Here’s the latest extract from my new book, A Meal with Jesus. The book is available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk and there is also a Kindle version available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.
Jesus says: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” He longs to eat it. He longs for a meal with friends. Why? Because this meal with friends is a foretaste of his kingdom. This is why he must suffer – so that his people can come to the mountain and eat with God. Jesus will experience in the supper a glimpse of the goal of his work of salvation. In that experience he will be reassured that the suffering that weighs so heavy on his heart is worth it. This is what it is for: sharing community around a meal table with his people.
The meal functions in the same way for us. What we call “the Lord’s Supper” is a foretaste of “the Lamb’s Supper” in Revelation 19. It’s a beginning of the feast we eat with Jesus and his people in the new creation. It’s not just a picture. It’s the real thing begun in a partial way. We eat with God’s people and we eat with the ascended Christ, present through the Holy Spirit.
It should be a meal we “earnestly desire” to eat. We should approach it with anticipation. With longing. With excitement. With joy. The Lord’s Supper should be a joyous occasion. A vibrant meal with friends. A feast.
That must surely affect how we celebrate it. Today the Lord’s Supper has commonly become ritualized. We’re the group in town whose central meal involves a fragment of bread and a small sip of wine.
The bread and wine in the New Testament are part of a meal. Luke says of the Jerusalem church: “breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46) Commentators often can’t decide whether this refers to meals or communion. That’s because we assume they’re two different things. We think of a meal taking place round the dining table at home while we think of communion as a solemn rite in a church building. But in Jerusalem they ate meals together in their homes, eating bread, drinking wine, remembering Jesus and celebrating the community he creates through his death.
This is a feast of friends. In Corinth they were abusing this, but Paul doesn’t tell them to separate the bread and wine from the meal. Quite the opposite. He tells them to wait for one another so they eat the meal together. Communion should be a feast of friends shared with laughter, tears, prayers, stories. We celebrate the community life that God gives us through the cross and in the Spirit. We can’t celebrate it with heads bowed, eyes closed, alone in our private thoughts, strangely solitary even as we’re surrounded by other people.
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