Reservations for Two: Remembering the Lord’s Death at the Lord’s Table Together
Think about your first camping trip. Or your first baseball game. Your wedding day, or your conversion. What do you feel? It’s amazing how vivid the past can be. If memories are powerful, sharing memories are even more so. When I think back to college by myself, I grin. But when my old roommate tells the story about the possum and the blow-darts, I can’t stop laughing. Memories are super-charged in community.
REMEMBERING IN COMMUNITY
At the Lord’s Table, we remember the Lord’s death for us (1 Cor. 11:23–25). But while the Supper is personal, it is not private. As Guy Waters has written, “The meaning of the Supper is not the sum total of our unaided powers of reflection. . . . We engage our minds so that in the Supper we may commune with the Savior.”
The Supper isn’t like flipping through old photo albums by yourself, pondering fond memories from your youth. Remembering happens in community—first with Christ and then with your brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Cor. 10:16, 25). The new covenant meal is communal to its core. And that shouldn’t surprise us. The old covenant meal was communal, too.
To ratify his covenant with Israel, God hosts a meal for Israel’s leaders on top of Mount Sinai (Exod. 24:5–11). Can you imagine seeing your name on that guest list? You’d surely cancel all your plans. You’d tell the Smith family that you’ll ride camels with them next week. You would do whatever it takes to be at this meal. After all, God will be there.
I wonder how often we forget this: God is at the Lord’s Supper. Our name is on the guest list, and the host has prepared for us a lavish spread. At the Lord’s Supper, the spirit of Christ invites the bride of Christ to join him at the table, and he offers the bread to eat and the cup to drink.
My wife and I are about to celebrate our anniversary. When I reserve a table, I’ll make reservations for two. Why? First of all, I don’t think my wife would appreciate it if I celebrated our anniversary by myself. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I’m not the dullest either. More importantly, though, as we consider the vows we made to each other on our wedding day, our resolve to keep those promises strengthens today. When we remember our covenant from the past, our love soars in the present, and our anticipation grows for the future. Remembering our wedding day together is simply more powerful than reflecting apart. And looking back to the same event year after year does not dampen our anniversary. The predictability is what makes the meal so exciting.
REMEMBERING AGAIN AND AGAIN
We don’t need conversation starters at the Lord’s Supper. Our fellowship is a present-tense experience even as we talk about the same past- and future-tense realities: the cross, the resurrection, Jesus’ promise to come again. In fact, the unoriginality makes the communion so sweet. If our eyes move away from the cross, then the Lord’s Supper becomes a frustrating quest for a spiritual high. So we should stop closing our eyes and performing a spiritual judo move to identify the presence of Christ. We don’t need to manufacture spiritual experiences for Christ to meet with us. He’s already happy to meet with us because of Calvary. The old, old story is what we need when the same, old sins are what we see.
While the church comes to the table unfaithful, Jesus comes faithful. He never renews his vows because he always keeps his promises. Christ gets to the table first because he loved us first, and he applies to us the benefits of redemption (1 John 4:19). Herman Bavinck says, “Of primary importance in the Lord’s Supper is what God does, not what we do.” We don’t start the conversation at the Lord’s Supper. Jesus does. As sinners, we deserve the rod of God’s anger, but at his table, Jesus reminds us of his broken body. He says, “Take and eat.” As sinners, we deserve the cup of God’s wrath, but at his table, Jesus reminds us of his blood poured out. He says, “Take and drink.”
We often come to the table uneasy. We know we’ve been unfaithful. But as our shifting eyes look up, our Savior sits at the head of the table—staring at us with eyes full of affection. If he has gone to the cross for us, will he not also come to the table (Romans 8:32)? As we gather with Christ, his perfect love rekindles our imperfect love. So let’s not spend so much time looking inward that we forget to look upward.
By reflecting on the past, the church enjoys fellowship with Christ in the present, and she awaits communion with Christ in the future. The Lord’s Supper anticipates the return of Christ and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (1 Cor. 11:26; Rev. 19:6–9). If the Lord’s Supper is wonderful, then I can’t help but wonder: what will the Marriage Supper of the Lamb be like? The bride of Christ will take a seat, but she won’t sit by herself. Why? Because her husband has made reservations for two.