The Lord’s Table

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. ” John 13:1.

“… that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;  and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.“ 1 Corinthians 11:23b-26.

“But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:29.

The night when the Lord Jesus was betrayed, he set up a supper table for his disciples. He even served them as a servant standing while they were sitting. He then commanded the disciples to do the same often to remember him until the day he returns.

The Lord did not teach the disciples doctrines that night, even though as their teacher, he had taught them for three years and the word he spoke was life. We all know that our Lord loved the disciples. But he seldom expressed his love in words. His love is mostly in what he is and what he does. On that last night, however, the Lord made a rare expression of his love and a showing of affection. He knew he would be soon separated from the disciples whom he loved. He also knew that he would return one day to receive his beloved. So the Lord was concerned with the period in between, which is from his departure to his return. He wasn’t primarily concerned of the teaching of the truth that night, because the Lord also knew that the Holy Spirit would come to teach us and guide us into truth after he has departed.

But there is one aspect of his relationship with his people that only he himself can express to us. And so he set up the table that night to express his love.

Oh, how he expressed his love. He will soon die for us. How much more love can you give to a person than dying for him? But our Lord did not just die for us, he died for our sin. If you would put it in a very straightforward language, he died because of our sin. It is our sin that sent him to death. But even more than that, the Lord did not just die as a consequence of our sin, but in fact died for the sake of paying off the debt of our sin to purchase us, who were enslaved because of sin, and to liberate us from the bondage of darkness and death. So he gave his body to us, broken for our sake, eaten and taken into our life so we would partake his life, a new life that has no sin, knows no sin, and conquers sin and death; a life that is the only thing in this universe that could genuinely unite us and give us oneness with him and in him, something that our Lord knows cannot be accomplished by any doctrine and teaching.

But that was not all the Lord Jesus did for us that night. He also gave us the cup of covenant, a covenant of blood.

Why a covenant?

Since the time of Genesis, Jehovah our God has been a God of covenant. He covenanted with the people he chose. He so humbled himself to a point that he would voluntarily make his promise legally binding on him. If God is just being God himself, he has neither any need nor any obligation to bind himself by a covenant with anyone.  But God reached out to us.  That was the Old Testament, which from the very beginning from Adam, Able, later Noah, Abraham and eventually Moses, was guaranteed by the shedding of blood. But we all know that the bloodshed in the Old Testament time was but a type, pointing to the blood of Jesus. Now, Jesus gave us the reality. He gave us the new covenant which is guaranteed by his blood.

If you are to make a promise to someone else, and want to safeguard your promise so that the person you are promising to can have the maximum level of assurance of your promise, what do you need to show? You need to guarantee two things. First, your sincerity. Second, your ability. You must be both sincere and able in order to deliver a promise. A sincere person who is unable to fulfill cannot be trusted. Likewise, neither can an able person who is insincere be trusted.

That’s why the Lord gave us the cup of the covenant in his blood. This blood is the guarantee of both his sincerity and his ability. What can be more sincere than a person who is willing to shed blood for you? It is a very common ancient practice that people would shed blood to express their sincerity, loyalty and determination. But they only shed blood symbolically. Our Lord shed blood to his death. But more important, the blood of our Lord is the very guarantee that he has the ability to fulfill his promise. He promised us salvation. But there is a huge debt due to our sinful condition. The debt has to be paid in full amount by an able and sufficient payment. There is nothing in this world that can pay off the debt of sin except for the blood of our Lord, the Lamb of God and the true sacrifice that propitiates between a holy God and a sinful man.

So you see how marvelously complete our Lord’s love is when he expressed it in the bread and the cup that night.

A covenant is always made between two different parties. In this case, the covenant is made between Jehovah God and His people. But if two different parties are involved, why only one who sheds his blood? It is because our Lord is the mediator between God and us.  He approaches us on behalf of God as the Son of God, but at the same time, he approaches God on behalf of us as the Son of Man. As a result, the covenant that is made in his blood both satisfies the holy demand of God, and gives support to the feeble heart of a sinner so the sinner may have faith.

Still, this does not cover the complete meaning of the Lord’s Table, because the Lord’s Table is much more than a general representation of our salvation, but a special expression of his relationship with us.

In Luke 22-13b:15, it says ” … and they prepared the Passover. When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”

At the table, the Lord sits down, and we sit with him.  Brothers and sisters, how often and how deeply do we really think about this? Do you realize how extraordinary it is that the Lord and we should and can sit at the same table?  The Lord has conquered death, and ascended to heaven as a victor to sit at the right side of God. There, is the seat of Christ, and the eternal seat. There, is also the place he prepares for us, and to receive us when the time is fulfilled. On that day, all battles and wars are over, and the Victor is none other than our Lord, the Prince of Peace. What is the right thing and a fitting thing for a victorious King to do to celebrate the victory?  He will spread a table for a splendor feast to honor those who fought the war along with him and won the victory with him.  That’s what the song “God and Man at Table are Sat down” depicts.

1:  O, welcome, all ye noble saints of old
As now before your very eyes unfold
The wonders all so long ago foretold.
God and man at table are sat down.

2.  Worship in the presence of the Lord
With joyful songs and hearts in one accord.
And let our Host at table be adored.
God and man at table are sat down.

3.  Elders, martyrs, all are falling down;
Prophets, patriarchs are gath’ring round.
What angels longed to see now man has found:
God and man at table are sat down.

5. Who is this who spreads the vic’try feast?
Who is this who makes our warring cease?
Jesus, Risen Savior, Prince of Peace.
God and man at table are sat down.

6.  When at last this earth shall pass away,
When Jesus and his Bride are one to stay,
The feast of love is just begun that day.
God and man at table are sat down.

