On Fasting at the Feast (Isaiah 25)

TLS MainThe Lord’s Supper is a feast. Too many come to the table as if to a wake instead of a wedding; a funeral instead of a festival. In this age we do fast, but the Lord’s Supper is a breaking in of the future, and thus, a feast (cf. Matthew 9:14–17).

This is why I don’t consider the issue of wine non-consequential to optimally partaking of the Supper. There’s no getting around it, the wine of the kingdom is wine (Isaiah 25:6). Drunkenness is certainly a sin, but wine is a blessing. Can we abuse wine? Of course. But as Luther quipped, we can abuse women; shall we abolish women?  The best abuse prevention is a holy joy in the gift as a blessing from God. Isaac blessed Jacob saying, “May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine.” Israel’s covenant obedience meant vat’s bursting with wine (Deuteronomy 7:13, Proverbs 3:9–10).

Wine was not only a symbol of blessedness, but of man’s joy in that blessedness. “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart (Psalm 104:14–15).” God gave wine, and He gave it to gladden man’s heart. “Bread is made for laughter, and wine gladdens life (Ecclesiastes 10:19).” Oh that that verse would infect and ferment our coming to the Lord’s Table. If ever there were a bread made for holy laughter, tis the Bread of life. If ever there were a wine to gladden life, tis the blood of the new covenant.

The inverse of all this is seen in Isaiah 24:11, “There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine; all joy has grown dark; the gladness of the earth is banished.” The curse means no wine, no joy, no gladness.  At the Lord’s table, blessedness has swallowed up the curse. Wine and bread abound again. Wine isn’t inconsequential because it testifies that the Lord’s Supper is a feast and that our joy should be full. As we come to the table, let us sing like victors, eat like the married, and raise the glass in honor of the King.

Excessively Infrequent (1 Corinthians 11:17–34)

One of the frequent contentions concerning the Lord’s Supper is frequency. Corinth appears to have attempted the Eucharist every time she gathered (1 Corinthians 11:17–18, 20). When the early church in Jerusalem met, she broke bread (Acts 2:42, 46). Clearly the “breaking of bread,” intends more than the Supper, but I’m certain it doesn’t mean less. This is bolstered by Acts 20:7, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” Surely when the church gathered for the express purpose of breaking bread it denotes more than their being a supper club. Saying they gathered to break bread is shorthand for saying they gathered for the Supper, which is then shorthand for saying they gathered to worship.

A frequent argument for infrequency is that absence makes the heart grow fonder. “Observe it less so that it means more.” Try using this logic with your spouse. “Honey, I’m not going to kiss you as much any more, so that it will mean more when I do. Perhaps I’ll only kiss you once a quarter, when we observe the Supper, that way, it’ll be as meaningful as communion.” When we neglect the Lord’s Supper, we neglect the Lord’s physical touch. Not that the bread and wine are His literal body and blood, but they are physical things He gives to us to express spiritual truth. There is such a thing as excess, and excess destroys, but I hardly think weekly communion qualifies.

The Supper is a means of grace for the saints, but the Word is the primary means of grace. A far greater danger than the Supper becoming common to us is that of the Word becoming common. Shall we relegate the preaching of the Word to once a quarter so that it will mean more to us? Wouldn’t we be more eager listeners? No, our ears would grow dull and our hearts hard. What about corporate singing? Wouldn’t we sing with more gusto if we only did so twice a year? We wouldn’t be better singers in any way. We’d be pathetic. We’d be out of tune to the core of our chests. Our souls would grow colder than our voices grew weak. If the Lord’s Table is a means of grace, why would we want to limit the nourishment the sheep can receive from the Good Shepherd? “One’s view of the nature of the Supper plays no small part in determining frequency,” says Michael Horton. If this is just a memorial, just something we do, then less is no big deal. But, if this is a sacrament, if this is something Jesus does, then less means less.

