The Lord’s Table is a table of glory. God invites boasters to eat and drink with Him, boasters who have repented of boasting in themselves and who now boast in Christ alone.
We offer nothing to a self-sufficient God or His Son. In fact, God calls the low, the despised, the foolish, and the weak of this world for Himself. This was “so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:29). But He doesn’t call us and then leave us empty. “Because of [God] we are in in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord'” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). Paul is quoting the prophet Jeremiah.
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23–24)
We are, all of us, glory seekers (think John 5:44). As Christians, we seek the glory spread before us on the Table. We boast, and our boasting is in the Lord, in His death for us and in His resurrection for us. The eternal Dignitary, the infinitely excellent Majesty invites us to share in His glory. He offers His glory, His very self to us at this Table by faith. By grace through faith we find Him in the place His glory dwells. One day in His glorious presence is better than a thousand praises of men.
Every Lord’s day we gather as Christians to celebrate Christ’s historical, bodily resurrection. If He has not risen, if His resurrection is a myth or a scam, our faith is in vain and we are still in our sins. Unless He lives, we cannot face tomorrow, let alone eternity.
In Psalm 16:10, David looks forward to the glad security that the Savior’s flesh would not see corruption. His soul would not be abandoned to Sheol, to death. The next verse brings us home, too.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:11, ESV)
Though David may not have connected all the dots, we can. The “path of life” is Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the way…no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Jesus brings us into life. He is “the life.” He brings us into God’s presence (1 Peter 3:18) and with God there is “fullness of joy.” At God’s “right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
The Communion Table is spread with the symbols of Jesus’ body and blood, with His own life given for our lives. The Lord’s Table is spread with joy because when we eat and drink with each other, we are communing with God in heaven through Christ. This is a foretaste of the ultimate banquet of fellowship. guarantee of forever pleasures because Christ is risen from the dead.
Israel rejoiced in John the Baptist’s lamp-light for a while (John 5:35). Many Jews saw the straight path from Baptist’s ministry to the Messiah’s coming. They were anticipating the Messiah’s arrival, expecting Him to defeat their enemies and to share His kingdom with them. They couldn’t wait for the Messiah to change their lives. But John lost his luster when he kept talking about the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
A few years later, Jesus entered Jerusalem to pageantry and praise. On the day we call Palm Sunday, the crowd was eager to crown their King. They cried out, “Hosanna!” “Save us, we pray!” They laid their clothes and palm branches on the road in front of Him. He was their Messiah, but not the One they wanted. He offered them life, but not the one they wanted. He came to defeat their greatest enemy, their death-deserving sin, and to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin. They wanted Him to defeat the Romans. Within a week they asked the Romans to crucify Him.
Jesus does promise life. He promises an eternal inheritance in His kingdom for all who follow Him. He promises to share His glory with His servants. He promises communion with Himself and with His Father.
But life comes on certain terms, namely, it only comes by His death. He will be exalted, given the name above every name, but that lifting came after being humbled, by being obedient even to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:8-11).
We who believe should look forward to His final victory. We should look forward to obtaining the guaranteed inheritance. We ought to anticipate the day when all our enemies are defeated. But the way to life is the way of dying. The Lord’s Table reminds us of what we have in Christ, now and forever. It also reminds us how He purchased it, once and for all.
The apostles John and Peter were in the temple when a man, lame from birth, asked for them alms. Instead of silver or gold, Peter told the him to rise up and walk in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Acts 3:6). The man was healed and began walking, leaping, and praising God, which earned Peter and John an attentive audience.
Peter began to preach and, among other things, told the Jews that they “killed the Author of life” (Acts 3:15). It is an interesting word, “Author” (or “Prince” KJV and NASB, “source” HCSB, elsewhere defined as “originator”), ἀρχηγὸν in Greek. It is used four times in the New Testament and only about Jesus. Here Jesus is the Author of life. In Hebrews 2:10 Jesus is the Author (NASB, “founder” in ESV) of salvation. In Hebrews 12:2 Jesus is the Author (NASB, “founder” in ESV) and Perfecter of our faith.
He is the Author of life, salvation, and faith. In order to secure those things for us He was killed (Acts 3:15), He suffered (Hebrews 2:10), and He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). When we come to the meal of peace, there is no question about who sits at the Head of the Table: the Lord Jesus Christ. There are no doubts about how we were invited: Jesus died and rose as our substitute. There is no uncertainty about what we get at this Table: nourished faith, salvation to glory, and eternal life. The Author writes us into His story, He shares His very own life with us. So come and commune with Him.
We emphasize that the Lord’s Table is a banquet, a feast, a celebration. We emphasize the joy of communion, God’s joy over us and our corporate joy with Him. Jesus made peace by the blood of His cross and reconciled us in His body of flesh by His death in order to present us holy and blameless and above reproach before Him (Colossians 1:20-22). Christ’s finished sacrifice is a reason to rejoice.
It is also a reason to examine ourselves. The Table celebration is for sinners who boast in the Savior not for sinners who boast in their sin. We must not be sinless before we eat but we also must not be careless about our sin. Paul said,
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. (1 Corinthians 11:27-30)
Sin affects the body. Not all effects on the body result from our personal sin but some do. Weakness, illness, and even death may come to those who deliberately ignore the sin Christ died for.
Weekly celebration of the Lord’s Table nourishes those with faith and endangers those who participate without faith, those who love sin and don’t seek His strength to fight sin. He desires communion with us and He will discipline those who come for communion with disregard the sacrifice of His Son.