That is also what the Lord meant that night when he said “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

But today, the Lord has not returned yet. He is among us in spirit, and set up such a seemingly small feast on such a humble table, a table that is despised by the world, and even disrespected by the many who are saved by grace. But we who are loved by Lord come to this humble table and see in our spirit the other splendid Table in heaven.  Today’s feast and the table is set on this earth that is passing away, and in the midst of this unseemly, miserable and even disgusting battlefield.  We are in the battle zone, fighting at various positions with various duties, so feeble and weak and even disheartened, crying out for peace, but every time when we hear the voice of the Lord calling us, we come sit at his table, seeing that the King of Kings and the glorious Prince of Peace himself comes to the mist of us, spread the table and sit with us, how can our hearts not be melted!

Our Lord, we thank you.

We really are thankful. He loves us so much. He set this humble feast, not for calling us to come near to him to examine our faults and ask us to confess our iniquities (even though we do have so much to repent). He does this to express his love. This love is the love that the Lord has toward us when he said, “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”

At the same time, the table is also for us to express our love toward him.  We must remember, that in that night the Lord knew the hour has come that he should depart from this world to the Father, and therefore he arranged the feast to express his appreciation to disciples. He does the same today to us.

What did the disciples do that our Lord should thank them? What did we do that our Lord should thank us? The Lord said it himself:  “you are those who have continued with me in my trials”.  He expressed his appreciation at a time when the disciples were loudly quarreling among themselves about who was the greatest among them. He did that in the night when the disciples could not even keep awake praying with him to give him support in his most agonizing moment on earth.

This is our Lord.  He genuinely appreciates those who are willing to accompany him at his trials.  The disciples really did not do anything great for him, and in fact were incapable of doing anything great for him.  Even in that very night, when the real trial of the Lord arrived, they were all scattered and run away, leaving the Lord alone taking his own suffering.  The Lord knew that, yet he genuinely thanked them for their being willing to be with him in his trial.

Very often we feel that the Lord cannot possibly need us, and therefore we think that his appreciation of the disciples must be out of his generosity and politeness, not because he truly felt that the companionship of the disciples was helpful.  No, brothers and sisters, not so. The Lord truly genuinely appreciated the companionship of the disciples, because he needed the companionship of his beloved. This need is not because the Lord himself is lacking, but because of love. He loved us so much, that he genuinely desires, and appreciates even a feeblest response to his great love.

In the Son of Songs 8:6, the bride (not the groom) said:  “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave…”

That is the right position of the bride.  She loves her husband, and depends on her husband. She cannot do without her husband. That is the position of the church as the bride of Christ. This is natural and goes without saying. That we cannot be away from the Lord, and therefore asking him to remember us in his heart is only natural. It would be unnatural and against the nature of the spiritual life if we don’t ask, and even worse if we feel it’s not that big a deal if we are not remembered by the Lord.

But that night, when the Lord set the table, with what extraordinary love the table was set!  It was the Lord himself who asked us to remember him, not the other way around. Lord may rightfully command us to do anything, and all his requirement would be justified. Usually, his commandment is to ask us to follow him, to walk the righteous way and the heavenly way.  However, only that night, that singularly unique occasion, the Lord asked us to remember him, and even to do so often until he returns.

The bridegroom was about to depart for a while and he requested his bride to remember him while he’s away. The same request extends to us today.  This is not a sentimental request. This is the underpinning mode that defines the relationship between Christ and his church before he returns. His bride will wait for him, will remember him, will be faithful, and will yearn for his return. If the bride despises the table, how can she claim that she remembers her bridegroom? If she does not remember her bridegroom, how can she claim that she loves him? If she doesn’t love him, how can she justify her position as being the bride?

Will his bride satisfy him this request?

If that is too big a question to ask, let me ask myself, will I satisfy my Lord his loving request? Will you satisfy your Lord his loving request?

The Lord did not come to this world to be praised and adored. He came to suffer, and he suffered unto the death on the cross. While he was in this world, the most his ears heard were complaints and even contradictions, all the way to the hateful words of “crucify him! crucify him!” on that day. And even today, he still suffers the contradictions of the sinners, even us sinners saved by grace. But he forgives us, and never holds grudges against us.

But when those who love the Lord sit around the Lord’s Table, led by the Holy Spirit, in one accord give thanks to our Lord who loves us, how beautiful and sweet is the sound of such praise and adoration to his ears.

Worship in the presence of the Lord
With joyful songs and hearts in one accord.
And let our Host at table be adored.
God and man at table are sat down.

The sound of praise and adoration by his beloved! This is the sweetest sound the Lord can and is willing to hear on earth today.  And this is a rare sound, a very rare new song found on earth. On that final day comes, when our Lord returns, when the victorious King of Kings spreads his amazing table, all the redeemed creation will make the most wonderful sound of praise and adoration. At that time, our voice will be just one of the hosts of voices. But today, surrounding the lowly table, the sweet sound of remembering the Lord is the sound of those who are companions of the Lord in this temporary darkness before the morning breaks.  It is a rare thing, but so precious. It is a very small sound, almost completely drown in the loud noises of this world. Only those who know the heart of the Lord can join the song, and they are not with the crowd of the world.

Although the trials of the Lord in his physical body all ended when he died on cross and was later resurrected, the trials of his corporate body (his church) has begun and would last until he returns. The Lord, the head of the church, takes the trials and suffering of the church as his own trials and suffering. Indeed, it is his own trials and suffering, because that the church is his body is reality, not a mere metaphor. And in these trials, how the Lord desires to have the companionship of his beloved!

Blessed is he who understands and joins this quiet song.  Only when a person experiences this can he start to understand what special relationship it is between the Lord and his beloved church, and to understand why the Lord commanded us to remember him, unto the day that he returns.