Between the Cross and the Crown

by Stephen Witmer

"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'" (Luke 22:15,16).
A year ago, I asked the following question to the adult Sunday School class I was teaching: "When you observe the Lord's Supper, do you think primarily of the past or the future? Do you look backward or forward?"
Every one of the forty people in my class indicated that they thought about past events (such as Gethsemane, the trial of Jesus, the crucifixion, etc.) or present events (e.g. sins in their own lives), rather than future events. This did not surprise me. I suspect that such is the case for the vast majority of Christians.
The Lord's Supper is indeed intended to remind us of past events. When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we are remembering Jesus (1 Cor. 11:24,25) and proclaiming His death (v. 26). But the New Testament invites us to look forward as well when we observe the Lord's Supper.
Look closely at Jesus' words in Luke 22:15,16. Jesus tells His disciples that He will not eat the Passover (which He is about to invest with the new significance of the Lord's Supper) "until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." What does He mean when He says that the Passover/Lord's Supper will be "fulfilled"? Jesus indicates that this Supper points forward to something not yet present-something still to come in the consummated Kingdom of God. When that Kingdom arrives Jesus will again eat the Passover/Lord's Supper (vv. 15,16) and drink of the fruit of the vine (vv. 17,18); or rather, Jesus will eat the fulfillment of the Lord's Supper.
What is this "fulfillment"? In other words, what does the Lord's Supper anticipate? Toward what does it point? Jesus gives the answer only a few verses later when He promises the disciples that they will eat and drink at His table in the Kingdom (vv. 28-30). He is referring to the great end-time banquet promised throughout Scripture (Isa. 25:6; Rev. 19:9) and mentioned several chapters earlier in Luke's Gospel (13:29,30; 14:15,24). In other words, the "fulfillment" of the Lord"s Supper is the end-time Messianic banquet.
This insight from Luke 22:15,16 has transformed the way I observe the Lord's Supper, investing my celebration of the Supper with a new degree of joyful anticipation. When I eat the bread and drink the cup, I receive them as tokens of a great and future feast. They are spiritual hors-d'oeuvres, appetizers in advance of the full feast. Yes, they are tiny symbols, but they constitute an awesome reality that will be fully realized when people from every tongue, tribe, and nation gather with Jesus to feast forever. The bread and cup of the Lord's Supper are the beginning of that end-time feast. One day soon the bread and cup will be "fulfilled," and we will feast with Jesus.
We must situate the Lord's Supper, as Paul does in 1 Corinthians 11:26, between the death of Jesus and the future coming of Jesus. We must look backward with solemnity and forward with joy. As we live between the cross and the crown, as we recognize the imperfection of the present world and the perfection of the world to come, our observance of the Lord's Supper will come to be characterized by a joyful and solemn anticipation of the future feast.
2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
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