The goblet sat in the center beside a bottle of vintage wine. This was a day of importance. Deep conversations and bargains were being struck. A life and a future hung in the balance.
The conversation was over, and now the moment of truth had come. It was time to pick up the goblet and drink. It was the final piece of deciding what was to come next.
One difference between the wedding planning of our generation with weddings in the time of Jesus was not only arranged marriages but also the length of engagement. Consideration of the bride being chosen would be important because her skills and talents would be valuable to the groom’s family, where she would be moving, and those gifts would be a loss to her present family. A young couple might express keen interest in one another, but the formal engagement would begin with a conversation between fathers. Once they had decided on the bride price, a goblet of wine was given to drink to seal the acceptance of the betrothal. Then the preparation would begin. The groom to be would return home to begin making a place ready for his bride. It could have been a claiming corner of his parent’s house or adding an additional room where they could live. Significantly, until the father of the groom gave his approval of the room or space being ready, the groom could not go to get his bride. The time of the groom preparing the room was also time for the bride to prepare for the day her groom would return in fanfare to take her to their new home.
I am reminded of this picture every time I take communion.
...that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes (1 Cor 11:23b-26).
Teaching our children about these ancient practices can help them to experience the story in deeper and more meaningful ways. We can also guide our children to listen for words that convey the meaning of Last Supper to enrich their understanding of what is happening in the worship service.
I am reminded that as I pick up a cup to drink, there was a bride price paid. That Jesus offered his life for mine reminds me that he chose me and you to be his bride. Jesus believed in the worth of the bride he was choosing enough to sacrifice himself. The Lord’s Supper is in part a memorial to the sacrifice made on our behalf. We invite our children to read the words on the table, “do this in remembrance of me” and listen for the words that speak of remembrance.
The sacrificial love we remember in Jesus' last supper inspires us to give thanks. Such boundless love was shown to us. Jesus chose the path to death just so we could be brought into a relationship with him. Recognizing this gift inspires us to live thankful lives. We invite our children to listen for words that express gratitude.
When Jesus sat with his disciples in the hours and days before he would go to the cross, Jesus reminded them that indeed he would be going to prepare a room and that when his father said it was time, he indeed would be coming to bring them home. We can live into the hope of our future with God upon the return of Jesus. We can help our children listen for the “coming again” words in the serving of the supper that help us to live with hope and expectancy.
The Father had decided on the bride price. When Jesus offers the first supper of wine and bread to his disciples, he is inviting them into the story in a new way. He reminds them that every time they meet together and share bread and wine to remember the agreement made. We are family now, living into the fellowship and sharing the joy of being together. In the Lord’s Supper we are reminded of how God invited us into the family. We also take the supper in community, as a body of believers professing together and called into relationship.
We are part of that story today as his bride, we do not know the day but we are instructed to be prepared. We are not to be caught off guard but instead act like we are betrothed. We come to God’s table with humility and repentance. We are ready for our bridegroom when we confess our sins and accept his forgiveness. We can guide our children to listen for the “getting ready” words.
The Lord’s Supper is also a celebration. We can guide our children to listen for the words of joy and celebration. Most brides I have met are willing to talk excitedly about their groom. They live with anticipation and stay true to the one they love. Every time we participate in communion, my hope is that each of us are examining ourselves to our faithfulness and participation in getting ready for a wedding. My prayer is that every time we pick up a cup to share with others in remembrance, we are saying yes to being the bride of Christ and stepping into a lifelong loving relationship.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Dr. Robert Ritzema