Table Reflections: Jesus on the Table

I recently returned from Lancaster, England, where I participated in the European Christian Workshop.  It was a wonderful event and I enjoyed my association with that group of Christians immensely. 

Asked to speak five times about the table (Lord’s Supper), my final lesson was thematic.  I wanted to share it with you since it is a different angle than what is present in some of my other writings on the topic.

I suggested three perspectives from which to view the table:

  1. Jesus on the Table–the sacrifical victim who nourishes us with new life
  2. Jesus at the Table–the hospitable host who welcomes all to the table
  3. Jesus serving the Table–the master who waits on tables

Today:  Jesus on the Table.

I have sometimes heard it said that our assemblies should be reverent and solemn because “the dead body of Jesus is on the table.”  I understand that is arises from thinking about Jesus as the sacrificial victim who gave his life for others.  “This is my body which is given for you” or “This is my blood which is poured out for many.” This connects the table to the cross since Jesus gave his body on the cross and poured it out at the cross.  We eat the sacrificial victim just as Israel ate the Passover lamb and their thanksgiving sacrifices.

However, there is something amiss here. Is it the “dead body of Jesus” on the table?  I think not. Do we eat the dead body of Christ? I think not. For one thing, Jesus is not dead but alive.

My point is not about whether it is a literal body/blood or not, but what body/blood is offered to us in eating and drinking. Are we nourished in the Supper by the dead body of Jesus or the living, resurrected body of Christ?

This is where it is helpful to bring John 6 into the discussion where Jesus uses that strong, even offensive, language that except we eat his flesh and drink his blood we will not have eternal life.  In the context of John 6, the flesh and blood of Jesus are not understand as dead or sacrificed but as living nourishment.  It is the living flesh and blood of Jesus–it is the living Christ–which nourishes us. To eat the flesh of Jesus and to drink his blook is to intake life, an eternal life. It is to experience eschatological life, the life of the resurrected Jesus.

Resurrection language undergirds the teaching of Jesus in John 6. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life and “I will raise him up on the last day” (6:40). Jesus is the living bread of life, and those who eat partake of life, eternal life. It is the flesh and blood of the eschatological, resurrected Son of Man that is given to us for eating and drinking. We don’t eat dead but living flesh. We don’t drink dried up blood but living blood.

Here is one way to visualize this.  I imagine that in eating and drinking we are lifted up into the presence of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit takes us into the throne room of God to feed on Christ, that is, to be nourished by the power of his resurrected life. Through our concrete, material, physical eating and drinking, the Spirit pours life into us by virtue of the life-giving reality of Jesus Christ. In this way, the Supper is, as Ignatius long ago said, a “medicine of immortality” (Ephesians 20:2). The Supper is a means by which we are nourished by and experience eternal life–a common theme in the Orthodox tradition over the centuries.

When Jesus was raised from the dead, he ascended to the right hand of the Father.  There he reigns as new human, the first of the new creation. His humanity is now life-giving and through him all creation will be renewed.  When we eat and drink, we participate in the new creation as we feed on his body and drink his blood, as we are nourished by new creation itself.

This feeding and drinking calls us to a new creation life even now. We are new creatures in Christ; we are empowered by his resurrected life. To eat and drink is to embrace the practice of new creation and mission of God for his creation.

Jesus is on the table through the bread and wine. But it is not the dead body of Christ, but the living, resurrected new creation. The living Christ is on the table and offers life everlasting but life as new creatures even now.



14 Responses to “Table Reflections: Jesus on the Table”

  1.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    It is good to read your blogs again. They are, as usual, thought provoking.

    This theological post on the resurrected Jesus of the table has made we wonder in what practical ways could the assembly make use of technology along with its repertoire of spiritual gifts, songs/hymns, stories of resurrection power at work, scripture, etc…to help the assembly encounter this the resurrection power of Christ in an experiential manner? In other words, what can be done in the assembly so that this theology of the cross can become concrete reality in our chapel-style worship experience?

    Grace and Peace,

    Rex

    •   Richard Roland Says:

      Is consuming the body and blood of the risen and glorified Christ not experiential and concrete enough?

      • Avatar of K Rex Butts  K. Rex Butts Says:

        Apparently not since every local Church of Christ I have visited has had in some form or another someone offering a small thought before they read a passage of scripture then offer prayer. But forgive me if I think that is a good thing that could become an even greater thing by thinking outside the traditional box a little.

