One of my favorite weekend pastimes is celebrating the Sabbath with our Jewish family and friends. In the hours before I arrive, they will have been hard at work baking bread and preparing enough food to last for the next 24 hours. The table is beautifully set, and the aromas that waft from the kitchen make my stomach rumble. I sit down to enjoy the long, leisurely meal with a huge sigh of relief, knowing that a full day of rest lies ahead of me, one in which I don’t have to race around multi-tasking or accomplishing everything on my to-do lists. All of the preparations have been completed.
The host begins the meal by saying a blessing over the bread. There are always two loaves as a reminder that when the Israelites wandered in the wilderness with Moses, God provided twice as much manna on the eve of the Sabbath so the people could enjoy a day of rest. Our host breaks the bread into small pieces and passes them around to everyone at the table. Next he says the blessing over the wine, which is also passed around. The rituals of bread and wine remind me of communion and Christ’s command to “Do this in remembrance of me.” I can easily picture Jesus’ disciples remembering His words and His sacrifice every Sabbath as they repeated this tradition.
One of the Ten Commandments says to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” meaning it should be different and set apart from ordinary days. The Sabbath food is special and often costly. We dress in our nicest clothes. There is singing and laughter and joy as we take our time eating and enjoying our family and friends. Or to use an old-fashioned word, “communing” with them. I usually don’t want the Sabbath meal to end.
Last Sunday we celebrated Communion at our church. I arrived frazzled and overwhelmed after a terrible week. I felt wounded and defeated. Then our pastor repeated Christ’s words over the bread and wine, and invited the congregation to come to “Christ’s table.” This traditional invitation struck me in a brand new way. I heard Christ inviting me to His table—a Sabbath table. He had completed all the work. The bread and wine had been bought with a great price. Now He invited me to come and to enjoy a time of close fellowship with Him. I heard His words as an invitation to rest, and more importantly, to rest in Him. I could stop struggling and striving. I was His beloved. I didn’t have to do any work to earn His favor except to believe and accept His invitation.
My picture of the Sabbath table merged with the Communion table. I now think I understand Christ’s invitation in Matthew 11:28 a little better: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” It’s an invitation well worth accepting.