Worship at the Lord’s Table with Sorrow and Joy

Josh Buice

When it comes to worship, there are no shortage of opinions on how it should be done. However, when it comes to worship, we must likewise remember that we have a sufficient guide in holy Scripture. Everything about how God desires to be worshipped can be found in the pages of the Bible.

Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper at the very moment of his Last Supper with his disciples. His time of celebration with them involved the observation of the Passover feast—a yearly meal designed to remember the deliverance of God’s people from Egypt. The Passover feast predates the tabernacle, the establishment of the law, and Israel’s priesthood (Ex. 12:15-17). As Jesus celebrated with his followers, he likewise pointed them to the culmination of the Passover in the Lord’s Supper since Jesus is the fulfillment of the promises and sacrificial system of Israel’s history. Jonathan Edwards wrote in his A History of the Work of Redemption, “Christ and his redemption are the subject of the whole Word of God.” [1]

Since Jesus instated the Lord’s Supper as a means of continual worship (see the language of 1 Corinthians 11:26), the way in which we engage in worship at the Lord’s Table matters. We should intentionally aim at theological precision and emotional balance. We should approach the Lord’s Table with tears of sorrow and smiles of joy. We must avoid superficial cliché worship and sacramentalism at the same time. With that in mind, there are two ways to engage in worship at the Lord’s Table that honor God.

A Heart of Sorrow

As Jesus ate and drank with his disciples, he said these words, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). We are to remember the body and blood of Jesus that was nailed to a Roman cross and we’re called to proclaim his death until Christ returns.

As Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, he said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24). To remember the death of Jesus requires a sober mind and one that leads to a heart of sorrow. Consider the Son of God betrayed by a friend, accused of blasphemy, beaten beyond recognition, publicly humiliated, nailed to a cross, and raised up in open shame. Consider the pain and discomfort he was experiencing at that moment. Consider the crushing weight of the sins of all of his people being laid upon him. This scene brings us to a place of sorrow.

Furthermore, our sorrow is not merely sentimental—it’s personal sorrow. It’s personal sorrow based on personal sin. The crushing blow of the God’s wrath was unleashed on Jesus for the sins of his people. As we remember this scene, we have to recall the fact that Jesus was paying for our sin debt—our personal sins—each and every one of them. This should bring us to a proper place of humility and sorrow.

A Heart of Joy

How can the scene of the dying Savior bring us to a place of joy and celebration? The emotion of sorrow seems much more fitting, so how do we arrive at joy as we stand in the shadow of the cross of Jesus? The answer is found in how Jesus’ sacrifice became the fulfillment of the long awaited promise of Genesis 3:15. Did Jesus satisfy the Father’s wrath? Did Jesus pay in full our sin debt? With absolute certainty he accomplished those realities, and in doing so he accomplished the plan of redemption in victory.

Consider the words of the apostle Paul as he describes the work of Jesus, stating he forgave us “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:14–15).

We can celebrate at the Lord’s Table as we consider the victory that has been secured by Jesus for each and every one of his people. Not one single sin will be held to our account. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Every single sin was nailed to the cross and Christ paid our debt in full. By doing so, Jesus disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame. His substitutionary death was the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, therefore, we can celebrate as we gather around the Lord’s Table to remember the body and blood of King Jesus. We don’t approach the Lord’s Table with a heart fueled by superficial clichés. We approach the Lord’s Table with a heart filled with sorrow and overflowing with joy.  J.C. Ryle, in his commentary on Matthew 26, writes the following:

Are we in the habit of coming to the Lord’s table? If so, in what frame of mind do we come? Do we draw near intelligently, humbly, and with faith? Do we understand what we are doing? Do we really feel our sinfulness and need of Christ? Do we really desire to live a Christian life, as well as profess the Christian faith? Happy is that soul who can give a satisfactory answer to these questions. Let him go forward, and persevere.

  1. Philip Graham Ryken and R. Kent Hughes, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 330.
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Author Worship at the Lord’s Table with Sorrow and Joy

Josh Buice

Pastor Pray's Mill Baptist Church

Josh Buice is the founder and president of G3 Ministries and serves as the pastor of Pray's Mill Baptist Church on the westside of Atlanta. He is married to Kari and they have four children, Karis, John Mark, Kalli, and Judson. Additionally, he serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching at Grace Bible Theological Seminary. He enjoys theology, preaching, church history, and has a firm commitment to the local church. He also enjoys many sports and the outdoors, including long distance running and high country hunting. He has been writing on Delivered by Grace since he was in seminary and it has expanded with a large readership through the years.