In examining the words of institution of the Lord’s Supper, it is evidently clear that Jesus deliberately chose to institute the sacrament of communion in the course of the observance of Passover. The Christian sacrament is the continuation of the Jewish feast. The paschal lamb, which was sacrificed during the Passover, is the type of Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Lamb is there both at Passover and at the celebration of the Christian sacrament. In both the same Lamb is fed upon.
The Lord’s Supper is not something entirely different from the Passover – or even wholly separated from it – now put into place, to be celebrated by Christians instead of it. Rather it is a new form given to the Passover, for the continuance of its essential substance through all time. At the heart of the new Christian celebration of Passover was the indication that this new feast follows the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. Jesus Himself took the bread and said, “This cup is the New Covenant poured out for many for the remission of sins” (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:24-25). This was the propitiatory sacrifice that Jesus was to offer on the cross. Not only was the broken bread and poured out wine a reminder that Passover was a sacrifice; it was a thanksgiving that this sacrifice avails for our salvation. This sacrifice was once for all offered up and once for all received on high. It never needs to be offered again. Hence, the Eucharist is the thanksgiving feast that follows the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
In the Lord’s Supper, the spiritual blessings of the gospel are communicated to us and these blessings are fitly represented throughout the Old Testament by a feast. This was the overarching purpose of the major feasts of the Old Testament: the Feast of Passover, the Feast of the Ingathering, and the Feast of Passover. These feasts were types of the great gospel feast as they foreshadowed the wedding feast of the Lamb. In the great feast to which all these types point, God is the host and it is He who makes the provisions. Jonathan Edwards expands on this concept:
The faith and love and hope which a believer exercises, answers to the accepting of the invitation of those that are invited to a feast, and their coming to it, and sitting at God’s table and eating and drinking those good things which he entertains them. Hughes Oliphant Old, Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church, p. 613.
It is our Father who invites the guests. Sinners are the invited guests and believers are those who accept the invitation. It is Christ who purchased the delicacies on which we feed and it is the Holy Spirit who is the entertainment, filling us with love, joy, and peace. This is the meat and drink for which Christ gave Himself. This is the water that Christ gives and which shall be in us a well of water springing up to unto eternal life (cf. John 4:14).
Whenever the Lord’s Supper is spread before us, we are invited to take our place at the feast, the substance of which is the flesh and blood of our Lord who has been sacrificed once for all at Calvary. As we eat these in their symbols we are continuing that solemn festival instituted by Christ, by which we testify our “participation in the altar” and claim our part in the benefits bought by the offering sacrificed on it.