The time of Jesus' death had come. Within 24 hours he would surrender himself, so he gathered his twelve apostles around him and gave to them an act that would interpret the meaning of His death -- for His death was the very reason for His coming to this earth.
He instituted for them, and for us, a memorial of His redemption, which He promised to all mankind.
He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it; and he gave it to them, with the words: This is my body which is given for you. (Luke 22:19)
Then, taking wine into His hands, He said:
Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matt. 26:28)
His coming death on the following afternoon was presented to them in a symbolic or unbloody manner. On the cross, He would die by the separating of His blood from His body. This is why He did not consecrate the bread and wine together, but separately, to show the manner of His death.
To His followers, our Lord illustrated what He would be on the Cross the next day -- both Priest and Sacrifice. In the Old Testament, the sacrifice, such as a goat or a sheep, was apart from the priest who offered it.
In this act before his apostles, and on the cross, Jesus, the priest, offered Himself, the sacrifice.
In this way was fulfilled the words of the prophet, Malachi:
From furthest east to furthest west my name is great among the nations. Everywhere fragrant sacrifices and pure gifts are offered in my name; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of Hosts. (Mal. 1:11)
Then Jesus gave the Divine command to institute the memorial of His death:
Do this as a memorial of me. (Luke 22:19)
For nearly 2,000 years Christians have been gathering on the first day of every week to commemorate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In this act we commune with Christ as did the apostles in His presence of His love. We commune with God as we kneel before His presence. We commune with each other as we together partake of this communion.
Through this partaking of the bread and wine we, as Christians, prolong through the centuries the Sacrifice offered for the sins of all the world, so that we, too, might one day share in His glory.