Jesus Christ introduced the sacrament of bread and wine/water at the Last Supper in preparation for his great atoning gift to the world.
In the sacrament he gave two great symbolic elements, bread and water, to help the people understand his gift. The bread was likely unleavened because the Last Supper was a Passover meal. Because unleavened bread does not have yeast, it has less moisture and is less prone to decay. The bread represented the purity of Christ’s body and the incorruptibility of his gift.
The Israelites ate manna in the wilderness with Moses. The manna was a gift from God at a time when other food was not available. This taught them to depend physically on God before introducing the idea of relying spiritually on God. When Christ came he expanded the metaphor of manna when he said, “This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.” (John 6:58) Christ was the bread from heaven. He was the epitome of the symbol from the Old Testament.
The sacrament at the Last Supper used wine but water has been used interchangeably for this symbol. Christ declared, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14) The water is a symbol of the blood which Christ was about to give in his atoning gift to the world.
Christ was the lamb of God. His death was a fulfillment of a symbolic ritual of animal sacrifice in the Old Testament where a lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the people. (see 1 Pet 1:18-19) “In Leviticus the sacrificial offerings for sin fall into two categories, those designed to atone for unintentional transgressions and those that atoned for willful sins.” (Stephen Ricks, Source) Under the law of Moses unintentional sins were paid for by the transgressor himself. Willful sins cannot be redeemed by the transgressor and require an intercessor. Intercession by Christ on our behalf is necessary because no unclean thing can dwell with God and all of us are unclean due to our intentional sinning.
While observing the Mosaic law of sacrifice, as we understand now from Christ’s own teachings, was not fully effective in perfecting the people. It was part of the author’s plan to show his people where to look for their salvation. Jesus Christ, the author of salvation, uses imagery, symbolism and poetic words to explain his great gift. The gift of salvation has much deeper levels of meaning which are understood after we participate in and ponder the physical representations of bread and water, lambs and sacrifice, the cross and the garden.
In the garden and on the cross, Jesus Christ experienced personally and individually every pain and sorrow from every sin committed and all it’s repercussion for each and every person who has lived on earth before and after his life on earth. Peter thought Jesus should flee the evil men who wanted to kill him. Jesus knew that the pain was necessary. He said to his Father, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” (Matt 26:42) He showed perfect submission to the will of God in the way that we all must submit both to God’s laws and to his punishments. During this time of intercession, the pain caused Jesus Christ to sweat drops of blood from every pore. (Luke 22:44) The blood sanctified us his people.
If we are sanctified by his blood, why must we appeal to him via repentance to have mercy on us? Jesus Christ became the one to hold the key of salvation because he broke the confining bands of death and sin. Only through him can we be saved. This means that he sets the terms and conditions of the salvation that he offers.
Because Christ is the author of the terms and conditions, we have no right to demand his grace. As we submit to his authority and guidance, we begin to understand what our role is in turning away from sin and what his role is in finishing our faith. The first condition of salvation is baptism by an authorized servant of God. John the apostle taught, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) Being born of water is baptism. Being born of the Spirit is a process of sanctification that must occur during this mortal life through the obedience and direction of God’s emissary, the Holy Spirit. The remaining terms and conditions are spelled out in scripture and in the divine tutelage that the Spirit gives.