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The Lord’s Supper and Eschatology

 

Having seven children, I’ve seen a lot of cartoons. Every now and then, I’ll take them to the theater to see a new release that they’re dying to see.

Since one of my children is visually impaired (having vision in only one eye), we never watch 3D films. One needs both eyes for depth perception and both lenses for 3D glasses to work.

Several years ago, I realized that I had a deficient view of the Lord’s Supper because I was only looking at it through one lens. In order to perceive the depth of the significance of the Lord’s Supper, one needs to have two lenses.

One lens is the last supper recorded in Luke 22:15–20. The other lens is the meal Jesus shared with the two men in Emmaus after his resurrection. This is recorded in Luke 24:13–35.

If one looks at the Lord’s Supper through only one of these lenses, then one will likely end up with a truncated view of the sacrament. To fully appreciate the significance of the Lord’s Supper, we need to see it in light of both meals.

When the disciples shared the last supper with Jesus before his death, Jesus said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15–16).

Jesus anticipated a future meal that he would share with his disciples when the kingdom of God comes. So the last supper is not the last supper in an ultimate sense. It’s only the last of a particular series of meals that Jesus shared with his disciples prior to his death.

After his resurrection, Jesus would share another meal with them when the kingdom of God has come. The kingdom has already been inaugurated but has yet to be consummated.

The future meal that Jesus anticipated sharing with his disciples is the great and glorious banquet that Christ will spread before us at the end of the age when he consummates his kingdom.

Isaiah spoke of this joyous occasion,

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. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:6–9).

This lavish feast of rich food and well-aged wine is the ultimate, consummative last supper. It is a joyful feast and celebration of the salvation of the one for whom we have waited.

Rejoice and be glad, for his salvation has come! Death itself will be destroyed. And God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more mourning or crying or pain, for the former things will pass away. And God will make all things new.

It’s impossible to imagine how joyful it will be on that day when we share this feast with our risen Lord in the kingdom of God.

The joy that we will experience on that day will be even greater than the joy that the two disciples experienced on Easter Sunday when they shared a meal with the risen Christ.

Luke tells us that when the two disciples were returning to Emmaus from Jerusalem where they had just observed the Passover, that their hearts were filled with sadness.

They had just witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus, and all their hopes in the restoration of the kingdom were shattered.

Jesus appeared to them, but they didn’t recognize that it was the Lord. When they arrived at Emmaus—about the time that Jesus finished showing them from the scriptures that it was necessary for Christ to suffer and enter his glory—the three men sat down to share a meal.

It was in the breaking of the bread that Jesus made himself known to them. And they realized that they were breaking bread with the risen Christ.

Their table fellowship with Jesus completely transformed their sadness into unspeakable joy.

Although Jesus was in their home, at their table, as their guest, he assumed the role of the host of the meal and served them as if they were his guests at his table eating his supper.

That’s when the two men realized that they were having no ordinary meal with an ordinary stranger. But they were eating with the risen and reigning Christ.

They experienced a true foretaste of the final banquet at the consummation of the kingdom.

Having inaugurated his kingdom by his death and resurrection, Jesus was once again sharing a meal with his disciples, and thus, he was proleptically anticipating the great feast at the end of the age.

The relationship between this post-resurrection meal that Jesus shared with these disciples and the great feast at the end of the age is not merely that between symbol and reality but that between commencement and fulfillment.

It is true that we must await the return of Christ to celebrate the messianic banquet in its consummative form, but even now, we already have the privilege of proleptically participating in the messianic banquet by sharing a meal with the risen Christ.

This is what happens every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord’s Supper is a joyful meal that we celebrate with the risen Christ. It is, in fact, the messianic banquet in its inaugural stage.

When Christ returns, we will celebrate this glorious feast in its consummative form. But through the means of grace, we already have union and communion and table fellowship with the risen Christ in his inaugurated kingdom.

Luke 24 has as much to do with the Lord’s Supper as Luke 22. The first supper Jesus shared with his disciples after his resurrection has as much to do with the sacrament as the last supper he shared with them before his death.

So to fully appreciate the significance of the Lord’s Supper, one needs to see it in light of both meals. They are like the two lenses in 3D glasses. Both lenses are needed to perceive depth.

If we only look through one lens, we are likely going to end up with a truncated view of the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord’s Supper is not merely a memorial of Christ’s death. It is a celebration of his resurrection. And when we eat the eucharist, we are breaking bread with the living and reigning Christ who is present in our midst.

 

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