New City Catechism Question 46
What is the Lord’s Supper?
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.
Ligon Duncan helpfully explains:
The Lord’s Supper is a covenant sign and seal. That means that it both represents and confirms to us the precious promise of God that, through Jesus Christ, he will be our God, and we are his people. In the Lord’s Supper we have a remembrance, a celebration of God’s presence, and an experience of communion. We also have something that nourishes us, and in the Lord’s Supper, we anticipate the glory to come.
First, we have a remembrance in the Lord’s Supper. In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus told his disciples that they were going to proclaim his death until he comes. The bread and the wine, the body and the blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, is a representation of a covenant sacrifice. The two constituent parts indicate that Jesus’s death was a deliberate act on his part. He gave himself as a sacrifice in our place for the forgiveness of our sins. And so every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we are to remember the meaning and significance of the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf. We are to remember him. “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). We celebrate the glorious work of atonement that Jesus Christ accomplished for us.
Second, the Lord’s Supper is also a celebration of God’s presence. Isn’t it amazing that we’re invited to slide our knees up under the table of God? That is especially amazing in light of our rebellion. In Genesis 3, Satan said to Eve and to Adam, “Take and eat this fruit.” They ate the fruit against God’s command, and what was the result? Did it result in their satisfaction and fulfillment? No. It resulted in their being driven away from the presence of God. But at the Lord’s Table the Lord himself invites us back into his presence. When Jesus says to his disciples, “Take and eat,” he reverses the words of the Serpent in the garden. Derek Kidner has this wonderful line: “God will taste poverty and death before ‘take and eat’ become verbs of salvation.” We experience that every time we come to the Lord’s Table, every time we hear the minister say, “Take and eat, all of you.” It’s a celebration of our reunion with God, his presence with us, and our enjoyment of his near fellowship.
Third, the Lord’s Supper is a communion. It’s a communion with God and with his people. We not only commune with the living God by grace, we not only commune with the living God by what Jesus has done for us on the cross, but we commune with one another. When we’re united to the Lord Jesus Christ, we’re united to everyone who is united to the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why Paul says to the Corinthians, “You must discern the body” (1 Cor. 11:29). He’s not telling them that they need to understand some mystical thing about the elements in the Lord’s Supper. What’s the body that he’s talking about? The body of Christ, the church, the fellowship of believers.
Finally, the Lord’s Supper is spiritual nourishment. It’s a means of grace. It’s one of God’s appointed ways by which he builds us up and nourishes us, confirms our faith, and strengthens us for growth. And the Lord’s Supper is an anticipation of the glory to come. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet on the night that he was betrayed, and he served them the elements of the Lord’s Supper. Interestingly, when Jesus speaks of the marriage supper of the Lamb in consummation (Luke 12:37), in glory, when the great end has come and all have acknowledged him to be King, he says that on that day he will bid us all to recline, just like the disciples reclined on the night of the Lord’s Supper, and he will gird himself and serve us.
Yes, in the Lord’s Supper, we anticipate the marriage supper of the Lamb, where we will sit down with one another in glory, and our Savior will serve us again everything that we need. What a joy it is to come to the Lord’s Table.