Images of the Savior (44 â€“ His Last Supper)
Oh, how many a weary sinner, after having been born again through the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5), has soon found himself in desperate straits once more, hard-pressed by his besetting sins, dirtied with the filth of the world, hungering and thirsting after the true righteousness which he had tasted of before, and apart from which he can no longer be satisfied! To such a weary pilgrim, as each of us has more than once been, there is no more welcome sight than a table spread in the wilderness with that richest of all feasts, the broken body of Christ, through which comes nourishment, sustenance, forgiveness, and true righteousness; and the wine of his blood, bringing peace, joy, and covenant-life. Let us rejoice at this marvelous dispensation of grace, and make earnest and frequent use of it! A child having just been born has life indeed, but he will not be long sustained without his necessary food; and so a child having been born into the family of God, which birth is symbolized by baptism, in which he is united with Christ in his death and resurrection, still has a daily and pressing need to be sustained with the body and blood of Christ throughout the time of his pilgrimage home. Baptism signifies the impartation of life, and the Lord's table the sustenance and nourishment of that same life; and we cannot do long without this necessary means of grace. Let us then look to the account of our Lord's last supper with great joy, and recognizing those great realities that he holds forth in the bread and the cup, to us as well as those first disciples, let us be diligent to observe the same as often as we gather together with the body of Christ; for in doing so, we will be vivified and strengthened with true righteousness and spiritual life.
In looking to this blessed occasion and dispensation of our Savior, we will first observe three things about that prelude to the supper, in which Jesus washed the feet of the disciples; and then, we will notice four things about the supper itself.
When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, it was first and foremost to symbolize to them the shocking nature of what he was about to do for them the following day, when he offered himself up as the sacrificial Lamb of God, to take away their sins. This was now his hour, and he was soon to accomplish that for which he had come into the world (see John 12:27); so what is it about that final and greatest of Jesus' acts which his footwashing would have demonstrated? Only this, that by the deepest humiliation which has ever been met with, men who are servants and beggars would be cleansed from their filth. If Jesus were wanting to demonstrate just what he would be doing that next day, he could not have chosen a better example than this. He, their master, stooped to undeserving men, and humbled himself in order that they might be cleansed. So the next day, he would stoop more than could ever be known, stoop from his throne of glory to the gruesome and humiliating death on the cross, so that we, sinners and beggars though we be, might be cleansed. And more shocking yet is that Jesus performed this menial task of condescension even when Judas the Betrayer was yet among the disciples. This is humility indeed! And so we, when we were still sinners, were shown the unfathomable love of God in that Christ died for us even when our hearts were full of the blackest treachery and hatred of him (see Romans 5:8). How can we who have received such shocking grace refuse to humble ourselves for the good of those around us?
Second, we see that Jesus used the initial refusal of Peter to teach him another lesson: when one has been washed entirely, he has no need of another bath, after his day's journey, but only requires that his feet be washed of the dirt they have collected on their travels. So in our spiritual journey, when we have once been washed by the Spirit of regeneration, we are henceforth pure forevermore; but the dust and stains of the world that collect upon our feet we need daily to be removed. Let us learn that Jesus does this for us, cleansing us from all unrighteousness as we daily call upon him (see I John 1:9). In this respect, the sign of footwashing accords well with the meaning that inheres in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper: for both have to do with the ongoing preservation of true righteousness after the initial and perfect bestowal of righteousness and purity at the time of regeneration.
And third, we see that Jesus makes a very forceful and penetrating application of his lowly service. If he, their Master and Lord, had humbled himself so deeply for the good of the disciples, then they also ought to humble themselves and serve their fellow-believers. After all, the slave is not greater than his master; and so we, the slaves of Jesus Christ, should not consider any task too lowly for us, when he considered nothing too lowly for him. Our Savior died for us, stooping to the shameful death of the cross so that we might have life; then let us give sacrificially of ourselves for the good of our brothers, laying down our very lives to see their spiritual good advanced in every way. It is a difficult calling, but can we do any less, when Jesus has done so much for us (see Philippians 2:5-11)?
