Written by Matt Damico.  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/lay-down-your-burdens-at-the-table

Read:  Mark 14:1-31

Have you ever walked into church and felt crowded?

I don’t mean by the people. I mean crowded in yourself — the inward tug you get when the junk of your life clings on and won’t let go. When recent conversations, work troubles, and sin issues hang like a fog. Or when there’s been a diagnosis, or some unforeseen drain on your bank account that you can neither avoid nor afford.

You know that feeling? When you walk into church like that, it’s hard to get out of your own head and see past yourself. The past won’t let you move forward, but the future isn’t all that enticing either.

In these moments, Satan wants worship to feel like just another obligation, another thing to get done in an already heavy week. He wants us to view corporate worship — the place where we can bring our burdens — as just another burden. In corporate worship, you will benefit from the singing, the prayers, the fellowship, the preaching of the word. But in those moments, I think the burdened soul can find unique relief in the Lord’s Supper.

This little meal may be just the occasion for you to be loosed from the claustrophobia of the soul. That’s because the Lord’s Supper is an invitation for us to get beyond ourselves and find Christ in all directions: backward, forward, inward, outward.

Backward

If there’s a look we do well in the Lord’s Supper, it’s the look backward. As has been inscribed on many of the tables in our sanctuaries, Jesus taught us to eat the bread and drink the cup “in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

We gaze backward to remember Jesus, whose entire life is worthy of our meditation: the power of his teaching, the purity of his life, and the promises he fulfilled. This is all soul-enriching appetizer as we prepare to eat the bread and drink from the cup.

The primary object of our gaze, though, should be Christ crucified. That’s what this meal is about. It’s for us to feel the body broken for us and to taste the cup poured out for sinners: “Take, eat; this is my body. . . . 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” (Matthew 26:26–28). If you look nowhere else, look to the cross.

But your glimpse backward can go further still. Look back and see God clothing Adam and Eve as they leave the garden, see him calling Abram to father a people, see him raising up Moses to deliver the Israelites, see him establish the throne of David, see him fulfilling promise after promise.

Remember that the God who fed Israel with manna in the wilderness is the God who has satisfied your deepest hunger through his Son.   

Looking back a couple thousand years like this is no mere mental venture into history; it’s a look down your own family tree. You were adopted into the family of God — born anew as his child — the moment you placed your trust in Christ. The stories of the Bible are not abstract history. They’re family tales.

Your natural family might be a broken mess, and you probably carry memories you’d rather forget. So, next time you hold the bread in your hand, look backward and consider the memories you’ve inherited in Christ.

Forward

The apostle Paul tells us that every time we share in the Lord’s Supper, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). We don’t know when Jesus will come, but when he does, we will feast on a meal far more satisfying than the bread and wine we get now.

On that day, the bride will see her Bridegroom, and we will know why John wrote, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). We will dine in the city of our God, and we will be satisfied, filled, and nourished forever. Just as every joy in this life is a hint at the fullness of joy in the next, the Lord’s Supper is a mere foretaste, a regularly scheduled reminder that there’s a better meal coming.

So, as you take the supper at your church, look past the uncertainty of your next weeks and months, and look by faith to the rock solid day of Christ.

Inward

Look back, look ahead, now look in. Paul tells us to glance inward and examine ourselves.

What does it mean to examine yourself? It means doing whatever we can to ensure we don’t eat or drink “in an unworthy manner” (1 Corinthians 11:27). To examine yourself is to come face-to-face with your unworthiness. So, pray for the Lord to awaken your senses, that you might “taste and see that the Lord is good” through this meal (Psalm 34:8). And ask him to use the bread and the wine to cause you to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6).

To look inward is not to get lost in the crowd of your own self. It’s an opportunity to see your sin, confess it, and rejoice that it’s been nailed to the cross.

Outward

The last direction to look is all around you. Take notice of the people participating in this community meal.

See how many people there are who look different than you. See the multiple ages, races, stories, ethnicities. There are people there with whom you share nothing in common visibly. But you have the same Father, you worship the same Christ, and you are bonded forever by the same Spirit.

The supper symbolizes the beauty of unity. So, next time you take the supper, keep your eyes open. Look around and treasure the moment. Whether you like it or not, this is your family — and one day, when we know fully, it will be impossible not to love every one of God’s family (1 Corinthians 13:4–612). You’ll be with them when this foretaste of a meal is swallowed up in the fullness of the marriage feast.

When we get to that great, final meal, your burdens will be lifted. It won’t be a task to get beyond yourself, and you will feast unhindered. And, even with the untold millions around you, you won’t be so crowded.