John chapter six isn’t about the Lord’s Supper, but it and the Supper are about the same truths. In both, Jesus uses a metaphor to point us to Himself, and one thing He tells us is that He is a meal, not a feast.
These Galileans failed to realize they were coming to the King of kings, not Burger King. You cannot have this bread your way. When Jesus tells them there is a heavenly Bread that endures for eternal life, they ask for it (John 6:34). They want eternal life, but they want only a meal, not a feast. They want Jesus as they want Him (cf. John 6:14–15).
Jesus’ doesn’t make himself palatable to sinful tastes. He pushes the metaphor to the extreme to their disgust. Jesus keeps saying “Mana. Mana. Mana.” Like their forefathers they grumble at the heavenly Bread the Father has provided, proving themselves to be another generation doomed to perish in the wilderness due to unbelief (cf. Hebrews 3, 1 Corinthians 10:1–11).
Jesus then has the audacity to tell them that He isn’t an acquired taste, but a given taste (John 6:37, 44–45, 65). You can’t by effort come to taste and see that Jesus is good. If you savor the Savior it is because your mouth has been washed by the waters of regeneration to give an appetite called faith. Jesus says that eating is coming and drinking is believing. Jesus is the eternally satisfying Bread of life to His people because they never stop eating, meaning, they never stop believing.
Man knows this much, he is hungry and thirsty. The problem isn’t a lack of appetite, but what we try to satiate that appetite with (John 6:27–29). There are many variations of the fountain of youth/life legends. Imagine that such a fountain exists in a narrow cave, but there’s a catch. There’s always a catch huh? Once you drink of the fountain you have eternal life, but you cannot leave the cave. Once you do, you die immediately. Man wants eternal life, but he wants to leave the cave. He wants Jesus as a meal, not a feast. He wants to drink the fountain only to enjoy other drinks. But what if the only thing worth devoting an eternity of existence to was knowing and enjoying the fountain? This is one of the many things we declare and anticipate in the Supper, that day when the bride will forever feast with her Beloved, and her every desire is fully satisfied in Him.
The Lord’s Supper is a spring loaded mechanism; the backward thrust is meant to propel us forward. In Luke’s account, before Jesus once tells us to do this in remembrance He has twice given reason to anticipate: the future wedding feast when He will again eat bread and drink wine with His bride (Luke 22:16, 18; cf. Revelation 19:6–9; Isaiah 25:6–9). Matthew and Mark neither one tell us to remember, but they do tell us to anticipate (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25). If your remembering doesn’t lead to anticipating, your not remembering very well.
Sometimes it’s said that at the Last Supper the disciples looked forward, while in the Lord’s Supper we look backward. As regards Christ’s atoning death this is spot on, but that’s not everything. In the Supper they were to look forward to a day that is beyond our own, yet, that is here now. Luke uniquely tells us that Jesus will not eat the Passover again until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God (Luke 22:15–16). The Lord’s Supper is the fulfillment of the Passover, but it is a partial fulfillment. When we partake of the Supper, we are eating the future. The Lord’s Supper is the future fulfillment of the Passover, breaking into the present: God and man, sitting at a table, dining together (Luke 13:29–30).
The Lord’s Supper tells us that this feast will be, and it tells us how this feast will be. The answer to how this feast will be is what this feast is. Man will eat with God, because He has eaten of God. Stephen Charnock succinctly summarized the succulence of Supper saying, “A feast with God is great, but a feast on God is greater.” This is the marrow of the Supper that we partake of now by faith, the marrow of the eternal feast that has broken into the present.
Who prepared the Last Supper? Jesus clearly commands His disciples to make preparations (Luke 22:8, 13), but the disciples prepare for the feast the way students at a cooking school prepare a meal. When the student shows up, preparations have already been made. The ingredients, utensils, appliances, and recipe are all there before them. Jesus is the master chef. From Jesus’ instructions, it’s clear, He’s doing the cooking.
Jesus is using an ancient recipe, one He gave to His people ages ago in the Passover. The disciples were preparing a Passover meal, but Jesus was preparing the Passover meal. Every Passover up to this point was only a dress rehearsal with a stand-in cast. Fulfillment has come. Jesus is the host and fare of the true Passover. The Jews had the recipe, but they could never procure the perfect ingredients; only Jesus had those, His body and His blood given for us. There will be no recipe failure.
Big feasts take a long time to prepare. The table of salvation that Jesus is spreading is the greatest of feasts and has been long in the making. The best of bread took a long time to rise; the finest of wines was long in aging to perfection. But now, the time to feast is come, the table is being spread.
The Lord’s Supper is the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20). He presides over the table. The Lord’s Supper is a picture of the gospel, and it is a picture He still gives to us just as He did to them. The bread and wine do not become His body or blood, but the enfleshed Jesus, whose body was broken, and whose blood was poured out, is by the Spirit present with His church in the Supper speaking the gospel to us just as He did to His disciples on that night.
We don’t prepare this table the way Jesus does. This Supper is something we are commanded to do, but the doing we do is to come to His table.