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Life In The Church: The Table





series: Life In The Church


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Our family was invited to a Messianic Seder meal a few weeks ago. The Seder is a remembrance of Passover, in which the story of Exodus is told through the reading of the Haggadah. We began as our host passed around a pitcher and bowl where we washed our hands. A plate with foods such as parsley, bitter herbs, roasted meat, saltwater, matzah (unleavened bread), and four cups of wine or grape juice, in my case, water, is set before everyone at the meal. As the story of Exodus is read, there are prayers, songs, and the reading of Scripture. At certain places, we all stopped and ate a specific food together. Each food was a taste, a smell, a reminder of the Exodus story. The children fully participated in readings, prayers, singing songs, and food. At one point, three pieces of matzah are placed in a cloth. One piece is broken in half, wrapped in a separate cloth, and hidden for the children to find. Our host described this as the body of Jesus placed in the tomb and when the children found the matzah, the resurrection. 


I was struck by how the children participated and were pulled fully into the story. At points, we reclined around the table, and sometimes, we laughed at each other when we saw one another's faces at the taste of saltwater or horseradish. It was a great time of friends, family, and fellowship as the story of Exodus and Jesus was passed forward. I am thankful to our host for inviting us and allowing our family to experience this meal. 


We are continuing our series from (Acts 2), in which Luke shares the early practices of the church. As we are discovering, these practices were not mere rituals but integral to the identity of those who followed Jesus.


Acts 2:42 (NASB95) 

"They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."


These practices were much more than activities. They formed the identity of those who followed Jesus. This series aims to understand why we participate in the things we do together. Today, as a community that follows Jesus, we still devote ourselves to the Scriptures, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. As the body of Christ, why are we devoted to these things? Hopefully, as we look at these practices together, we will better understand their significance and history in the Scripture. How can they form our identity today? 


And


Considering the breaking of bread, we have noticed Luke parallels these passages to highlight them. For example, Luke parallels the breaking of bread in:


Acts 2:46 (NASB95) 

"Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart"


As we explore the table's significance, I want to point out something others have noticed. The sentence structure is a little difficult, and there is the word "and." Look a little closer at our text with me:


"They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (emphasis added)


Are there three or four things listed by Luke? Some have noticed that the conjunction "and" is not present before the breaking of bread. Does Luke intend 


for us to understand fellowship as the breaking of bread? Does he emphasize gathering around the table together for a meal?


Another thing that is not explicitly stated in the passage is what meal this is. Some interpreters and traditions have traditionally seen this as the Lord's Supper. Others have explored this as a common meal. Both could be right. The Lord's Supper was a meal shared together. Today, we partake of a piece of unleaved bread and a quick sip of the cup. However, Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper at the Passover meal (Lk. 22:14-23). Although abused in Corinth, we see the tradition of participating in a meal around the Lord's Supper together by early Christians (1 Cor. 11:17-33). 


Regardless of your view, there is a lot to be gained as we consider the importance of the table. 


The Old Testament


We could spend hours exploring meals and the table through the Scriptures. And I would ask you to consider this study. It is very worthy of our time. However, we will notice a few as we place a story together. 


The Garden

We begin in the Garden, where we find a generous Host. In (Gen. 1) God creates order from disorder. He brings forward life, flourishing, and abundant. On day six, God creates humans in His image. 


Genesis 1:29–30 (NASB95) 

"Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so."


Fellowship and generosity begin with God. Through His love and grace, He invites humans and animals to partake of the abundance within His good creation. God prepares the table for life and enjoyment, for fellowship, and for His purposes. 


On The Mountain

Jumping forward in the Old Testament story, the children of Israel are brought to Mt. Sinai, where God joins Himself in covenant community with them. On this occasion, God shares a meal on the mountain. 


Exodus 24:9–11 (NASB95) 

"Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank."


At the table, the elders of Israel enjoy fellowship with God. Through the covenant, God had made a way to be present with His people. 


The New Testament


We have mentioned the Passover meal, a meal that remembers the Exodus story and God's rescue of the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt. It is at this meal that Jesus initiates the New Covenant. 


Luke 22:14–20 (NASB95) 

"When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes." And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood."


At the table, Jesus establishes a New Covenant, one not just for the children of Israel but also for the nations. In this covenant, all are invited to the table and all are invited into the fellowship and generosity of the Lord. 


After Jesus' resurrection from the dead, we are met with a curious story. Two disciples have left Jerusalem, headed for Emmaus. Their hopes are crushed as Jesus has been crucified. It's been three days, and what Jesus had told them seems to have ended in disappointment. 


Jesus walked along with them, although they did not recognize Him. "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (Lk 24:27). As they approached the village, it was nearly evening. The disciples persuaded Jesus to stay with them. 


Luke 24:30–35 (NASB95) 

"When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened, they recognized Him, and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?" And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, "The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon." They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread."


Jesus is revealed at the table. 


The Marriage Supper

In Revelation, we experience the marriage supper of the Lamb. 


Revelation 19:7–9 (NASB95) 

"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.' " And he said to me, "These are true words of God."


The words of the marriage banquet echo the words of the Prophet Isaiah in (Isaiah 25:6-9), where God provides a rich banquet of food and wine on the mountain. A banquet for all nations rejoicing in God's salvation. (Revelation 19) presents the faithfulness of God as we surround ourselves with the fellowship, grace, abundance, and generosity of page one and Genesis.   


Crossing The Context

Luke points us to the table—a motif he uses throughout the Gospel of Luke and Acts. Luke highlights the table as he shares the story of Jesus and His purposes in our world. 


At the table, there is fellowship, generosity, communion, and the revelation of Jesus. The table points us forward in the story of God to the ultimate banquet, where all nations are invited to sit in the presence of the Lord as we rejoice in His salvation. 


Why do we come together to participate in the Lord's Supper? We do so to remember, share the story, and anticipate our hope in the Lord. 


All are welcome at His table and invited to enjoy His abundance.






 

NOTES:

Scripture references and quotations are from the: New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.


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