Question: "What is the meaning and importance of the Last Supper?"
Answer: The Last Supper is recorded in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-30). It was both a Passover meal and the last meal Jesus had with His apostles before His arrest and subsequent crucifixion. One of the important moments of the Last Supper is Jesus’ command to remember what He was about to do on behalf of all mankind: shed His blood on the cross thereby paying the debt of our sins (Luke 22:19).
In addition to predicting His suffering and death for the kingdom of God (Luke 22:15-16), Jesus also foretold Peter’s denial of Him (Luke 22:34) and Judas Iscariot’s betrayal (Matthew 26:21-24).
The Passover feast was an especially holy event for the Jewish people in that it remembered the time when God spared them from the plague of physical death in Egypt (Exodus 11:1-13:16). During this last meal with His apostles, Jesus took two symbols associated with Passover and imbued them with new meaning as a way to remember His sacrifice, which saves us from spiritual death: “And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood’” (Luke 22:17-20).
Also during the Last Supper, Jesus taught the principle of servanthood as He washed His disciples’ feet: “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:26-27).
The Last Supper is echoed today in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-33). The Bible teaches us that Jesus’ death is linked to the offering of the Passover sacrifice. John notes that Jesus' death resembles the Passover sacrifice in that His bones were not broken (John 19:36; Exodus 12:46). And Paul said, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Typically, the Passover meal was a family celebration. However, at the Last Supper, the apostles were alone with Jesus (Luke 22:14), which suggests that this particular meal has specific meaning for the church, of which the apostles were the foundation (Ephesians 2:20). While this meal had implications for the Jews, it was designed for the church as well. The Last Supper was rooted in the Old Covenant as it heralded the New.
In comparing the crucifixion of Jesus to the Passover, we can readily see the redemptive nature of Christ’s death. As with the original Passover sacrifice in the Old Testament, Christ’s death atones for the sins of His people; His blood purifies and cleanses and rescues us from death. Today, the Lord’s Supper is a time when believers reflect upon Christ’s perfect sacrifice and know that, through our faith in receiving Him, we will dine with Him forever (Revelation 3:20).