For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Who is missing at your table? Around the world, so many of us are keenly aware of the people who are absent. Because of COVID-19, we can’t travel to be with family and friends. Even if we live in the same neighborhood, we’ve been advised to shelter at home. So millions of tables around the world are missing people who are normally present. Some are healthy but isolated in another place; others are sick and isolated in hospitals. This reality leaves us with a deep ache, because at its best, the table is the heart of the home. The table is the place where life is shared, with all its tears and laughter, joy and pain. The table is the place where love is cultivated, where strangers become friends and friends become family. The table is the place where we are fed, both physically and spiritually. When someone is missing from our table, there’s a void. We long to be together, to embrace, and to enjoy fellowship again. I wonder: has the world ever been so united in its longing to gather? As we wait for the storm of this pandemic to pass, what do we do with this ache?
What if we turn our introspective question into a prayer? What if we stop asking, “Who is missing at our table?” and instead ask, “Lord, who is missing at Your table?” On Maundy Thursday, the church remembers the night Jesus washed His disciples’ feet…and ate the Passover with them…and told them, “This is My body…. This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this…in remembrance of Me.” Maundy comes from the Latin word meaning “commandment”, because on this night Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment, to love one another as He had loved them (John 13:34-35). It’s not a coincidence that these events happened around a table in an upper room in Jerusalem, “the city that kills the prophets” (Matthew 23:37). Everything that unfolded around the table on Thursday was a picture of the love that would be demonstrated and poured out on a cross on Friday. The Lord Jesus Christ was the True Passover, the Lamb of God, and the Bread of Life. On Good Friday Jesus would give His life so that those who come to Him would find “food that endures to eternal life” (John 6:27). And on that Thursday, no one was missing at the Lord’s table, not even Judas.
For nearly two thousand years, Christians have come to the Lord’s Table. We have tasted the bread and drunk the cup. We have done this in remembrance of Him, and we have proclaimed His death while aching for His return. For two millennia the Lord has invited the church to His table, and in a sense, no one has been missing. That makes this moment in church history particularly poignant. For so many churches, we are missing at the Lord’s Table. We have streaming worship services and online meetings, but we can’t gather and partake of the Lord’s Supper. Our hearts ache, but what about the Lord? I can’t pretend to know how He experiences this moment, but I know that on that Thursday night He told His beloved disciples, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). If He longed to commune with His disciples during Holy Week, mustn’t He long to commune with us still? What if the Lord doesn’t intend to heal this ache? What if instead He wants to share it with us? What if He longs for us even more than we long for Him? What if He wants to stir our longing during this season so that when we gather again, we will know the joy of our union with Christ like never before? What if He is teaching us to be satisfied in the Bread of Life alone (John 6:35)? What if He is taking us deeper into the wonder of being branches abiding in the Vine (John 15:5)? What if this holy hunger is another foretaste of the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9)?
“Who is missing at your table?” May that question stir our longing for the Day when the Lord will dwell with us, and we will be His people, and He Himself will be with us as our God. On that day, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away (Revelation 21:3-5). On that day, none of His people will be missing at His Table. And we will share His life, rejoice in His love, and feast forever.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!