Thanksgiving Banquet (Matthew 26:26-29)
Thanksgiving is a nostalgic time for me. As far back as I remember, we’d leave on Wednesday after school and drive to my dad’s parents’ home in Indiana for Thanksgiving.
We boys would sleep in the living room, and Mamaw would come through at 4:00 am to put the turkeys in the oven. I remember Mamaw’s white bread dressing—Tammy makes it every year; Mamaw would make two batches (one with and one without oysters). At lunchtime, we’d go a few houses up the road to Aunt Vina’s house. Aunt Vina made absolutely marvelous noodles and rolls; Uncle Robert did fabulous sweet tea. Aunt Vina’s house would be full of family, and food was spread out over a couple rooms. To this day, I can smell that food and see my family’s faces—such precious memories.
I’m sure each one of you has precious memories centered around Thanksgiving. You might remember spending time in the kitchen with your mother or grandmother helping prepare the meal. Or maybe you remember a special dish that you always had, and you might still have that dish as part of your tradition. Maybe you, too, can remember how well your parents’ or grandparents’ home smelled on Thanksgiving Day.
Thursday we each will likely eat enough to put us into a food coma. We’ll go back for seconds—or maybe, even, thirds—of our favorite dishes. We’ll eat desert when we normally wouldn’t, and our diets will go out the window.
Regardless of how much we enjoy our meal on Thursday, the Christian has a special thanksgiving banquet each Lord’s Day, not just on the fourth Thursday in November. You see: “The Lord’s Supper is the Christian’s thanksgiving banquet.”
Scripture (Matthew 26:26-29)
Before any meal, it was customary for the head of the household to offer thanks for the bread and wine. Jesus acted as the head of the household for the Twelve and offered thanksgiving.
Jesus gave the Passover bread new meaning. It was customary for the host to take the bread and announce over it: “This is the bread of affliction our ancestors ate when they came from Egypt.” No longer would it be the bread of our ancestors’ affliction; it would be the bread of Jesus’s affliction.
Jesus took the cup and gave thanks. The Greek term for “give thanks” is eucharisteo, and early Christians took that term and called the Lord’s Supper the “Eucharist.” Many religious groups today call the Supper the Eucharist, and I honestly like that, for it reminds the participant of the giving of thanks at the Supper.
After Jesus had given thanks, he gave the disciples the cup and said, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” In those simple words, Jesus explained why the cup is worthy of thanksgiving.
The cup was Jesus’s “blood of the covenant.” In those words, Jesus likely alluded to Exodus 24:8 where the Old Covenant was inaugurated by blood. With his blood, Jesus inaugurated a new covenant.
Not only did Jesus’s blood inaugurate a new covenant but his blood was given “for the forgiveness of sins.” In the blood of Jesus, one can find the forgiveness of every sin.
Jesus would not again drink of the fruit of the vine until he drank it new in his Father’s kingdom. I have often taken that to mean that Jesus metaphorically drinks the cup with us as we worship today in the church, his Father’s kingdom.
However, as I’ve studied, I no longer hold that view. You see, the heavenly kingdom is often compared to a great banquet. “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined” (Is 25:6). “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 8:11). I believe Jesus was speaking of that heavenly kingdom, the great banquet in our Father’s house that is still to come. When we feast at the heavenly table, Jesus will be there to feast with us.
“The Lord’s Supper is the Christian’s thanksgiving banquet.” Jesus gave thanks for the wine and forever connected the Lord’s Supper with thanksgiving. How should thanksgiving affect the way you take the Lord’s Supper? Jesus gave you three reasons to be thankful when you come to the Eucharist.
First, Be Thankful for the Covenant.
As Jesus held the cup, he said, “This is my blood of the covenant.” Think for a moment of how grateful you should be to live under the New Covenant. There was much wrong with that Old Covenant: “Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second” (Heb 8:6-7).
Think of how difficult it would have been to keep up with all the rules and regulations and sacrifices of the Old Covenant. When some were wanting Gentile Christians to be circumcised, Peter stood up and said, “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). That law—which could be kept by no one save Jesus—has been replaced with a new covenant in Jesus’s blood, blood for which we express our thanksgiving at the Lord’s Supper.
Second, Be Thankful for the Crime.
Jesus said his blood was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” You have forgiveness from your sins—from your crimes—through the blood of Jesus. Imagine if your crime was not forgiven through Jesus’s blood. How would you like for everyone here to know the worst thing you have ever done? How would you like to stand before God with the worst thing you have ever done still on your soul?
As it is, you find forgiveness from all your sins through Jesus’s blood. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph 1:7). “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7). When John saw a great multitude, a multitude no one could number, in Revelation, one of the elders told him, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14).
As you come to the Lord’s Supper, thank God that your sins are forgiven!
Third, Be Thankful for the Country.
Jesus said that he would not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the great banquet in the new country, his Father’s heavenly kingdom. We participate in the Lord’s Supper in anticipation of that new country to which we are going.
That new country is a marvelous place for which we can be so very thankful. John described that new country like this: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:3-4). Imagine that new country: No more temptation, no more sorrow, no more worry, no more struggles. All things perfect and new.
As you come to the Lord’s Supper, thank God for your new country! Are you ready for that country this morning?