Luke 11:2-3 (ESV)
And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.”
The last sentence in the above reference might have a more significant request of God than just merely asking Him to provide the means to avoid hunger. It is possibly more about asking God to provide the means needed for His people to properly remind Him to speed Christ’s return. Author, Steve Atkerson offers such insight when talking about the “Lord’s Supper” in the second chapter of his book House Church. In it, Atkerson also brings this theme out by connecting Peter’s encouragement to believers in “hastening the coming day of God” (2 Peter 3:11-12) with how Jesus had taught the disciples how to pray.
Partaking of the bread and cup as an integral part of the meal originally served several important functions. One of these was to remind Jesus of His promise to return. Reminding God of His covenant promises is a thoroughly scriptural concept. In the covenant God made with Noah, He promised never to destroy the earth by flood again, signified by the rainbow. That sign is certainly designed to remind us of God’s promise, but God also declared, “whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (Ge 9:16, italics mine).
Later in redemptive history, as part of His covenant with Abraham, God promised to bring the Israelites out of their coming Egyptian bondage. Accordingly, at the appointed time, “God heard their groaning and He remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them” (Ex 2:24-25, italics mine).
During the Babylonian captivity, Ezekiel records that God promised Jerusalem, “I will remember the covenant I made with you” (Eze 16:60, italics mine).
The Lord’s Supper is the sign of the new covenant. As Jesus took the cup He said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:28). As with any covenant sign, it is to serve as a reminder of the promises of the covenant. Thus Jesus said that we are to partake of the bread “in remembrance of Me” (Lk 22:19). The Greek word translated “remembrance,” anamnesis, means “reminder.” Literally translated, Jesus said, “do this unto my reminder.”
The question before us is whether that reminder is to be primarily for Jesus’ benefit or ours. German theologian Joachim Jeremias understood Jesus to use anamnesis in the sense of a reminder for God, “The Lord’s Supper would thus be an enacted prayer.” In The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, it is argued that the Greek underlying the word “until” (1Co 11:26, achri hou) is not simply a temporal reference, but functions as a kind of final clause. That is, the meal’s function is as a constant reminder to God to bring about the Parousia.
The words “of me” in Luke 22:19 are translated from the single Greek word, emou, which grammatically denotes possession (suggesting that the reminder actually belongs to Jesus). More than a mere personal pronoun, it is a possessive pronoun. Thus, the church is to partake of the bread of the Lord’s Supper specifically to remind Jesus of His promise to return and eat the Supper again with us, in person (Lk 22:16, 18). Understood in this light, it is designed to be like a prayer asking Jesus to return (“Thy kingdom come,” Lk 11:2). Just as the rainbow reminds God of His covenant with Noah, just like the groaning reminded God of His covenant with Abraham, so too partaking of the bread of the Lord’s Supper was designed to remind Jesus of His promise to return.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11:26, confirms this idea by stating that the church, in eating the Lord’s Supper, does actually “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” To whom do we proclaim His death, and why? Arguably, it is proclaimed it to the Lord Himself, as a reminder for Him to return. It is significant that the Greek behind “until” is achri hou. As it is used here, it grammatically can denote a goal or an objective. According to the English usage, I may say that I use an umbrella “until” it stops raining, merely denoting a time frame. (Using the umbrella has nothing to do with making it stop raining). However, this is not how the Greek behind “until’ is used in 1 Corinthians 11:26. Instead, Paul was instructing the church to partake of the bread and cup as a means of proclaiming the Lord’s death (as a reminder) with the goal of (“until”) persuading Him to come back! Thus, in proclaiming His death through the loaf and cup, the Supper looked forward to and anticipated His return.
This concept of seeking to persuade the Lord to return is not unlike the plea of the martyrs of Revelation 6 who called out, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Re 6:10). And what did Peter have in mind when he wrote that his readers should look forward to the day of God and “speed its coming” (2Pe 3:12)? If it was futile to seek to persuade Jesus to return, then why did He instruct us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done?” (Mt 6:10). It is interesting that the earliest believers (in Didache x. 6) used maran atha (“Our Lord, come”) as a prayer in connection with the Lord’s Supper, “a context at once eucharistic and eschatological.”17 With regard to the use of the word maranatha in 1 Corinthians 16:22, Dr. R.P. Martin writes, “Maranatha in 1 Cor. 16:22 may very well be placed in a eucharistic setting so that the conclusion of the letter ends with the invocation ‘Our Lord, come!’ and prepares the scene for the celebration of the meal after the letter has been read to the congregation.”
