The Last Supper is one of the most significant events in the Bible, as it represents a pivotal moment in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Though all four gospels describe the Last Supper, the most detailed account is found in Luke 22:7-38.
The Last Supper took place on the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, during the Jewish Passover feast. Jesus and his twelve disciples had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, a major Jewish holiday commemorating God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:1-28). In preparation, Jesus instructed Peter and John to secure a place for them to eat the Passover meal together (Luke 22:7-13).
In the Upper Room of a house in Jerusalem, Jesus and the Twelve came together to share this ceremonial meal. As Messiah and leader, Jesus took the place of the host and led the Passover observance. During the meal, he startled the disciples by declaring that one of them would soon betray him (Luke 22:21-22). This betrayer turned out to be Judas Iscariot, who left during the meal to make preparations for his betrayal of Jesus.
Near the end of the meal, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). In the same manner, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). These words and actions constituted what is now called the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, or the Eucharist.
By associating the broken bread with his body and the cup of wine with his blood, Jesus established a powerful symbol and metaphor for his imminent sacrificial death on the cross. Just as the Passover lamb’s blood spared the Israelites in Egypt, Jesus portrayed himself as the Lamb of God who would offer his own lifeblood to spare sinful humanity from eternal death (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7).
The purpose behind the Lord’s Supper was to provide Jesus’ followers with a memorial of his death and an anticipation of his return. By instructing them to “do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus intended the Lord’s Supper to be observed by his followers after his death (Luke 22:19). The apostle Paul later gave instructions on observing the Lord’s Supper as an ordinance for the early church (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Taking the bread and cup was meant as a tangible remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice.
In instituting this meal, Jesus also formed a powerful metaphor of salvation. Just as food and drink nourish our physical bodies, so Jesus emphasized that he is the only true source of spiritual nourishment and life for our souls: “I am the bread of life…Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and…abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:35, 54, 56). The Lord’s Supper reminds followers of Jesus that he alone offers the gift of salvation.
Additionally, in telling his disciples to continue celebrating the Lord’s Supper in the future, Jesus was pointing ahead to the coming of God’s kingdom in all fullness at his second coming (Luke 22:16-18). So the meal also serves as an anticipation and reminder of Christ’s promised return and the consummation of our redemption. As Jesus said, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). Whenever believers partake of Communion together, it is a vivid object lesson to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
The events and words of Jesus at the Last Supper profoundly influenced the early church. After Christ’s ascension, the church in Jerusalem devoted themselves to praying, teaching, fellowship, Communion, and sharing meals together (Acts 2:42-47). And the Lord’s Supper became a regular practice for the growing church: “On the first day of the week [the disciples] came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7). The apostle Paul had to write instructions to the Corinthians about proper observance of the Communion meal amidst their gatherings (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). Taking Communion represented the central fellowship and identity believers shared through partaking of Christ together.
Over the centuries since, the Eucharist has remained one of two ordinances regularly practiced by the Christian church, along with baptism. Though different denominations hold some variations in procedure, the core biblical meaning remains central: to regularly remember Christ’s death on our behalf and to be spiritually nourished by him through the taking of Communion until he returns.
The Last Supper marks a pivotal moment when Jesus began to prepare his disciples for the climactic events soon to come on Good Friday and Easter. By inaugurating the Lord’s Supper, Jesus powerfully reinforced that his sacrificial death would provide salvation, sustenance, and eternal life to all who trust in him. As Paul declared: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
So in summary, the Last Supper signifies:
- A anticipation of Jesus’ sacrificial death on behalf of sinners
- Jesus’ role as spiritual nourishment and source of eternal life
- A remembrance and proclamation of Jesus until he returns
- Unity of believers through partaking of Christ together
And by practicing Communion regularly throughout church history, believers enter into, remember, and proclaim the new covenant established by Christ. They rejoice in the salvation provided by the Lamb of God and find spiritual nourishment, growth, and fellowship through partaking of the Lord’s Supper until he comes again.
The events in the Upper Room on the night before his crucifixion defined the capstone of Jesus’ ministry. In his last hours before the cross, Jesus instituted a profound and meaningful ordinance for his disciples. The Lord’s Supper remains a gift to believers today as much as it was for the early church. When Christians take Communion together according to Jesus’ pattern, they join the generations of disciples before and after them in remembering their Savior through the bread and cup. They rejoice in Christ’s sacrifice that offers us salvation. And they find identity, unity, sustenance, and hope in the daily bread that Jesus provides – both at the Communion table and in every believer’s heart.
Jesus told his followers, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). As the one whose death and resurrection reconciles us to God, Jesus longs for his disciples to intimately know, follow, and partake of him. The Lord’s Supper stands as a continuing reminder of the invitation to every believer to feast spiritually on all that Christ is.
When we eat the bread and drink the cup in remembrance of Jesus, we remember all his words and deeds leading up to this pivotal night. We remember how Jesus loved even Judas his betrayer. We remember his humility in washing the disciples’ feet. We remember his anguished prayer in Gethsemane. And we remember his perfect submission to the Father to go to the cross on our behalf. In the bread and fruit of the vine, we taste and see the Lord’s goodness and grace shown toward us at Calvary. We partake of Christ’s fullness – his incarnation, sacrificial love, resurrection power, ascension glory, and triumphant return.
Jesus underscored that his disciples were clean because of his words spoken to them (John 15:3). So we who have trusted in Christ’s finished work are cleansed from sin because we have received his word of truth and grace. As believers washed in Christ’s blood, we commemorate him with clean hands and pure hearts each time we partake of the Lord’s Supper.
What happened in the Upper Room represents the invitation of the gospel to intimately participate in Christ. All who by faith rest in Jesus’ finished work are welcome to Jesus’ table. And the Lord’s Supper remains a regular and cherished means for believers to fellowship with Christ and with each other because of our shared redemption in him.
The Last Supper and Lord’s Supper point to the perfect culmination of God’s kingdom coming to earth. One day we will eat and drink with our Savior anew in the fullness of his glory (Luke 22:18; Revelation 19:9). Until then, Christians proclaim Christ’s death and resurrection through the regular observance of Communion. And by continually partaking of Jesus through word and sacrament, we nourish our souls with the bread of life.
So the Last Supper marks a vital milestone in redemption history. Jesus transformed the Passover into a powerful object lesson of salvation through his body and blood. He instituted the ongoing ordinance of the Lord’s Supper for believers. And the sacrament of Communion invites Christ’s followers into intimate fellowship with him through partaking of the bread and cup.
The events in the Upper Room represent the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry. And they point ahead to the coming glory of God’s kingdom. Whenever Christians come to the Communion table, they join the disciples in that room to gaze with wonder on their crucified and risen Savior. And they find sustenance, hope, community, and eternal life through partaking of Christ’s redemption.