COME TO THE TABLE
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
March 17, 2013
12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover? 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples? 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us. 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. 17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me. 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, Is it I? 20 He said to them, It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born. 22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, Take; this is my body. 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. 26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
-- Mark 14:12-26, ESV
Three of my favorite words in the English language are: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I love coming to the table. I love sharing food and fellowship with family and friends. Apparently, these things are important to God, too.
Food was a major part of God’s Old Covenant with Israel. He provided food for them, He regulated what foods were good for them and which ones were not. He ordained three major festivals or feasts for their calendar year. God called the Israelites to come to the table.
Then, our Lord Jesus Christ, took the two most common elements of any table meal, bread and wine, and used them to set the most beautiful and meaningful table of all. The Old Testament Passover is fulfilled in the New Testament Lord’s Supper, and God’s people need to hear afresh and anew God’s inviting commandment to come to the table.
God calls His people to come to the table.
The setting for the last days of Jesus’ earthly life was the Passover, or the Feast of Unleavened Bread (it is referred to by both names in vs. 12). This was one of the three major festivals or feasts of the Jewish year. In the first month of the old Israel calendar, they celebrated the Passover. In the third month, Pentecost; and, in the seventh month, the Feast of Tabernacles. And like any time when a big family gets together, there was always lots of food.
During the Passover Feast, on the fourteenth day of the month of Nisan, a very special memorial meal was shared. It consisted of roasted lamb, bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and wine. All God-fearing Jews observed the Passover. All who were able traveled to the city of Jerusalem to observe the holy days. All who participated obeyed God’s call to come to the table to enjoy the lamb, the herbs, the bread, and the wine.
Now that the Old Covenant has made way for the New, food and fellowship are still vital parts of God’s plan for His people. From the first days of Christianity, Christians met in one another’s houses to “break bread,” a term for regular meals and the New Covenant memorial meal served in sacred times of worship. The sacred meal, now known as The Lord’s Supper, uses the simple staples of even a poor man’s table, bread and wine, and packs them with spiritual meaning.
On this fateful evening, Jesus and His disciples shared a meal that was Old and New. They gathered as a family of faith. Their menu fit the requirements for the annual Passover Feast. And, at the end of the meal, the Lord took break and broke it, filled a cup and passed it, and the Lord’s Supper was born.
Still today, God calls His people to come to the table, and, remember.
God calls His people to remember.
What were the Israelites supposed to remember as they partook of the Passover meal?
The lamb was, of course, a sacrificial lamb used repeatedly and consistently in Old Covenant rituals as a symbol of sacrifice, blood sacrifice, as an atonement for sin. This particular lamb was significant because it signaled the beginning of The Exodus, the deliverance of God’s people from the bondage of Egyptian slavery to the freedom of the promised land. On the night of the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, God commanded Moses to command the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb and place the blood on the top and sides of the entrance to their doors, just like three points of a cross. When the death angels arrived to carry out the curse, the angel passed over (hence, “Passover”) every house covered by the blood.
The bitter herbs served called to mind the bitter bondage of slavery, of feeling separated from God, of not fulfilling the purpose for which God created and recreated us. The bread was unleavened to remember haste and holiness; haste, in the quick flight from bondage to freedom, and holiness, the call to live life overcoming sin and temptation. And the wine, always a symbol of the regenerate power of God, was enjoyed by all of God’s people, since almost none of them were fundamentalists or Baptists.
When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper after the Passover meal, He did not serve lamb or herbs. His predecessor, John the Baptist, had already identified Him as “The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world” (ref. John 1:29). And, He was, is, and always will be the Lamb! Jesus did not bring back the bitter herbs, for the geographical boundaries of Egypt and Israel would not matter any more in the New Covenant. Besides, if Simon Peter and the rest ate lamb and herbs like church people today eat fried chicken and salt, then I’m sure there was none left over after the regular meal!
The Lord Jesus Christ, on that Passover evening the night He was betrayed and about to be arrested, took two elements to inaugurate the Lord’s Supper: bread and wine. Remember, sometimes this was all a poor Jewish family would have to bring to a meal; and, Jesus knew that poverty would always be part and parcel of the New Covenant community. With the bread He said, “This is My body” and with the wine He said, “This is My blood.” Most obviously and seriously, this is what Christ wants us to remember when we come to His table.
In the past I have thought it necessary to teach the difference between the trans-substantiation, con-substantiation, and symbolic-memorial nuances to the Lord’s Supper. In the past I have thought it necessary to insist upon a weekly observance rather than an annual, quarterly, monthly, or other frequency. In the past I have thought it necessary to insist upon unleavened bread and real wine. But now, I insist on only one thing when we come to the table. Remember.
For God calls His people to remember. Remember that God became man, Christ put on flesh, and the Bread of Life offers to us the bread of life. Remember that Christ was crucified, and Christians should face our critics and confess we are indeed a bloody religion, for without the shedding of Jesus’ blood we could not be forgiven from our sins. Like the old hymn says, there is power in the blood. Please, remember.
God calls His people to the table. God calls His people to remember. God calls His people. Are you one of them?
God calls His people. Are you one of them?
That night, in an upstairs room around a table, thirteen people were present. The twelve all seemed to follow the One as their undisputed leader. They deferred to Him as to the place to go for the Passover observance. They all seemed to notice His other-worldliness, how He knew stuff that no one else could know, like how a man carrying a water jar would lead them to the right place for dinner. And they all heard Him say a shocking thing as He was calling His people to the table. One of them was not His people!
And then, some time in between the Passover meal and the Lord’s Supper, though Mark’s account does not mention him by name, Judas Iscariot got up and left the building. No one knew at the time that he was the betrayer. No one knew that he had somehow been faking it all along. No one knew he had made a deal with the devil, a financial pact with the Pharisees, that he had planted his feet squarely in the kingdom of this present world and had no place in the kingdom of God. No one knew, but Judas.
In a room with thirteen of God’s people, one was not. I would suppose that in a room today filled with thirteen people, or one-hundred-and-thirteen people, or thirteen thousand people, or whatever the attendance of any given worship service, when God calls His people to the table to remember, there are some there who are not God’s people. Jesus Christ is not their leader. Jesus Christ is not their Lord. Jesus Christ is not sovereign nor Savior to them. But they put their hand in the bowl with us. Please, please don’t let it be that it would be better if you had never been born. Please, please don’t betray the Lord by talking the talk when you don’t walk the walk. Please, please repent right now and truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved from your sin, saved from hypocrisy and betrayal, saved from the wrath to come upon the world.
Don’t be a betrayer. Be a believer. Be one of God’s people, and ...
Come to the table and see in His eyes, The love that the Father has spoken,
And know you are welcome, whatever your crime, For every commandment you've broken;
For He's come to love you and not to condemn, And He offers a pardon of peace,
If you'll come to the table, you'll feel in your heart, The greatest forgiveness, the greatest release.
Come to the table He's prepared for you, The bread of forgiveness, the wine of release;
Come to the table and sit down beside Him, The Savior wants you to join in the feast!
-- Michael Card
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org