The reason and purpose of our coming together at the Lord’s table in the Spirit presence of our Lord Jesus is reconciliation. Because of our waywardness, there is estrangement between us and God. We are the ones needing to be reconciled. Unless we actively seek reconciliation, we will remain outside God’s wide circle of love and peace. That is why the apostle Paul describes ‘the truth’ as we call it, or the gospel of salvation, as the ministry of reconciliation. God is extending pleading arms to all through Christ. Through Christ, and on Christ’s behalf, He is imploring us: “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor. 5:19,20).
The basis upon which God accepts our plea to be reconciled in peace with Him is the living sacrifice of Jesus Christ His Son. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). The wonderful thing about our coming to be reconciled at the Lord’s table is that God has already done His part: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Rom. 5:10).
Reading Paul’s letter to the Romans, we can easily sense the relief which reconciliation brought to this man who had been a hateful enemy of the Christians and an obstinate defender of wickedness. “We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Rom. 5:11). Do we experience this relief when we come to share the emblems of God’s grace?
Our place of reconciliation
The table of the Lord is our place of reconciliation. At this meeting, God is strong, and we are weak. We have let Him down, yet He still invites us here to be reconciled with Him. In the words of the unknown writer of our hymn: “Why should his people now be sad? None has such reason to be glad, as reconciled to God” (Hymn 256). [Editor: The words, somewhat modified in our hymnbook, were originally those of a Thomas Kelly (1769-1854).]
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1).
For, as God’s sons and daughters, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we have already received God’s offer of reconciliation. We just need to bow in humility before Him, and take the emblems. Or do we? God has no reservations with those who love Him. It is we who have the reservations, who hold back on wanting to be reconciled to Him ⎯ because we have deeply-felt reservations about being reconciled with one another. At this table, reconciliation with other forgiven sinners is the only thing that can inhibit God’s forgiveness of us. Did not Jesus himself teach us to pray, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us” (Luke 11:4)?
Refusal to be reconciled with others is a blocking condition we impose on our heavenly Father. We push away His extended arms so that they cannot receive us in love.
This is how we know what love is: “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence” (1 John 3:16,19).
This is the test!
Here is the test as to whether we are ‘in the truth’ or not… and whether we are truly at rest. For reconciliation is the whole spirit of the gospel. In his first letter John tells us that anyone, however clever or zealous or committed to ‘the truth’ he may be, who does not love his brother, is not a child of God (1 John 3:10).
In general, the Jews did not like the idea that the God of Israel was also the God of the whole world. With many of us, sharing those emblems of our reconciliation with other reconciled sinners is a big, big problem. Many of us don’t like the idea of sharing and being reconciled with those whom we don’t like and whom we feel are so much less worthy and holy than ourselves.
I used to be very puzzled about a verse in John’s first letter that seemed to suggest that if I am born of God I must “keep myself” (1 John 5:18, cp. the KJV). But I am the last person who is suitable to be given the job of ensuring my own salvation and keeping myself on ‘the strait and narrow’. The NIV and most other translations put me in my proper place as a reconciled sinner, now a struggling saint. We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God “keeps him safe”. Now that makes sense to me. I can trust myself to the care of the special “one” who was born of God, Jesus Christ my Lord. He will keep me safe. He will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18).
Mark gives us a brief but wonderful picture of the Lord’s table.
“Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take it: this is my body.’ Then he took the cup, gave thanks, and offered 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” (Mark 14:22-24).
It is wonderful because it is about God and Jesus giving and offering ⎯ and us receiving and sharing. Isn’t that what real reconciliation is all about?