My knees were bouncing with anticipation as I sat at the restaurant table, waiting for my date to arrive. I was early and had forgotten to eat anything that day (probably from first-date nerves), so I ordered a small appetizer while I waited. As I anxiously nibbled, there was a flurry of emotions: excitement, hunger, longing, and hope.
In those moments while I waited, I recognized in a fresh way why God would call us to eat and drink together in our churches. However often your church observes the Lord’s table, sharing this meal is a profound way for God’s people to worship him together. Each time, we confess these three deep truths: we are hungry, we are a community, and we are waiting.
We Are Hungry
Eating and drinking is a parable of dependence. Every time you put food in your mouth, you preach this sermon to yourself: “I am needy and dependent.” If I get caught up with work and forget to eat lunch, I get “hangry” (hungry + angry) by about one o’clock. Without food, you might possibly survive a little over a month, but you probably cannot go without food for even a day before your entire countenance changes. It is humbling to remember just how dependent we truly are.
At the table of the Lord’s Supper, we unashamedly declare our neediness again. Jesus told the crowds who followed him that they needed him like they needed food: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). Jesus knew this declaration would offend and confuse many who heard it, but he wanted to be graphic about their need for faith in him (John 6:60–65).
As often as we eat the bread and drink the cup, we remind ourselves that we need Christ to sustain us and preserve our faith just as much as we need food. Because God knows our constant need, he chooses a meal to memorialize his provision for us and tells us to eat it “often” (1 Corinthians 11:25). We gather to eat and drink because we are hungry.
We Are Together
Eating and drinking is a parable of intimacy. Who we choose to eat and drink with reveals our loyalties. This is why dinner is the quintessential date activity; it’s why we pity the student eating alone in the cafeteria.
I am no expert in dining trends, but as a casual observer I notice a pattern with the rise of “tapas” and “family style” dining: as traditional family meals at home become less frequent, we look to the restaurant to provide the “shared plate” dining experience. Eating and drinking feel communal. Many Instagram feeds remind us that solitary meals feel incomplete — so we pull our smartphone and virtually break bread with five hundred of our “closest friends.”
Eating — or not eating — with someone makes a statement. When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt, the Egyptians thought it was shameful to eat with the Hebrews (Genesis 43:32). Saul suspected that something was up in his kingdom was when David no longer ate at his table (1 Samuel 20:27). By contrast, in a touching picture of acceptance, David invited the son of his enemy to eat at his table like a family member (2 Samuel 9:7).
We who were once God’s enemies (Romans 5:10) have been reconciled into his family, invited to dine with King Jesus as a reminder of our newfound intimacy with him and each other. As there is one loaf broken for many, we who are many are one body in Christ (1 Corinthians 10:17). This is a gloriously shared meal. We gather to eat and drink together because we are a community.
We Are Waiting
Eating and drinking is a parable of anticipation. During Jesus’s last supper, he spoke of his eager expectation to share the cup with his guests again, in his kingdom (Matthew 26:29). So every Lord’s Supper looks backward to the Last Supper, but it also looks forward to the great wedding supper where we will feast with him again in glory (Revelation 19:7).
The morsel of bread and drink we share in our worship services remind us that these elements are only appetizers for the “feast of rich food, full of marrow, of aged wine well refined” which we await (Isaiah 25:6). Every meal satisfies us in Christ, and yet mysteriously awakens a greater hunger for the promised consummation. We gather to eat and drink because we are waiting.
As we pull back the chair to sit at the King’s Table, we confess our hunger and expectation to be satisfied in all of Christ’s righteousness for us again. We look up and down the table to see Jesus’s body — the brothers and sister on our right and left — who share this meal of fellowship with us. And at the table we taste the appetizers and see a glimpse of heaven’s feast. So, brothers and sisters, let us eat and drink and in so doing, “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).