There is freedom here. There is no explicit command from our Lord. But if I am free to come to the Lord’s Table whenever the church gathers, I want to come every time we gather. If Bethany tells me I’m free to kiss her, I had better, and if I don’t leap at that freedom, something is wrong. If the Supper means little to you because of familiarity, it’s a symptom of a much larger problem than frequency. If the Supper means little to us, it is because Jesus’ death means little to us. Regular observance is a way of knowing our hearts. Loving little cannot be solved by observing less, but observing more might be a means of loving more, because in the Supper, Jesus declares His love to us, and we love because He first loved us. Our love is born out of His, and at the table, we, by faith, have opportunity to feast on His love.

The Bugs Bunny of the New Testament (1 Corinthians 10:1–22)

“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).”

1 Corinthians 10:12 is the Bugs Bunny of the New Testament. We think we know that text, but if we could have a conversation with that passage I’m sure he’d reply, “They don’t know me very well, do they?”

When you think of this text who comes to mind? Is it the legalist who thinks he’ll stand because of all his do-goodery? Or, does the libertine who leaves the gathered worship of the church and fellowship in the Lord’s Supper to go participate in a pagan temple worship feast and sexual immorality come to mind? If not, read the chapter.

Why would such a man think he stands? Because of the spiritual privileges he enjoys, notably, the sacraments. He’s been baptized. He feasts at the Lord’s table. This isn’t the person who thinks he stands because of his self-righteousness, but his gospel freedom (1 Corinthians 10:23). He likely doesn’t look at his baptism as a good deed meriting salvation, but as a “visible word” declaring the salvation that has freed him. He doesn’t believe the Lord’s Supper earns credit, but testifies to the credit he’s received because of Christ. He rightly sees baptism and the eucharist as pictures of the gospel, the gospel that has freed him, but wrongly reasons that he is so free, he can indulge in certain practices without consequence.

Is there a sin you think yourself free to indulge in? A sin that you easily squelch your conscience by reasoning, “I’ve been baptized. I eat at the Lord’s table. I’m free. This sin can’t hurt me.” If you reason from the sacraments that you’re free to sin, you show that you don’t understand the gospel quite as fully as you think. You don’t understand the freedom you boast in. Jesus frees us not only from the penalty of sin, but also the power of sin (Romans 6:1–4; 1 Corinthians 10:13). You cannot drink of the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.

Certainly the legalist needs to hear this warning too, but not exclusively. The gospel-majoring libertine must hear it also. As Luther illustrated, humanity is like a drunken man who having fallen off one side of the horse, climbs back up only to fall off the other. We need to tell both the legalist and the libertine that they can’t ride a horse, and that all who feast at the marriage supper of the Lamb, follow the King of kings and Lord of lords riding on white horses.

Jesus Isn’t a Meal, He’s a Feast (John 6:22–58)

John chapter six isn’t about the Lord’s Supper, but it and the Supper are about the same truths. In both, Jesus uses a metaphor to point us to Himself, and one thing He tells us is that He is a meal, not a feast.

These Galileans failed to realize they were coming to the King of kings, not Burger King. You cannot have this bread your way. When Jesus tells them there is a heavenly Bread that endures for eternal life, they ask for it (John 6:34). They want eternal life, but they want only a meal, not a feast.  They want Jesus as they want Him (cf. John 6:14–15).

Jesus’ doesn’t make himself palatable to sinful tastes. He pushes the metaphor to the extreme to their disgust. Jesus keeps saying “Mana. Mana. Mana.” Like their forefathers they grumble at the heavenly Bread the Father has provided, proving themselves to be another generation doomed to perish in the wilderness due to unbelief (cf. Hebrews 3, 1 Corinthians 10:1–11).

Jesus then has the audacity to tell them that He isn’t an acquired taste, but a given taste (John 6:37, 44–45, 65). You can’t by effort come to taste and see that Jesus is good. If you savor the Savior it is because your mouth has been washed by the waters of regeneration to give an appetite called faith. Jesus says that eating is coming and drinking is believing. Jesus is the eternally satisfying Bread of life to His people because they never stop eating, meaning, they never stop believing.

