The Lord’s Supper. An important dimension to the Supper is eschatology. We might imagine eschatology as end time scenarios for the demise of world but that is only a small dimension. Perhaps we get a better insight into what eschatology is if we think of it as when God’s time washes over our time. When God’s time and our time connect the direction is backward to the past as well as forward to the future.
Festivals of Grace and Eschatology (God’s Time)
Israel’s worship, especially the sacrifices have this time machine (eschatology) quality to them. That is, they connect the present living generation with the “gospel” event from the past. For example, during the Passover meal we hear the question, “What do these mean?” The answer to that profound question is:
“WE were slaves in Egypt but the LORD …”
“When the Egyptians treated US harshly …”
“WE cried out.”
These answers come from the Exodus story itself. The Passover was God’s answer to Israel’s cry in the past and the present and God’s promise of the future.
Over and over, the living generation is connected with the past act of Yahweh’s grace through the festivals. All Israel’s festivals centered on the sacrificial meal, that is a supper with the Lord. The Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, even Purim, instituted by Esther’s authority, centers around the table and eating with God.
Thus, the Passover Haggadah states, “in every generation, each human must see himself as personally coming out of Egypt.” Through the meal we are the Passover generation. We are the ones coming out of the land of slavery, into life, freedom and forgiveness. Suddenly, at the table we are escaping with our very lives from the kingdom of death (Egypt) by the Lord of grace.
Psalm 116, God’s Time and Table
At the table we have entered God’s time of salvation and have koinonia with the Messiah and we have fellowship with all those being rescued. All those in the past, all those in the present, and all those who ever shall be rescued.
Remembering, in a Hebraic worldview, is far more than an intellectual recollection of the past. Remembering it is a reliving of the powerful God moment of redemption. The Passover becomes something like virtual reality.
Psalm 116 was used in the Passover liturgy long before Jesus was born. It was connected with the Passover because of this very Hebraic notion of God’s time. When Jesus sang Psalm 116 he was not only joining his fellow Jews at the table who also sang it, but he is identifying with all who have gone before, all who gathered presently, and all whoever shall gather. The Psalm says we were slaves, we were afflicted, God heard our cry. The Passover was God’s answer to the cry. Hear these words as they connect both to Jesus and all humans.
“I love the LORD because he has heard me … (v.1)
“The snares of death encompassed me [v. 3, read Ex 2.23-24] …”
“I called on the name of the LORD, ‘O LORD save my life’ …” (v.4)
In the Gospels, we read that great anguish came over Jesus after the meal. the meal that placed him in communion with all who had suffered before the threat of death at the hands of Pharaoh.
When we sit at the Supper, we too join not only those leaving Egypt but find ourselves with Jesus as if we have been taken in God’s time machine to walk with him, eat with him … and even die with him.
But the Passover is a time of Joy because it points to God’s victory. Passover preaches not God’s defeat but Yahweh’s victory over the agent of death, Pharaoh in all his manifestations. It points to God’s gracious response to our prayers. So, Psalm 116 has a middle “chorus” that all God’s children sing, from Egypt to the New Heavens and New Earth.
“Gracious is the LORD,
our God is merciful [a loose paraphrase of Ex 34.6].
The LORD protects the simple;
When I was brought low,
he saved me …” (vv.5-6).
This is the supreme confidence of biblical faith. We know we have been set free because we are part of the Exodus generation. But as Jesus is singing this song at the table, and on the way to the Garden with his disciples, it is also a statement of future faith. Because we share in the table, we know that the kingdom of death has been defeated. God has saved our life, now and forever more.
Saved Life, Future Life
This is not merely a matter of going to heaven when we die. When Jesus prayed this prayer with and in fellowship with his disciples at the table, he is pointing to the future in the faith that God will raise him from the dead. God has heard his prayer.
“For you have delivered ME from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
I walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
I kept my faith even when I said,
‘I am greatly afflicted’;
I said in my consternation,
‘Everyone is a liar.’” (vv.8-11).
Jesus is living the Story.
The table is eschatology linking us to the past and the future. And we join our Messiah as we proclaim his death “until he comes.” Our Messiah is not a dead one.
But we live in the present. Jesus and the disciples, with the Israelites of old, sang “I am greatly afflicted” “Everyone is a liar.” We all know this sad truth from “personal experience.” Even those who sit at the table sadly, at times, share in the lies of the Evil One.
The Psalm assumes our participation in a future meal with God and his people. We lift up the
“cup of salvation” (v.13)
“offer a thanksgiving offering” (v.17)
and we do this
“in the presence of God’s people,
in the courts of the house of the LORD” (v.15).
Microcosm of the Whole Story
The movement of the Psalm follows the movement of God’s time at the table.
Our union with those leaving Egypt. (Past)
Our present agony as we live in a faithless world. (Present)
Our standing in the presence of God joyously feasting because even now God has delivered us. (Future).
At the table we are bound to the past. At the table we have communion with Jesus in the struggle for faith. At the table we are escorted into the very presence of God. The book of Revelation ends with that promise. We are seated at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, our tears are washed away by the God who hears our cries, and God makes his home with us.
What “happens” at the table is a microcosm of the entire Story of God. Those who feast at this table share with those in the past, share in the present, and share in the future.
We are in God’s time at the table.