John was my first treasured friend to pass away in the church that I currently pastor. Every Sunday we would pray in my office before the worship service began. During the week, he would surprise me with phone calls to check in on me and encourage me in the faith. His worn, leathered voice became a comforting sound in my initial days of ministry at our church.
I imagine that you have lost a loved one at some point as well. It is a sobering experience to stand by a loved one’s dying body in a hospital room. It is a sorrowful experience to stand beside their lifeless body in a casket. As his pastor, I knew it was not a final goodbye, but it was still painful.
It’s easy to imagine the anguish the disciples must have felt as Jesus moved closer and closer to the hour of His imminent death. These men had spent almost every hour of the last few years with Jesus. He was not only their Lord; He was their dear friend.
In the shadow of the cross, the sorrow of Jesus’ looming death would only grow because of their own failure to stand by and support Him as His friends. They failed to support their Savior in Gethsemane. Peter denied his Deliverer in the courtyard. Judas sold the Son of the Most High for mere silver coins. Ultimately, all of the disciples would be scattered into the hills as their only hope seemed to fade away. Sorrow upon sorrow!
It is the sorrow of death and failure that makes the promises of the Lord’s Supper even more poignant. This is my body, broken for your sin and failure. This is my blood, a sign of God’s promised covenant to make all things new.
I have often believed that for Christians, the Lord’s Supper should feel more like a celebration of longing than a funeral feast. The words of promise spoken at the Lord’s table, and the symbolic elements consumed by the people of God, are reminders of hope—hope that even in the midst of sorrow in this life, we will one day experience unimaginable joy.
Because of Christ’s sacrifice, our failures do not have the last word. Because Christ rose again, death does not have the last word. One day the saints will be gathered around the table of the King in eternity. One day, both John and I will raise our glasses to the King and declare that we have entered into His eternal joy.
Until then, let us remember the words of Jesus: “You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy” (John 16:20). As we wait, let us eat, drink, and be joyful. Because one day not so long ago, we were dead in our sin, and one day soon we will be fully alive and in His presence, face to face.
Written by Matt Capps