But we must press on, and observe what we may of the supper itself. We see, first of all, that it was in direct continuity with the Passover Feast, which was in fact the occasion upon which they were eating together (cf. Matthew 26:17). Now, let us remember the events surrounding this first passover (see Exodus chapters 11-13): the children of Israel were enslaved in the land of Egypt, and serving Pharaoh, that notable type of the Devil; and, moreover, they were under the death-penalty of God himself, who had certainly sworn to kill every firstborn among them. But in his great mercy, God allowed for unblemished lambs to be put to death in their place, solemnly assuring them that, when he saw the blood of the lamb upon their doorposts, he would pass over them, sparing them the death sentence. The children of Israel did such, and were spared indeed; and then, having feasted together on the flesh of this passover lamb, they went out from bondage, having been utterly redeemed, while their enemies were made to feel the terrible wrath of God. Now, how can we fail to note the many similarities between that most notable type in all the Old Testament and our own case today? We too were in bondage to sin and Satan, and the eternal and inexhaustible wrath of God was hanging over our heads; but Jesus, our passover Lamb, was slain in our place, and God, seeing his blood applied to our hearts, passed over us in the fierceness of his judgment, embracing us as his dear children instead. And as the Israelites of old, we have feasted on the body of our Passover sacrifice in joy and unity, and this has sustained us on our pilgrimage out of Egypt and to the promised land of God's presence. Oh, what a glorious picture the Passover was, and how much more glorious yet the very reality, when Christ fulfilled in his body those things that were merely symbolized before! Let us never grow weary of worshiping our great Redeemer, or meditating upon his matchless sacrifice.
Second, we see that this blood of Christ was the blood of the New Covenant, which had long been prophesied and ardently awaited (e.g. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 37:24-28). Just as the Old Covenant at Sinai was made firm with blood (Exodus 24:8), so the New Covenant was made firm with the very blood of Christ, whose death inaugurated it and confirmed it as an everlasting covenant (Hebrews 9:15-22); only consider how much better this covenant is than the old covenant, which merely looked ahead to the perfect sacrifice and the perfect priest, but could never see those things realized indeed. How many thousands of priests lived and died, and how many tens of thousands of lambs were sacrificed, and never was a sufficient offering found â€“ but with one sacrifice, our Passover Lamb, Christ Jesus, has forever perfected us, forever cleansed our consciences, forever guaranteed our citizenship in an eternal kingdom, which will be lighted forevermore with the very presence of the Lamb (see Hebrews 7:26-28; 9:6-14; 9:23-10:18; Revelation 21:22-25)! Oh, what a covenant we have entered into by the blood of the Lamb! We are now, and shall ever be the people of our God, and he will ever be our God, God with us, Immanuel (Revelation 21:3). Oh, let us rejoice in the New Covenant which is in Jesus' blood!
Third, this final Supper of our Lord symbolizes and necessitates the unity that we believers must have with one another. We have all been made to eat one bread and drink one cup, we are all one loaf, and one body of our Lord Jesus Christ (see I Corinthians 10:16-17). Oh, how devastating a reality is the disunity and strife among believers, when their love is that which commends them to the world as true disciples of Jesus (John 13:35)! As we observe this blessed feast, let us make sure it is truly a â€œlove feastâ€ (Jude 12), and let us be at one with all of our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
And fourth, we see that this Supper looks ahead to that final feast in the New Heavens and New Earth, where we will rejoice together with our Savior (Matthew 26:29). As we observe this blessed Supper, let us look back in remembrance of Jesus' broken body and shed blood; but let us also look ahead in anticipation to when the feast will finally be consummated, as the bride who has made herself ready, having been given the white linen of righteousness with which to adorn herself, comes together with the great Bridegroom, Jesus the Lamb of God, and feasts together with him. â€œBlessed are they who are called to the marriage feast of the Lambâ€ (Revelation 19:9)!
Now, having but glimpsed a few of the precious truths conveyed and the unspeakable grace offered to us at the celebration of the Lord's Table, must we not hunger for it as a truest feast of the most delightful spiritual goods? This is the only sacrament with which Jesus left us to be continually nourished as we press on to the Kingdom, and we may assure ourselves that the first followers of Jesus made frequent use of it (see Acts 2:42,46); how is it then that so many churches today are content to observe it but once a month, or even less frequently yet? Ought we not to make this blessed feast central to all of our public times of worship? When once the hungry beggar has tasted the bountiful feast which the grace of our Lord has made available to him, will he not hunger for it all the more until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom? Then let us cast off our shameful neglect of this precious gift, and in unity and thanksgiving let us, in a figure, eat the body and drink the blood of our Passover Lamb until, so nourished and sustained day by day, we find ourselves in his presence forever, gathered before him on his holy mountain for â€œa feast of fat things, a feast of aged wine, fat things full of marrow, aged wine well-refinedâ€ (Isaiah 25:6).