The Lord’s Supper: A Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet

Article
12.22.2020

When I lead our church’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper, one sentence near the end almost always gets me. The words catch in my throat; if you look closely, you might spot a tear in the corner of my eye. It’s right before we partake of the cup together, when I read aloud Jesus’ final words in Matthew’s account of the Lord’s Supper: “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:29).

Why that sentence? Not why do we read it, which should be obvious enough, but why does it make the back of my neck tingle? Because, out of any moment in a month, that moment brings the future banquet closest to the present. In that moment, hope is not just something I fight for or feel, but something I taste.

In the Lord’s Supper, we remember and proclaim Jesus’ death (1 Cor. 11:25–26). In the Lord’s Supper, we share together by faith the saving benefits of Christ’s sacrifice for us (1 Cor. 10:16–17). And in the Lord’s Supper, we experience a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. The Lord’s Supper is an appetizer for the feast that will commence on the day when Christ reunites heaven and earth.

Consider God’s promises in Isaiah 25:6–8:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.

On that day, tears and shame will be forgotten forever. On that day, the smothering, strangling sheet of death that now suffocates us all will not just be lifted but consumed. On that day, death won’t be deferred or deflected but devoured. If all these miseries will be removed, what will take their place? A feast. A feast of the best. A feast for people from all peoples. A feast forever.

Doesn’t that make you want to sing? Sing loud and hard in a sea of saints so that your voices swell and crash like the North Pacific in winter?

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” (Rev. 19:6–9)

Blessed indeed. Blessed fully. Blessed at last.

Food itself is a parable of our impermanence, a sign of the transience of all we hold onto and all that holds us together. You grow hungry, you eat, you get full, you grow hungry again. “All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied” (Eccl. 6:7). But physical appetites aren’t the only ones that food touches. As Robert Farrar Capon has said,

The most splendid dinner, the most exquisite food, the most gratifying company, arouse more appetites than they satisfy. They do not slake man’s thirst for being; they whet it beyond all bounds. . . . We embrace the world in all its glorious solidity, yet it struggles in our very arms, declares itself a pilgrim world, and, through the lattices and windows of its nature, discloses cities more desirable still. [1]

The Lord’s Supper is pilgrim food. Like the Passover, it is a meal on the way. The Lord’s Supper directs our attention, by directing our senses, to what Christ has done for us, where he has put us, and where he will take us. In our journey through this wilderness, Christ himself is our manna, and the Lord’s Supper helps sustain us on the way because it signifies him.

But, as Capon says, not only are we a pilgrim people, but we live in a pilgrim world. Creation itself groans with longing to become the permanent city we desire (Rom 8:19–21; Heb 11:14, 16; 13:14). And the Lord’s Supper does not slake our thirst for communion with God; it whets it beyond all bounds. The lattices and windows of the bread and wine disclose the most desirable feast of all.


[1] Robert Farrar Capon, The Marriage Supper of the Lamb (New York: The Modern Library, 2002), 188.

By:
Bobby Jamieson

Bobby Jamieson is an associate pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He is the author, most recently, of Jesus' Death and Heavenly Offering in Hebrews. You can find him on Twitter at @bobby_jamieson.

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