The Passover meal looked forward to the Messiah who had yet to come in history. The Lord’s Supper looks back to the Messiah who has already come in history. We live not in the era of promise but in the era of fulfillment. We are the people of God upon whom “the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11).
The Gospels tell us that the Lord’s Supper occupies a significant place within redemptive history. It looks back to events that precede it and looks forward to events that will follow it. The Lord’s Supper looks back to the Passover. Jesus institutes the Supper in the context of a Passover meal. The Supper is not annexed to the Passover meal, but it is part of the meal itself. In light of this fact, what is striking is what we do not see in the Gospels’ account of the institution of the Supper—a lamb. The lamb was the centerpiece of the Passover meal and, we presume, was part of the meal that Jesus and his disciples celebrated together on the eve of his death. The Gospels, however, make no mention of a lamb in connection with the Lord’s Supper.
The reason that there is no lamb in the Lord’s Supper is that Jesus Christ himself is the Passover Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36; 19:36; 1 Cor. 5:7). The yearly Passover lambs all pointed to and found their meaning in the Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ. He dies on the cross as the Passover Lamb of God. What the Exodus Passover (and all subsequent Passover observances) anticipated now finds its fulfillment and realization in the death of Christ on Calvary. His shed blood will cover the sins of his people (Rom. 3:25). In Christ, God passes over his people in judgment, punishing their substitute for their sins (2 Cor. 5:21). As a result, everyone who puts his or her trust in Christ has been redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pet. 1:19).