One of the essential truths of the New Testament is the unique priesthood of Christ and the sacrament of Holy Communion is the eucharistic memorial of this unique sacrifice. Consider the words from the author of Hebrews:
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh,how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:11-14
For the New Testament church, there is but one high priest and but one sacrifice. The one sacrifice on the cross was perfect and sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world. In Old Testament times, there were many sacrifices to be made, but we find nothing of this sort in the New Testament. Christ alone is the high priest ordained to offer Himself as the pure and perfect offering. His sacrifice never needs to be repeated because it was the perfect and complete propitiatory sacrifice. The author of Hebrews states:
Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. Hebrews 10:11-14
In the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, we are united to our Lord Jesus Christ’s perfect and unique sacrifice on the cross for us. Just as baptism and the preaching of the Word bring us into communion with Christ, so does this Holy Supper. The Lord’s Supper was intended as a memorial of the sufferings of Christ for His people. This is evident from the words of institution: “This is my body which is broken for you” and “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is shed for you.” Here a moving emphasis is laid upon His body being broken, crushed, and mangled with an endless variety of suffering. It is evident this ordinance was appointed as a memorial of a suffering Savior; and it is under this notion that we are particularly to remember Him.
This remembrance of a suffering Savior must be attended with suitable affections. We should approach this ordinance with a suitable sense of repentance and humility as well as an fervent love and gratitude for His dying love to us. This gratitude should express itself in thanksgiving for His goodness and mercy and the dedication of ourselves to Him and His service forever (cf. Romans 12:1-2; 1 Peter 2:5; Hebrews 13:15-16).
Yet, all of this interest in the suffering and death of Jesus only makes sense because of the resurrection. With the resurrection it was made clear that God had accepted the sacrifice. The suffering was not simply one more tragedy, but ultimately victory. This is why we celebrate this glorious memorial on the Lord’s Day, the day of resurrection. In this way, the Supper is understood as a sign, even a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb – the heavenly celebration that the Lamb who suffered here on earth triumphed over the grave and awaits us in heaven as risen Lord. This is why in the Lord’s Supper we
“proclaim His death until He comes”. His death was the consummation of His sufferings and we celebrate this sacrament until He comes again to visit our world in a very different and glorious manner.