Earlier in the chapter, Atkerson had provided some deeper insight regarding the prayer modeled by Jesus in Luke 11:2-3. Here’s what he wrote…
The very first Lord’s Supper is also called the Last Supper, because it was the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples before His crucifixion. The occasion for the meal was the Passover. At this Passover Feast, Jesus and His disciples reclined at a table that would have been heaped with food (Ex 12, De 16). Jewish tradition tells us that this meal typically lasted for hours. During the course of the meal (“while they were eating,” Mt 26:26), Jesus took a loaf of bread and compared it to his body. He had already taken up a cup and had them all drink from it. Later, “after the supper” (Lk 22:20), Jesus took the cup again and compared it to his blood, which was soon to be poured out for our sins. Thus, the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper were introduced in the context of a full meal, specifically, the Passover feast.
Would the Twelve have somehow concluded that the newly instituted Lord’s Supper was not to be a true meal? Or would they naturally have assumed it to be a feast similar to the Passover?
According to one Greek scholar, “The Passover celebrated two events, the deliverance from Egypt and the anticipated coming Messianic deliverance.” Soon after that Last Supper, Jesus became the ultimate sacrificial Passover Lamb, suffering on the cross to deliver His people from their sins. Jesus keenly desired to eat that last Passover with His disciples, saying that He would “not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God” (Lk 22:16). Note that Jesus looked forward to a time when He could eat the Passover again in the kingdom of God. Many believe that the “fulfillment” (Lk 22:16) of this was later written about by John in Revelation 19:7-9. There, John recorded an angel declaring, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” Thus, the Last Supper and all Lord’s Suppers look forward to a fulfillment in the wedding supper of the Lamb. What better way to typify a banquet than with a banquet? Celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly as a full fellowship meal is like rehearsal dinner before a wedding. No less an authority than the Encyclopaedia Britannica declared that “early Christianity regarded this institution as a mandate… learning to know, even in this present life, the joys of the heavenly banquet that was to come in the kingdom of God… the past, the present, and the future came together in the Eucharist.”
His future wedding banquet was much on our Lord’s mind that particular Passover evening. Jesus first mentioned it at the beginning of the Passover feast (“I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God,” Lk 22:16). He mentioned it again when passing the cup, saying, “I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk 22:18). Then, after the supper, He referred to the banquet yet again, saying, “I confer on you a kingdom… so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom ” (Lk 22:29-30). R.P. Martin, Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, wrote that there are “eschatological overtones” to the Lord’s Supper “with a forward look to the advent in glory.”
Whereas modern Gentiles associate heaven with clouds and harps, first century Jews thought of heaven as a time of feasting at Messiah’s table. This idea of eating and drinking at the Messiah’s table was common imagery in Jewish thought during the first century. For instance, a Jewish leader once said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God” (Lk 14:15). Jesus Himself said that “many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 8:11). This picture of heaven as dining in God’s presence may have developed from the Sinai experience. The elders of Israel went with Moses up to the top of the mountain where “they saw God, and they ate and drank” (Ex 24:11). Significantly, Moses noted that “God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites.”
This eating that is associated with the coming of Christ’s kingdom may also be reflected in the model prayer suggested by Jesus in Luke 11. In reference to the kingdom, Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come” (11:2, KJV). The very next request is “Give us each day our daily bread” (11:3, NIV). However, the Greek underlying Luke 11:3 is difficult to translate. Literally, it reads something akin to, “the bread of us belonging to the coming day give us today.” Thus the NASV marginal note reads, “bread for the coming day.” Linking together both 11:2 and 11:3, Jesus may well have been teaching us to ask that the bread of the coming Messianic banquet be given to us today. That is, “Let your kingdom come — Let the feast begin today!” Athanasius explained it as “the bread of the world to come.”
Back to Prayer
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.”
In light of these connections, may we continually pray to God to provide for us the means needed to partake of the Lord’s Supper, in order to remind Him to hasten the day of His Son’s great and future return…
Revelation 22:20b (ESV)
…Come, Lord Jesus!
Godspeed, to the brethren!
Atkerson, Steve. House Churches. Atlanta: New Testament Reformation Fellowship, 2008. Sections from chapter 2. Print.
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