As we come to this Table, we are coming to the Table of the only true Victim. Only Jesus was entirely innocent, only Jesus had an absolute right to complain—which is why He didn’t.
We can certainly harm one another. We can certainly bite and devour, and betray one another. There are many tragic tales in this world, and there have been many tears. But whenever we are wronged by others, remember that we are sinners too, and we will always be tempted to “work it.” There are those of us who play at being the victim. There are those of us who were truly wronged, but who then inflate the wrong for the sake of our own pride. All responses that don’t involve turning to Jesus with it are responses that seek to turn the wrongs of others against us into “our precious.”
But the way out is not simply to “stop it.” The Eagles told us to “get over it,” but however good that counsel might be, it is not something we are capable of doing. The only way out of nursing our own victimhood is to turn to Jesus, the only true Victim, who will put it all right. He will do this by forgiving our sins, and by giving us forgiveness for those who have wronged us.
This meal presents God’s answer to the problem of evil. It does this in at least two respects. The first thing God wants to do with evil is forgive it, cleanse it, wash it away. His eternal design, established before all worlds, was to populate the resurrection with untold millions of forgiven sinners. The apostle John saw a multitude that no one could number standing before the throne. And here on this Table we see the foundation of that forgiveness. If Christ had not died under the wrath of God, as a propitiation for our sins, we would all be utterly lost. And that is the meaning of the broken bread here. That is the meaning of the red wine in the cup. Christ died in the place of sinners.
As we look at this Table, we see humble fare. What God has set before us here is simple—it is bread for food, and wine for drink. What could be simpler? There is little that could be done to make it a humbler meal.
It is designed this way—humble fare for humble wayfarers. The apostle Paul teaches that we not only eat this food, we are this food. We are one body, one loaf. The bread represents the body of Christ, which body we are. The wine embodies the blood of Christ, by which blood we are cleansed and brought into fellowship with one another. There are many rich applications, but this is one of them. Humble fare for humble wayfarers.
The Puritan Thomas Brooks once said that faith was the champion of grace, and that love was the nurse of grace. But humility, he said, was the beauty of grace.
We are gathered here for a meal, but it is not the final or ultimate meal. We are not yet at the time for the marriage supper of the Lamb. We are not yet ready for the feast at the consummation of all things. We are still living in the shadow lands, and the ultimate banquet has not yet happened.
At the same time, God does not want us to grow discouraged as we are preparing for that great day. And that is why we are offered foretastes of glory. That is what we are doing here, week after week. God nourishes us and feeds us with appetizers.
We are gathered here as a portion of the Lord’s little flock. His flock universal is a little flock, and we are just a small part of that. But what is His purpose for that little flock? He says this: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
It is the purpose of God to give His little flock a big kingdom.
The Puritan William Bridge once observed that in Scripture we read many times of people who were too mighty, or too numerous, or too rich, or too proud, or too powerful, to be used by God. But we never read of a people who were too little to be used by Him.
The apostle tells us that every time we come to this Table we do so in order to make a proclamation. Every time we eat and drink here, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Now this proclamation is something that occurs among the Lord’s people, for we are the ones invited to this Table, but the proclamation is meant to be heard by all that has breath. Every living thing is invited to worship the Lord.
We don’t need to know how God arranges for nonbelievers to hear this proclamation, or how they come to learn of it, but fortunately, we don’t have to. All we have to do is eat and drink with sincere love for God and for our brothers and sisters. God takes care of the rest. He is the one who called it a proclamation, and who called all of us His messengers.
As you have been told a number of times, this is not a Table of introspection and morbid confession. Confession is relevant to what we do here, but it should not be what we do here. You wash up before you come to the Table, but the Table is not the designated place for washing up. Of course, if the Spirit brings something to mind while you are here, simply confess it and return to the subject at hand. But don’t go hunting for things to confess. You are not to be curled up in an introspective ball, but rather singing to the Lord, looking around at your people, the people you love.
This is a Table of fellowship, and so we call it communion. This is a table of gratitude and thanksgiving, and so we call it the Eucharist. But another important function of a meal like this is the giving of honor.
This meal is a place of sacrifice, but we do not sacrifice the blood of animals, for that system was prophetic, looking forward to the time of Christ (Heb. 10:4). This meal is a place of sacrifice, but we do not sacrifice Christ here because Scripture tells us that His death was a death that was offered once for all (Heb. 10:10)—and that happened two thousand years ago. So what kind of sacrifice do we offer? Not only at this Table, but throughout the worship service, and throughout the course of our lives, we lift up the sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13:15).