Man knows this much, he is hungry and thirsty. The problem isn’t a lack of appetite, but what we try to satiate that appetite with (John 6:27–29). There are many variations of the fountain of youth/life legends. Imagine that such a fountain exists in a narrow cave, but there’s a catch. There’s always a catch huh? Once you drink of the fountain you have eternal life, but you cannot leave the cave. Once you do, you die immediately. Man wants eternal life, but he wants to leave the cave. He wants Jesus as a meal, not a feast. He wants to drink the fountain only to enjoy other drinks. But what if the only thing worth devoting an eternity of existence to was knowing and enjoying the fountain? This is one of the many things we declare and anticipate in the Supper, that day when the bride will forever feast with her Beloved, and her every desire is fully satisfied in Him.

The Supper Tastes Like Three Tenses (Luke 22:14–20)

The Lord’s Supper is a spring loaded mechanism; the backward thrust is meant to propel us forward. In Luke’s account, before Jesus once tells us to do this in remembrance He has twice given reason to anticipate: the future wedding feast when He will again eat bread and drink wine with His bride (Luke 22:16, 18; cf. Revelation 19:6–9; Isaiah 25:6–9). Matthew and Mark neither one tell us to remember, but they do tell us to anticipate (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25). If your remembering doesn’t lead to anticipating, your not remembering very well.

Sometimes it’s said that at the Last Supper the disciples looked forward, while in the Lord’s Supper we look backward. As regards Christ’s atoning death this is spot on, but that’s not everything. In the Supper they were to look forward to a day that is beyond our own, yet, that is here now. Luke uniquely tells us that Jesus will not eat the Passover again until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God (Luke 22:15–16). The Lord’s Supper is the fulfillment of the Passover, but it is a partial fulfillment. When we partake of the Supper, we are eating the future. The Lord’s Supper is the future fulfillment of the Passover, breaking into the present: God and man, sitting at a table, dining together (Luke 13:29–30).

The Lord’s Supper tells us that this feast will be, and it tells us how this feast will be. The answer to how this feast will be is what this feast is. Man will eat with God, because He has eaten of God. Stephen Charnock succinctly summarized the succulence of Supper saying, “A feast with God is great, but a feast on God is greater.” This is the marrow of the Supper that we partake of now by faith, the marrow of the eternal feast that has broken into the present.

Who Prepares the Lord’s Supper? (Luke 22:1-13)

Who prepared the Last Supper? Jesus clearly commands His disciples to make preparations (Luke 22:8, 13), but the disciples prepare for the feast the way students at a cooking school prepare a meal. When the student shows up, preparations have already been made. The ingredients, utensils, appliances, and recipe are all there before them. Jesus is the master chef. From Jesus’ instructions, it’s clear, He’s doing the cooking.

Jesus is using an ancient recipe, one He gave to His people ages ago in the Passover. The disciples were preparing a Passover meal, but Jesus was preparing the Passover meal. Every Passover up to this point was only a dress rehearsal with a stand-in cast. Fulfillment has come. Jesus is the host and fare of the true Passover. The Jews had the recipe, but they could never procure the perfect ingredients; only Jesus had those, His body and His blood given for us. There will be no recipe failure.

Big feasts take a long time to prepare. The table of salvation that Jesus is spreading is the greatest of feasts and has been long in the making. The best of bread took a long time to rise; the finest of wines was long in aging to perfection. But now, the time to feast is come, the table is being spread.

The Lord’s Supper is the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:20). He presides over the table. The Lord’s Supper is a picture of the gospel, and it is a picture He still gives to us just as He did to them. The bread and wine do not become His body or blood, but the enfleshed Jesus, whose body was broken, and whose blood was poured out, is by the Spirit present with His church in the Supper speaking the gospel to us just as He did to His disciples on that night.

We don’t prepare this table the way Jesus does. This Supper is something we are commanded to do, but the doing we do is to come to His table.