        Grace and peace,

        Rex

        • Avatar of Terry Cross  TerryC Says:

          I can’t disagree with Richard, but I do think Rex has a point. I do often tire, though, when the only thought that is offered is about Jesus establishing the Lord’s Supper, or Paul emphasizing it’s sanctity to the brethren at Corinth, or perhaps the related prophecies of Isaiah. I appreciate those who think outside the box in offering those thoughts and try to do that myself when I have opportunity to offer a thought with the Lord’s Supper. Thinking about the example of the life of Jesus and how they emphasize His sacrifice, or the experience of His death and its impact on those who witnessed it, or even better the glory of His resurrection and the victory it brings us. All of these can help to do as JHM says and help us to focus on the the living Christ. I don’t think of Him ‘on the table’ though. I prefer to think of Him sitting right beside me.

        • Avatar of K Rex Butts  K. Rex Butts Says:

          Maybe it would help if I offer a couple of examples of what I mean…examples I have seen actually practiced. First, I once was in a worship where the emphatic focus of communion for that day was the horizontal dimension, that this meal symbolizes the faith we uniquely have in common with all other believers. So in addition to offering prayers of the bread and wine, there were images being projected upon a screen of different assemblies from around the world participating in communion as a recorded hymn was played in the background. A second example of utilizing other spiritual gifts in the body was I witnessed was a congregation that invited one of its members who was a very talented singer (she sang opera professionally) to sing the melody of “The Lord’s Prayer” hymn (which is very difficult to sing as an acapella assembly) and then her husband pointed out how this bread and wine was an affirmation of that prayer before the bread and wine were passed. A third example I remember was that of a man who spoke briefly before the passing of the bread and wine in order to personally testify about the relation of Jesus’ death and resurrection as a promise of hope to his wife who had recently lost a battle with breast cancer. All three of these examples took place within a typical chapel-style worship assembly.

          Maybe that helps depict more of what I am getting at.

          Grace and peace,

          Rex

  2.   markus Says:

    welcome back!
    post the 5 sessions in your academic folder? please? :)

    • Avatar of johnmarkhicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      Thanks, Markus.

      Actually the first four presentations are best read in my book since they were textual in character: the thanksgiving sacrifice in Israel, the Last Supper, the breaking of bread in Luke-Acts, and 1 Corinthians 11.

      Blessings, John Mark

  3.   rich Says:

    Thanks john mark for taking us on a trip of the change of. perception that scripture gives all of us when we are not as bound by the dead hand of religious tradition.
    Blessings my friend
    Thanks for you just being you :-)
    Rich

  4.   Jr Says:

    Interestingly, this was one of Calvin’s beefs against Luther in regards to transubstantiation. He said it disregarded the doctrine of the resurrection (it brought Jesus down instead of raising us up to Him in the heavenlies).

    Grace to you -
    Jr

  5.   rich constant Says:

    2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 2:5 even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved!16 –

    2:6 and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

    2:7 to demonstrate in the coming ages17 the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward18 us in Christ Jesus. 2:8 For by grace you are saved19 through faith,20 and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 2:9 it is not from21 works, so that no one can boast.22 2:10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.23

    HAY JR
    HOW WAS THE CLASS WITH OLE PROFESSOR HICKS THIS LAST SUMMER?

    ANY WAY THE PERSPECTIVE IS NOT ABOUT BRINGING THE LORD DOWN BUT THE SAINTS BEING TRANSLATED THE THRONE ROOM IN OUR MINDS EYE OF FAITH IN THE SPIRIT.THAT WE ARE SEALED WITH THE DOWN PAYMENT HAVING A MEAL OF FELLOWSHIP AND RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD IN THE RESURRECTED BODY.????????????

    PARDON THE CAPS. EVERYONE…..

    Christ – by grace you are saved!16 –

    2:6 and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

    2:7 to demonstrate in the coming ages17 the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward18 us in Christ Jesus. 2:8 For by grace you are saved19 through faith,20 and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 2:9 it is not from21 works, so that no one can boast.22 2:10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.23

    •   rich constant Says:

      also,
      john mark, i would ask you to revisit the thrust,of implied meaning or the pillar of suport the hinge pin of the temple in the eph. letter in light of our conversation at pepperdine by way of the conclusion of paul’s idea in light of ( contextually speaking which i think concludes with and skews the overall meaning of salvation by grace through faith) 3:10-3:12….
      v.10 The purpose of this enlightenment is that25 through the church the multifaceted wisdom26 of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms. 3:11 This was according to27 the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,

      -3:12 in whom we have boldness and confident access28 to God29 because of30 Christ’s31 faithfulness.32 2.7-10…subjectively.

      so to start we see 1:3 then onto 3-3 which i understand to refer back to chapt.1-chapt 2
      and concludes with 3:11 ….

      yes?????????????

      RICH

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Three Thoughts at the Table « Blog In My Own Eye

Leave a Reply