At this meal we meet with the Father through the work of His Son. Let us enjoy that fellowship with Him as we discern His saving work in us.
If you sat down at a dinner table, what might cause you to get up after a while unsatisfied? There might be nothing on the table, no food to eat. There might be no one else at the table, no fellowship to enjoy. There might be a family tradition passed down for generations that strictly forbids anyone from eating, the food is for display purposes only. Or, there may be no reason to eat because you ruined your appetite with junk an hour earlier.
These may be reasons why the communion Table doesn’t satisfy as well. Working backwards through the list of four above, those who come to a Table of grace full of their own works, who come to a Table of righteousness whose stomachs are full of selfishness, will not be nourished. Not only that, they may be judged by the Lord of the Table for unworthy participation.
Those who come to the communion Table believing that the table is for show, a picture to be seen, not a meal for participation, will not enjoy it. Celebration doesn’t fit their understanding of proper Table dimensions.
Those who come to the communion Table lost in the recesses of individualism will get something, but they won’t get communion; they won’t be sharing anything with the body. They may write about the goodness of fellowship in their journals but they won’t taste it.
And those who come to an empty table are going to some other table than the communion Table. The Lord’s Table is never empty and His portions are never scarce. The Son gave His life for us and all things are ours with Him. God’s grace and love know no bounds and fill up all who come to receive by faith.
Our fellowship with God comes on very specific terms. Peace must be established between two parties that were previously enemies. In our case, the defiance was entirely with us. Our enmity must be defeated and our rebellion accounted for. Communion also requires a certain likeness between parties. In our case, we must walk in the light as He is in the light in order to enjoy fellowship. God’s Word, therefore, is crucial if we’re to know the terms, if we’re to respond to follow the light, if we’re to understand the sacrifice of Christ that establishes the peace.
But peace isn’t only on paper, nor is it found in an out of reach place. Christ took on flesh and dwelt among us, He did not merely think about it. His death and resurrection are recorded in a Book, but that Book gets us more than a contract in thin air. Through the Word we learn about communion with God and He established a Supper for our bodies to actually commune with God in worship. We receive His Word and partake in His ordinance. He requires both, He gifts us with both, working hand in hand, to reveal the terms of peace and to share a meal of peace.
Without the Word we could not understand what eating and drinking are good for. Without eating and drinking, we do not understand what the Word is good for. The Word of the Lord declares peace for all who believe, at the Lord’s Table we digest it by faith.
God is compassionate and He knows our frame. He knows that we are but dust (Psalm 103:14) and yet, dust sure does have a lot of problems. Even as His children we are easily discouraged, hungry, tired, and fearful. That is why He invites us to share a meal of communion with Him and it is why sharing this meal as an assembly every week is so valuable.
Many of us have trouble. We are not under the threat of torture or death, but we have affliction nonetheless. Our plans didn’t work out, we’re not sure if we’ll be able to pay the grocery bill next week, the alarm clock rings early and our heads hit the pillow late, and we doubt that we’ll be able to make it through.
God has not promised to make His people comfortable, to give us more than daily bread, to fill our physical sails with fitness, or to reveal how it will all work out in the short term. But He has promised that there is always an overabundance of grace. He hasn’t promised that we won’t have need, He has promised to help in those times.
Only by the death and resurrection of Jesus can we come for grace with confidence. Our High Priest sympathizes with our weaknesses, especially when we are tempted to doubt and fear. He was tempted, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). So we draw near to the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16). We eat around the table of grace. We find grace to help, and there is more than enough.
The sons of Korah wrote eleven songs that were recognized into the canon of Israel’s worship including Psalm 84.
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
The song celebrates God’s “dwelling place,” His “courts.” In other words, the Psalm expresses delight over God welcoming His people into His presence. For Israel, God’s house was the temple in Jerusalem. So this song exalts how great it is to be with God, to meet the “living God” as “heart and flesh sing for joy” to Him.
Later in the song, the sons of Korah put their desires into perspective.
For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
This is extreme by both chronological and occupational standards. There is no better way to spend time than appearing before God. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how lowly a position one takes as long as he can be in the presence of God.
We sing a popular version of this Psalm today and it applies in a brand new way. In His Son, Jesus Christ, we are invited into the place His glory dwells. We are satisfied and our souls are made wet by the Spirit as we see and taste His beauty. And around the Lord’s table, He invites His people for a meal of communion, a meal of blessing, and He holds nothing back.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
This promise is certain because He has already given us His Son. One meal of peace with the King is better than a thousand elsewhere.
Eating at the Lord’s table week by week ought to feed, foster, and fortify our faith that God is on our side.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31–32)
In a series of rhetorical questions, God, through Paul, lifts up our hearts to trust Him. We need not fear tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, or slaughter (verses 35b-36). These things cannot separate us from His love in Christ Jesus (verse 35a). These things can’t stop His Spirit from leading us as adopted sons (verses 12-17). These things can’t cancel His guarantee to glorify those He predestined, called, and justified (verse 30). No suffering hinders our future glory (verse 18). No weakness can keep us from conquering through Him who loved us (verses 26, 37).
Why? Because the Father gave His Son for us. The Lord’s supper is our remembrance and proclamation of the Lord’s death, of the Son being given for us. Just as Jesus gave His disciples bread and the cup, He gave His body and poured out His blood so that we might hope in God.
Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)
Christ died for us, He rose for us, now He intercedes for us. This meal celebrates that He is our help, our life, for all time. He is on our side.