the cross, Jesus’ blood began flowing out of his body. It certainly would have been horrific to see and even worse to feel!
But it was important that Jesus shed his blood when he died. Hebrews 9:22 teaches us, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” In the Bible, the blood of an animal or person represents their life. When the people of the church drink the cup of wine, they remember that Jesus needed to give his life away in order to pay the death penalty for our sins.
Just like baptism doesn’t contain magic water, the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper aren’t magical either. The bread isn’t actually Jesus’ body. And the wine isn’t literally Jesus’ blood. But both are signs that help us remember Jesus’ actual body broken for us and his literal blood shed so we can be forgiven!