Meals play a significant role in Scripture. They often point to fellowship, friendship, union, acceptance, favor, and covenant. Take for example, the meal between Abimelech and Isaac, which was to honor their truce and establish a treaty of peace, in Genesis 26:26-31. We also find another such meal between Jacob and Laban, his father-in-law in Genesis 31:51-54.
In the night the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham, were about to be delivered as Yahweh had promised to Abraham, their forefather, (Gen. 15:12-16), the Israelites were to eat what would be the beginning of the Passover meal, to one, remember Yahweh’s rescue from Egypt, and two, to point to the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
Another meal of significance is the one shared by Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the 70 elders of Israel, in the presence of God, to celebrate the confirmation of the covenant between the Lord and his people (Exod. 24:11).
Before I leave the Old Testament, however, I wish to point out a very familiar text that we tend to gloss over but which is very instructive: “You prepare a table before me in the present of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5). Yes, here we find the psalmist celebrating the Lord’s favor, on his behalf, even in the presence of his enemies.
Now we may look to the New Testament.
We may begin our exploration with the meal-motif in Luke-Acts, which on the one hand, echoes the meals of the Old Covenant, thus making way for the New Covenant meal, the Lord’s Supper, and on the other hand, which points to that eschatological meal, which John calls the “The marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).
As a reenactment of the first Passover meal to mark Yahweh’s deliverance of his people in under the Old Covenant, Jesus, whom Paul refers to as our Passover Lamb and John calls the Lamb of God, would institute a new meal to mark his own giving of himself, for the rescue of fallen humanity: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20).
Next we find Jesus sharing meals with his followers on several occasions (Luke 24; John 21), after he had given himself as our Passover Lamb. Here is one such occasion:
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. (Acts 1:4, NIV, emphasis added).
We would also encounter this covenant meal-motif in the life of the early church (Acts 2:42, 46; 16:34), so much so that the Lord’s Supper was celebrated during their fellowship meals (1 Cor. 11:17).
For example, at Corinth, to resolve a life of idolatry, on the one hand, and factionalism, on the other, Paul points to the Lord’s Table. You see, according to Paul, when we share the bread and the cup, we are sharing in the body and blood of the Lord. Now to come to the Lord’s Table in this way and then to turn around and engage in idolatry, is to break covenant with the Lord.
Then Paul reminds his readers: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17). Three times Paul uses the word “one” in this verse. It must be important. Yes, when the believers at Corinth come to the Lord’s Table, they must realize that they are one, despite their social standing. They cannot afford to let the party-spirit culture of Corinth destroy the unity that the Lord has called his people to (1 Cor. 11:17ff). At the Lord’s Table we are all one. This is the nature of the Covenant meal.
At I bring this post to a close, I want us to note the covenantal language of 1 Corinthians 1:9: “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful” (NIV84).
Yes, as we continue to eat the bread and drink the cup, in holy expectation of our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus’ return, God, who has invited us to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, is faithful.