The Last Supper And Longing To Be With One Another

On Maundy Thursday, among other things, Jesus had the Last Supper with His apostles, and in so doing He instituted the Lord’s Supper. In Luke 22:15 He told His apostles that He desired to eat with them before He suffered; and then from there they broke bread together and Jesus instituted His Supper, telling them that His body would be given for them and His blood would be spilt for them, and He would make for them and us a New Covenant in His blood. His body given and His blood spilt ushered in the New Covenant that God had promised His people hundreds of years before.

God said, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:33-34 ESV). In that promise we see many things, but the greatest thing is that all who are brought into this covenant will not only be forgiven, but their sin will be forgotten, and they will know God. That is truly know and be known by God… Truly love and be loved by God… We will have deep and rich communion with God. When God says we will be His people and He will be our God, He’s saying He will be committed to us with His steadfast covenant love that endures forever. He will even wipe away our sin that gets in between us and Him so that we can truly know Him, love Him, and be loved by Him forever. And in Christ God has done and is doing all of this.

All of this was in view at the Last Supper. And Jesus wanted to be with His people when He laid all of this out, and that ties directly to the whole point of what He was going to suffer for. As Jesus prayed to the Father not long before He went to the cross, He said, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24 ESV). Jesus went to the cross for the glory of God and for the good of His people so that His people could be with Him to behold His glory and enjoy Him forever. And these beautiful realities are what we are called to remember and long for every time we take the Lord’s Supper…

Christ lived, died, and rose again to save us from sin, death, and hell, to reconcile us to God, and to bring us into the New Covenant. And Jesus has done that; and He not only reconciled us to God, but also to one another… He not only brings us into covenant with God, but leads us into a covenant relationship with one another… He is our God and we are His people, and even now the Spirit dwells within us and among us, binding us together in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, leading us to truly love one another. And along with all of that, one day, because of what Jesus has done and will do, we will be with Jesus in perfect joy, beholding His glory, and as we see Him face to face we will be made like Him.

All of these realities are connected to the bread and the wine that represent the body given and the blood spilt. And therefore, every time we take the Lord’s Supper we are to remember these things… We are to look back in awe (looking back at the cross and God’s amazing grace), we are to look to the present with discernment (discerning the body, making sure we are bearing fruit in keeping with repentance and living in proper love and unity—covenant relationship—with our brothers and sisters in Christ), and we are to look forward with hope (longing for the Day we will be with Jesus in perfect joy). We are to remember who Christ is, what He has done, and what He will do, and who we are in light of all of that. We are to make sure we are with Him now and with one another properly, and look forward to the Day when we will be with Him perfectly, forever…

This is in part why the Bible makes such a big deal about each church being gathered together when they take communion. For instance, Acts 20:7 says the saints gathered together to break bread. In 1 Corinthians 11:20 and 33 Paul says the church is to only partake in the Lord’s Supper when they come together rightly. The Lord’s Supper is meant to be taken when the church is gathered together, bound together by the Spirit and our commitment to the Truth of God’s Word. It’s meant to be taken when we are assembled together, gathered around God’s Word; and when we take it together in response to God’s Word read, prayed, sung, and preached, we see God’s Word displayed before us as the bread, the cup, and the church together display the reality of the gospel. And partaking of the Supper this way when we are gathered together around God’s Word proclaims to all that we are with Jesus and with one another, and will one day be with Jesus and all the saints perfectly.

In 1 Corinthians 10:17 God’s Word says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (ESV). And this tells us that the Lord’s Supper is a communal ordinance. It’s to be taken by the whole body together to display that though we are many we are one in Christ. Just as baptism unites the one to the many, so the Lord’s Supper unites the many to each one. It displays and reminds us that we are in communion with the triune God and with one another. Just as baptism is a public proclamation of our original faith in Christ, so the Lord’s Supper is a public proclamation of our ongoing faith in Christ. Baptism is like saying, “I do” to Jesus and His people (the wedding); and the Lord’s Supper is like saying, “I still do…” (renewing the vows). By partaking in communion we are proclaiming who we are with and who we will be with forever. And likewise we’re saying who is with us when we admit others to the table, just as we are saying who is with us through baptism.

And so you see, that’s in part the same things Jesus was saying when He instituted the Lord’s Supper. Jesus wanted to be with His apostles and break bread with them as He told them how He was to suffer for them so that all of God’s people could be with Him forever. So, tonight as this Maundy Thursday wraps up I can’t help but be filled with sorrow and yet joy at the same time. I’m filled with sorrow because, though we are still bound by covenant in love to one another, we are unable to be with one another. We can’t currently gather together and be with one another. We can’t assemble together and read God’s Word, pray God’s Word, sing God’s Word, hear God’s Word preached, and see God’s Word in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Sure, there are some things we can do to keep the ministry of the Word going in part and love one another in part from a distance… But we can’t hug one another and cry and laugh with one another… We can’t be with one another rightly, and thus be in right communion with one another at this time, and thus we can’t take communion at this time. And that brings me great sorrow.

But, the New Covenant realities that come in and through the gospel are still true in this time, and that brings me great joy. We are still a church. We are still God’s church. We are still in communion with God, and we are still committed to one another in love. And some day soon, Lord willing, we will gather together around God’s Word, and we will break bread together… And what a day of rejoicing that will be. So on this day, as we remember the Last Supper, let’s look forward to that day that is to come when we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper together again. When we will be with one another and break bread together…