This meal commemorates the death of Jesus Christ. This bread represents His body, and this wine represents His blood. This Table is all about the crucifixion. The cross is what we are talking about. The affliction He went through on our behalf is the message.
But we have to presuppose the resurrection in order to be able to do this. If Jesus had not come back from the dead, then His death would have been just one more obscure execution, wherein a prophet was swallowed up by the system—devoured by the cruel machinery of death. We have the privilege of proclaiming the Lord’s death two thousand years later because we are proclaiming the death of one who rose.
This dark world was utterly transformed by the resurrection. In the very middle of history—necessarily transforming the very meaning of history—Jesus came out of the tomb. This world is now a world in which the first man rose from the dead.
This is a meal, and so one of the things we do here is taste. “O taste and see that the Lord is good: Blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Ps. 34:8). As we see in this passage, to taste the Lord is to trust Him. It is to believe Him. This is another way of saying that tasting is sola fide, by faith alone.
There are two levels here. We either taste or we do not. If we taste, we taste by faith. If we do not taste Christ here, if the ordinances are to us like the white of an egg, then we are gaining no profit. Without Christ, all the churchy things in the world are as nothing.
But suppose we taste Christ, as I am sure you are doing. This is the next truth, the next level, the next lesson. We taste but little. We taste little compared to what we should taste. We taste little compared to what others have tasted. We taste little compared to what we desire to taste. We taste little compared to what we shall taste.
This is a Eucharistic meal, and that word comes from the Greek word for thanksgiving. This is our weekly thanksgiving meal.
Because this meal is offered us by the sovereign Lord over all things, we must not think of it as an oasis of thanksgiving in the midst of a wilderness of grumbles. It is not an island of thanks in the middle of an ocean of trials and complaints.
The message of Psalm 16 is one that speaks clearly of Christ, but also of His people.
The New Testament tells us plainly that God’s promise to Christ in the grave was given in this psalm. God would not allow His holy one to see corruption, which is why Christ was in the grave for only three days (Ps. 16:10). But notice that this promise presupposes that the holy one would die. This promise assumes that the holy one would come to the grave, but would not be abandoned there.
We are told in Scripture to walk worthy of the calling we have received. We do this by knowing that we are unworthy, and have been made fit to approach God in this fashion by the grace that He offers us in Jesus Christ. We are to walk worthy in the Lord Jesus.
If you try to walk worthy in your own name, you will have to resort to walking on the spindly stilts of your own self-righteousness—and they will bend, break and snap at every attempted step. Your self-righteousness cannot hold you.
Those who are unworthy are so because they think they are worthy. Those who are worthy are so because they know they are unworthy. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. But this knowledge of unworthiness is a gift of God, and the one who is given it is raised up by God. Christians are not to wallow in their depravity. Christians are not to remain stuck in sin. Christians know the gospel, and the cross is always followed by resurrection.
This Table has been set for us by God as a means of grace. The bread and the wine are for us rations of grace.
One of the remarkable things about these rations is that they are exactly suited to the difficulties that each one of you will encounter in the coming days. Some of you are in great affliction, some of you are going through significant trials, while others of you are enjoying times of relative ease and prosperity. Some of you are struggling to find work, while others have more business than you know what to do with.
You all need grace, but you need it in differing degrees and amounts. Everything you need will be in your hand shortly. But when I say it will be in your hand shortly, I am speaking to you by way of emblems and signs. It will not be in your hand, and then in your mouth.
We come to this Table and find that it has been set in faith, hope, and love.
We come in faith because God has promised to meet us here, and we believe Him. The entire worship service crescendos at this meal. God has been present with us all along, but He is present in a special way here. It is here that we are privileged to partake of Him. Do you believe? I know you do.
In the Scriptures, hope grounded—it is not hope against hope. We have an assurance of things hoped for. Hope is assured, settled. When we hope in the promises of God, it is not like saying “I hope that it won’t rain today,” or “I hope that I win the lottery.” No, we have the blessed hope of our Lord’s return, a sure and certain thing. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord lasts forever. Our hope is in Him.
God has designed this Table so that it feeds and nourishes our souls. But we should want to inquire into what this means a bit more. Otherwise we will come to think that the point of the sacrament is to make our souls grow “bigger,” and that’s all.
But God is after more than just quantitative growth. The issue is quality first. What is the nature of the soul that is growing? If the soul is proud and stubborn, we don’t want a bigger one. If the soul is humbled under the grace of God, we want every such soul to flourish and grow.
Within the church, we are tempted to surround our pride with the barricades of our rationalizations. We don’t listen to others because we are too busy calling our stubbornness “standards,” or “backbone,” or “self-respect,” or “true insight.” All the other soldiers in the army are out of step. But that kind of conceit is not fed here—although it is dealt with here.