There are many things that should be remembered at the Lord’s Supper, but the narrative of our Lord upon the Cross is the primary intent. At the Last Supper, Jesus made this very clear. He indicated that the bread was in remembrance of His broken body and the cup a memorial of the pouring out of His blood for the remission of sins. To be sure, the bread and wine which we receive at the Supper aid our memory. However, mere bread and wine do not make a sacrament. Faith has to look through and beyond the broken bread and poured out wine and see the Lamb of God who takes away our sin. To truly celebrate the sacrament we must encounter our Savior. As James Waddel Alexander puts it so vividly, “There must be an eye of faith to look through and beyond the element and see Jesus Christ, visibly set forth, crucified among us.”
Sacraments are signs to be understood. They are more than just food and drink. They point us to a higher reality and that higher reality is the atoning death of the Son of God. The sacrament both exhibits and confirms the covenant of grace, which opens to us this saving virtue. In partaking of the Lord’s Supper we must bend all the perceptions of the soul on a single point, Christ on the cross – Christ pouring forth His blood as the basis of the New Covenant which gives to many the remission of sins.
Moreover, to remember Christ’s death on the cross, to remember it rightly, is to hear from the Crucified the invitations to turn from the work and its ways and follow the Savior. It is to follow Him into a new life – a life of devotion to God and service to the neighbor. To rightly celebrate the Supper is to hear the love of God addressed to us. We need no greater proof that it is eternal love that calls us to follow Christ. Consider the words of the apostle John
Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us. 1 John 3:16
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10
This sacrament calls us to remember the cross because the cross is the basis of the New Covenant, but it also invites faith because it is by faith that we lay hold of the New Covenant and enter into it. It is through repentance that we advance in the life of the New Covenant and so more and more die unto sin and live unto righteousness. True faith “discerns the Lord’s body”, receives it and feeds upon it. The bread and the wine at the holy table are indeed helps to faith. Even more, the eucharistic meal is a sign of all the lovingkindness and covenant grace purchased by the death of Christ. Hence, the message of the cross is a message to us – a call to remember Christ’s work, to remember His love, and to walk in grateful obedience.