Early in the 1980s, I began to experience chronic fatigue. It came to affect not only much of my life but my experience of the Lord’s Supper as well. At the table, usually the emphasis was placed on the assurance of forgiveness of sins, but I often asked myself whether, through his Supper, our Lord also spoke to other burdens we might carry to the table, such as limited health, grief associated with the death of a spouse, or marriage difficulties.
Our denomination, through synodical reports on the Supper (1994 and 2016), has not addressed this question, but one can find passages in the gospels that suggest our Lord, at his Supper, does speak to such burdens. The night before his death, Jesus instructed his disciples, and us as well, to “remember him” (Luke 22; 1 Cor. 11), and the gospels make clear that all our burdens, not only our need to be forgiven and reconciled to God, are important to him. Consider these passages:
In his first sermon in the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4), Jesus announces he will fulfill the messianic prophecies of Isaiah: he will preach good news to the poor, bring freedom to prisoners, and give recovery of sight to the blind.
In Jesus’ parable of the great banquet (Luke 14), the banquet’s host tells his servants: “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” so they could attend his lavish banquet.
Finally, in his parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25), Jesus emphatically asserts that when we feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, invite the stranger to our house, and look after the sick, we do it as unto Jesus himself.
The gospels clearly reveal Jesus’ solidarity not only with those who seek his forgiveness, but with all those who are burdened in other ways. In his suffering, in life and in death, Jesus embraced all such persons, and this is how we may remember him at his table. This is the new covenant in his blood that Jesus extends to us by defeating all powers of evil. He is Christus Victor.
The Lord’s Supper is truly a feast for the “weary and burdened” (Matt. 11). This should give all of us great joy and hope.
In his book The Church in the Power of the Spirit, Jürgen Moltmann writes about this and adds that at the table of the Lord’s Supper, we should on occasion remember our Lord’s compassion for all the afflicted worldwide (pp. 126, 242).