Thoughts Around the Lord's Table
In a discussion about the Lord’s Supper, a friend of mine objected to observing it every Sunday because it would become a tedious routine and lose its significance. (Funny, I never hear folks object to weekly preaching, singing, praying, or giving on that basis…But I digress.) While fear of boredom is no reason to dump the New Testament pattern, it is something that should concern us. If we aren’t careful, the memorial of Jesus’ death can become an empty ritual to us. If that happens, we sin by partaking (see 1 Corinthians 11:27-29).
But how do we keep the Lord’s Supper from becoming dull? Do we cut back our observance to once a month, or once a quarter, or once a year? No: altering God’s instructions just substitutes one problem for another. Do we try artificial enhancements — light candles, hold hands, or sit in a circle on the floor? No: at worst we may go beyond Bible authority; at best we would be applying outward changes to an inward problem. These things are not the answer. But there is at least one thing we can do.
To help saints get in the proper frame of mind, we customarily read from the Scriptures before eating the Lord’s Supper. This is a good practice. But sometimes the way brethren go about it actually contributes to boredom instead of preventing it. A change here could be exactly what we need.
At the Lord’s table a brother often reads one of the accounts of the “last supper,” when Christ instituted the memorial (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23f). Obviously these are appropriate passages. Sometimes a brother will read from one of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ death — again, obviously appropriate. But Christ’s sacrifice for our sins is the central theme of the Bible; surely there are more passages to reflect on as we commemorate it. If we limit ourselves to four parallel accounts of the last supper and four parallel accounts of the crucifixion, we’re missing out. There are dozens of Scriptures that can stimulate our thinking about the significance of Jesus’ death and keep this part of our worship fresh and vital.
♦ How about Isaiah 53? Sometimes called the “suffering servant” prophecy, this chapter looks forward to the Messiah’s meekness and his mistreatment on our behalf. “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried” (v. 4).
♦ Or what about Psalm 22? From this passage comes Jesus’ anguished cry on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (v. 1). The chapter prophetically describes the abuse and suffering of our Savior.
♦ Have you thought about Genesis 3? In what is considered the very first prophecy pointing to Christ, God said to the serpent (i.e., Satan) that there would be enmity between his offspring and Eve’s: “He [Christ] shall bruise you [Satan] on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (v. 15). Jesus’ agony and death on the cross secured the total defeat of Satan.
♦ Then there’s Philippians 2, which portrays both Jesus’ humiliation on earth and his glorification in heaven. “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (vv. 8-9).
♦ Why not Romans 5? There Paul describes how Christ willingly died in our place so that we could be justified. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8).
♦ We might read from 1 Corinthians 5, which depicts Christ as our Passover lamb (vv.7-8). We might also consider the meaning of the Passover feast (Exodus 12) and its foreshadowing of Christ’s redemptive work.
♦ Consider also 2 Corinthians 5, where Paul stresses the sufficiency of Christ’s death for all, showing that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (vv. 14-21).
♦ There’s also Hebrews 9, which contrasts the priestly sacrifices under the Mosaic Law with the superior sacrifice of Jesus, the perfect High Priest. “…and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (v. 12).
These and many other passages turn our thoughts to Jesus’ death for us. By reflecting on them before the Lord’s Supper, we’ll be impressed with how that great sacrifice is highlighted from one end of the Bible to the other. We’ll gain a new appreciation for those individual passages, and for the unified theme of Scripture as a whole. Our minds and hearts will be stirred, and this important part of our worship certainly will not be dull. Most of all, we’ll be reminded of what a measureless gift God has given us.
Here’s a challenge for the men who lead us in this part of our weekly worship: See to it that Scripture readings at the Lord’s table really do “prepare our minds” to the fullest extent possible. Carefully choose a passage that shines a light on some facet of the Savior’s death. Make it a different one than was read last Sunday, or the Sunday before. With so much inspired material to choose from, instead of people struggling to keep their minds focused on the memorial, they soon won’t be able to take their minds off of it!