As Luke records it in Luke 22:14-23, Jesus sat at a table with the apostles to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with them. Then He promised that someday, they would sit at another table with Him in the Kingdom. Many Christians see the communion table as more of an altar – a place of ongoing sacrifice, but I believe it was intended to be seen as a table. What’s the difference?
An Altar is a Place of Death, a Table is a Place of Life
The Lord’s Supper is a memorial, but not a funeral. Though we remember the Lord’s death through the elements of communion, we also live in light of the resurrection of Jesus. My favorite funerals are those that are a celebration of a life well-lived by someone who is in heaven with Jesus. There is an element of solemnity that accompanies the Lord’s Supper, and that’s perhaps appropriate, but it’s also a time of celebration.
An Altar is a Place of Salvation, a Table is a Place of Consecration
I don’t take the Lord’s Supper so that I can go to heaven. I partake of it because I’m in the fellowship if the already redeemed. Jesus died once for my sins and I was saved once and for all when I transferred my trust to Him for eternity. I don’t need to be continually, repeatedly, or gradually saved. I’m fully saved. The table represents a time of consecration – beings set apart – for His service.
An Altar is a Place of Separation, a Table is a Place of Communion
An altar represents my sin and my need to appease God’s wrath toward sin. He is holy and we are not, so there’s a gulf of separation between us. Jesus died to bridge that chasm, which all of the Old Testament sacrifices foreshadowed. Every altar built under the old dispensation represented my separation. But the table of communion is a place where I’m invited to freely come as often as we’d like to sit and dine with Jesus. Our church celebrates communion four times per year (perhaps not often enough) but I can sit at Jesus’ table daily and dine with Him.
We don’t come to an altar for the Lord’s Supper, we come to a table. As in the old gospel song…
“Come and dine,” the Master calleth, “Come and dine”;
You may feast at Jesus’ table all the time;
He Who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine,
To the hungry calleth now, “Come and dine.”