What Do You See When You Look On the Table?
by Tony Cooke
THE POWER OF SYMBOLS
Someone once said, “I might pick a rosebud off a tree, and it would be a rosebud and no more. The one I love in all the world might pluck a rosebud off a tree and give it to me, and it would be a rosebud and a great deal more. The meaning would be changed because she gave it to me.”
Love Muffins – When I read the above, I was reminded of the first time Lisa made blueberry muffins for me. I had gone to her house for a visit and had taken her a candle as a gift (we were not even dating at that time, but I was starting to be interested in her). Those muffins were very special, not because they were substantively anything other than blueberry muffins, but because of what they meant to me—they symbolized the fact that she might be interested in me, too. Anyone else might have just seen plain blueberry muffins, but I saw something more than that; I saw “Love Muffins.” The muffins didn’t take the place of the relationship, but they expressed something about the relationship.
Wedding Rings – Since 1979, Lisa and I have worn wedding rings. They symbolize the bond of unity and commitment that we share. As long as the rings are an expression of our love and commitment, they are good things. But they are not a substitute for loving, paying attention to, honoring, and being kind to one another.
Flags – A flag can be another powerful symbol. One author wrote: “The story has been told of an English sailor who went ashore from his ship at a foreign port, and was wrongfully arrested on the supposition that he was involved in a murder. He was condemned to be executed by shooting.
The British consul in that country protested at the injustice of it, but failing to have the case retried, asked permission to be present at the execution. He went with the British flag folded up under his jacket. When the firing squad marched out and took position, the consul ran forward and flung his flag across the condemned man and said, ‘Shoot if you dare.’
It would have been an act of war to shoot upon the flag. The fabric itself could not have repelled the bullets, but what it stood for was enough! The case was reheard and the man was acquitted.”
The Golden Arches – Outside of every McDonald’s restaurant are the golden arches. The symbol does not exist unto itself, nor can it satisfy you if you’ve developed a hunger for a Big Mac. The symbol only exists to point you inside the restaurant where the food is.
With all of these symbols, there is something tangible that our senses can connect with, something we can touch or see. But in each of these cases, the symbols are only as meaningful or appreciated as the “substance” they represent.
WHAT DO YOU SEE WHEN YOU LOOK ON THE TABLE?
One of the great symbols in the Christian faith is the bread and the juice that are used in celebrating Communion. Like other symbols, the bread and the juice point us to a greater reality. The emblems that you hold in your hand and partake of (representing the broken body and shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ) are, in a sense, windows that enable us to look into and perceive spiritual realities. All of the following are from 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul taught about Communion.
1. Communion invites us to look UPWARD
Verse 23 – For I received from the Lord…
The plan of redemption came from the very heart of God, and we are dependent upon the enlightenment of Holy Spirit to understand and appreciate what Jesus accomplished for us through His death on the cross. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, and we look upward to Him with an attitude of praise and thanksgiving for all He’s done for us.
2. Communion invites us to look BACKWARD
Verses 24 and 25 – …do this in remembrance of Me.
Our faith is not based on a passing feeling or on temporary circumstances. Our faith is rooted in an historical fact: the accomplished work of what Jesus did on Calvary. Therefore, we look backward to the sacrifice that secured our salvation and made eternal life available to us.
3. Communion invites us to look FORWARD
Verse 26 – For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
Communion is not just a celebration of what happened in the past, but it’s also a proclamation about what we expect and anticipate concerning the future. Titus 2:13 says that we are, “…looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
4. Communion invites us to look INWARD
Verse 28 – But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
It’s unfortunate that many Christians have only read these verses in a negative way. Certainly, there’s a warning here, and if we have known sin in our life, we need to repent and receive God’s forgiveness—not just when we’re about to receive communion, but anytime. I believe, though, that there’s a positive side of “examining ourselves” as well. Paul didn’t say to examine yourself so you won’t eat. He said to examine yourself so you can eat. We need to examine ourselves in the light of God’s redemption and in the light of His love!
5. Communion invites us to look OUTWARD
Verse 33 – Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
The Corinthians were not walking in love toward one another. Paul didn’t want them to be (supposedly) honoring the Lord while they were dishonoring one another. He was encouraging them to look out for the welfare of others and be respectful toward each other as they partook of communion. After all, Jesus didn’t just die for one individual, but for all.
As you remember Jesus, may you look deeply and thoroughly! We pray that you see what He wants you to see as you look upward, backward, forward, inward, and outward.