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To Feast with the King

What would you expect if you were invited to feast with a king? Does your mind conjure images of a long table, filled with the finest food. Like a thanksgiving feast, but better, and more! A table filled with roast meat, plates of veggies, fresh bread, well-aged wine, cheese, (of course there’s cheese). And while I don’t know much about kings in history and the kinds of banquets they held, a moment that sticks to my mind’s eye is the moment when everyone is waiting for the guest of honor to arrive. I imagine all the guests standing behind their chairs, waiting for it to be announced that the king is coming into the banquet hall. Everyone holds their breath as he does, as he makes his way to the head of the table. Once he’s seated, everyone would look for the “okay” from those overseeing the feast that it is okay for you also to be seated. And once seated, no one dares dig into the food until the king has eaten, right. Sure he’s the “host” but he’s really the honored guest. And so taking every cue from him, you take a little bite here, a little nibble there, not worried if you go home hungry but more concerned that you don’t make a poor impression on the king since you were after all, invited, and you know you are not worthy to sit at the same table as him.

In Mark 14, we are invited to feast with a king. And this invitation doesn’t just come from any king, but the King. Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior, the promised and long-awaited Messiah. He was born in Bethlehem, has called his disciples, has taught thousands, performed many miracles, fed the crowds, and now, today, he seeks to feed us. We are invited through our passage and through the ministry of Jesus, to come and eat at the table of the King.

But we find the table perhaps not exactly what we would expect. It is not set with delicacies, but with the familiar foods of Passover. As we meet Jesus and his disciples at the table today, we are stepping into a meal that they would have celebrated every year at that time. The table was set with lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, and wine. They were commemorating a profound moment in their national history – the moment in which God freed them from slavery in Egypt.

On the night that they were to be set free, God commanded all of Israel to take a spotless lamb and slaughter it. They were to mark their homes in the blood of that lamb so that when death came to Egypt, it might pass them by. And he commanded them to bake bread made without yeast, or unleavened bread. Why? Because there simply wasn’t time to wait on the yeast to raise the loaf. God was telling them that their salvation, their freedom, their liberation was at hand. They were to eat in haste, literally with their shoes strapped tight, waiting for the signal that their freedom had been gained and their enemy was defeated.

Every year since that midnight flight from Egypt, God’s people ate the same meal to remember. How powerful food is for us to remember. The same Easter ham your mom makes, the thanksgiving turkey your dad roasts, the Christmas breakfast your grandma used to make each year. Don’t those smells and tastes call to mind your family memories? Food makes us remember. And this meal that is set before the disciples, it calling them to remember too. As they look at their plates with unleavened bread, they are calling to mind a longer memory of God’s powerful work that set them free from slavery.

Can you believe we’re being invited to join them? 

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:21-25)

At the King’s table, we might expect to find grandeur. We might expect to see him as the honored guest. We might expect to be on pins and needles. But instead, we find that this King is not the one waiting to be served. He is not waiting for someone to fill his plate. He is not standing on ceremony. He is in fact, the one serving the meal. And what is he serving?

“This is my body. This is my blood.”

Jesus takes the memorial of Israel’s freedom and reinterprets it in light of what he has come to do. He takes the unleavened bread – the symbol of their freedom being just around the corner – and says, take it. It is my body and I give it to you. And he takes the wine, pours it out, and says, “this is my blood, which is poured out for you.” At this kingly table, Jesus invites the disciples to receive more than a memory: a reality. Their salvation is at hand. Soon Jesus will walk the long and lonely path to the cross, where his body will be broken. Torn in two. His hands and feet will be pierced through with nails. His side will be speared. His body, given for you. His blood will flow from his body as thorns pierce his brown in a mocking crown made by his accusers. His back will bleed as he is whipped. The blood will flow from his body until his heart beats no more. His blood, poured out for you.

In this simple mealtime moment, Jesus is proclaiming a gospel reality: thought his broken body and spilled blood, we find our redemption. Because Jesus went all the way to the grave, we are welcomed at the table of the King. While kings of this world may demand that you come to their table and stand on ceremony and serve their egos, this King invites you to his table and he himself is the sustenance. He himself supplies all that you could need to satisfy your spiritual hunger and he does it at great cost to himself. His body and his blood.

And then he closes with this foretaste: “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus tells his disciples that there is a feast yet to come. Jesus knows that the cross is just ahead of him. He will be betrayed by his friend within hours. He will be arrested that very night. The cross is looming large and the days are growing darker. And so he gives his disciples this hope: there is yet another feast to come. When the King has been set on his rightful throne and his people are set from free sin forevermore – there will be a great feast. Knowing it is about to get very dark, Jesus sets his disciples eyes on the horizon of eternity, and shows them the bright and eternal future he has come to secure for all who place their faith in him. One day, when Jesus comes again, all who are his will feast in his presence – because of his death and resurrection. Put another way, because Jesus gave himself at the first feast, we can have confidence that there is a better feast awaiting us in heaven.

Friends, at the last supper, Jesus offered his very self to his disciples. And he gives you and I no less today. He welcomes us as we are, to the table of the King, and offers you nothing less than himself. His body has been broken for you. His blood as been poured our for you. And all who receive Christ have this same confidence: one day, we will feast with the King in eternity. Thanks be to God. 

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