“And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, He also took the cup after supper and said, “This is the new covenant established by my blood; it is shed for you.”“ Luke 22:19-20.
Christ spent the last night of his life celebrating the Passover with His twelve disciples. Passover, which commemorates the liberation of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, is a holiday full of symbolism and tradition. On the night of the first Passover, God sent the Angel of Death to kill all the firstborn humans and animals of Egypt. He gave specific instructions to the Hebrews to take an unblemished lamb of one year of age and slaughter it. The Hebrews were to then paint the blood of the sacrificed lamb on the doorposts of their homes, and when the Angel of Death would see the lamb’s blood, it would know that those residing in that home were God’s people and it would pass-over that home. This festival remains one of the most important holidays in Judaism to this day.
But after Christ and the disciples finished the Passover meal, He did something that had never been done before in history; in fact, He instituted a new religious ceremony. Christ took a piece of unleavened bread, blessed it, and gave it to the disciples to eat. This bread, He said, represented His body that would be broken for them. He then blessed a cup of wine and gave it to the disciples, saying that the wine represented His blood which would be shed for their sins. Christ was performing the very first Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper.
The significance of the symbolism that Christ was speaking about was too deep for the disciples to understand at that time, but it would not take long for them to witness the events that would lead them to understanding. Christ was explaining to them that He was the ultimate Passover lamb– that His death and the shedding of His blood would not only free them from bondage to sin, but would bring them salvation and liberation from death. Quite simply, Christ was the fulfillment of the Passover, not just for the Jews, but for all mankind. And in the same way that God commanded the Jews to always remember the Passover and celebrate what He had done for them in Egypt, Christ wants us to remember the Eucharist and celebrate what He did for us on Calvary.