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Last Supper, Lord’s Supper, or Marriage Supper: What Do the Miraculous Feedings Foreshadow?

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In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus miraculously provided food for a crowd of 5,000 (Matt. 14:13-21) and 4,000 (15:32-39). Scholars recognize that these feedings allude to Old Testament stories involving Moses, Israel, Elijah, and Elisha. But in addition to pointing backward, do the stories point forward? And if these feedings are forward-pointing, what is being foreshadowed?

Perhaps the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples, or perhaps the Lord’s Supper which believers practice, or perhaps the eschatological Marriage Supper. Let’s take these options in reverse.

  1. Least controversial is that the miraculous feedings foreshadow the Marriage Supper. Matthew has already reported Jesus’ words about an end-time banquet: “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8:11). And near the end of the Gospel, Jesus refers to “that day” when he will drink “this fruit of the vine” with his disciples “in my Father’s kingdom” (26:29), another reference to the eschatological meal. In Grant Osborne’s commentary on Matthew, he represents the view of many scholars when he writes, “This was truly a messianic miracle pointing forward to the messianic banquet, an eschatological meal often emphasized by Jesus (Matt. 8:11; Luke 14:15; 22:30) and also a common theme in Judaism.”
  2. But what about the Lord’s Supper? Could the miraculous provision of loaves find meaning in the frequent practice of believers sharing bread and wine together? Leon Morris is hesitant to see in the language any application to communion. Ben Witherington says “it is doubtful that the First Evangelist had any major intent to portray this as a Eucharistic meal.” Craig Blomberg says a eucharistic reading would be anachronistic, though some foreshadowing might be possible. R. T. France is more open to the view, though, writing, “The feeding of the crowd is . . . a ‘foretaste’ of the central act of worship of the emergent Christian community, even though the menu was not quite the same.” Furthermore, consider that the order of taking, giving thanks, breaking, and eating (Matt. 15:36-37) is the pattern of the Lord’s Supper in Acts 27:35 (“And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat”).
  3. The miraculous meals may point to the Last Supper which Jesus shared with his disciples. Grant Osborne rightly notes that the sequence of verbs in Matt. 14:19 (taking, blessing, breaking, giving) is found elsewhere in the Gospel only at the Last Supper in 26:26 (“Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples”). David Turner says it is “at least plausible” that the miraculous feeding foreshadowed the Last Supper. The second miraculous meal tells us that Jesus gave thanks, and this notion was during the actions of taking and giving (15:36). At the Last Supper, Jesus took the cup and gave thanks and gave it to his disciples (26:27).

Before we evaluate these options, let’s avoid the mistake of assuming only one view can be held. Why couldn’t two views be true simultaneously? Or even all three? The eschatological feast is surely the end point of what the miraculous meals foreshadow. But the Lord’s Supper is itself an anticipation of that final feast. In the bread and wine, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26), a coming which leads to table fellowship with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 8:11). And isn’t the Lord’s Supper the ordinance which Jesus established at the Last Supper? And wasn’t it at the Last Supper when Jesus also spoke of the eschatological feast in the Father’s kingdom? (26:29).

The original audience of the miraculous feedings may not have realized the significance of the meals. But the point isn’t whether the original eaters or listeners would have sensed a deeper resonance of truth. The point is for the original readers of Matthew’s Gospel, readers which had an inspired collection and organization of stories and narration and teachings. The readers of Matthew’s Gospel were decades after the events of Jesus’ earthly ministry and thus decades after the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper at the Last Supper (see 1 Cor. 11:24-25; Luke 22:19). When these readers and hearers of Matthew’s Gospel learned about Jesus taking, blessing, breaking, and giving bread, discerning elements (pun intended!) of the Last Supper, Lord’s Supper, and Marriage Supper is not only plausible but reasonable and, I think, even probable.

So, yes, I’m saying the miraculous feedings foreshadowed the meal Jesus shared in the upper room, the meal the church shared (and shares) together, and the meal on the last day when we recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

We need not be bound to only one view of what the feedings point to. If you look at a map and locate Nashville, Tennessee, you will notice that I-40 leaves Nashville to the west, and it will take you to Oklahoma City. And if you said, “I’m going to travel on I-40 from Nashville to Oklahoma City,” it would also be correct for someone to say, “You know, along the way, you’ll go through Memphis and even Little Rock.” This is true because I-40 takes you from Nashville to Oklahoma City but through other cities along the way. The trajectory of travel is advanced, not hindered, by these other places prior to your final destination.

The map illustration is a way of saying that the miraculous meals point to the Marriage Supper, but this trajectory does not exclude a foreshadowing of the Last Supper and Lord’s Supper–which themselves continue pointing to the final feast at the table with the patriarchs.

Ten Years With My Wife

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I have been married ten years to Stacie. On Saturday July 30, 2005, we made vows, she took my last name, and we began our journey in life together as a couple in covenant. What a joyful journey this has been! It’s been ten years of

1. Knowing – There is nothing like truly knowing another person and being known by them. In marriage I have had the unfolding experience of getting to know my wife, and she me. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We’ve seen each other at our best and worst. She knows me better than anyone else and (praise God!) loves me anyway.

2. Talking – For ten years we have been talking as husband and wife. And we talk about everything. When I’m away, I look forward to coming home and seeing my favorite conversation partner. We are genuinely interested in each other. And even ten years later there are still things I learn about her!

3. Bearing – One great benefit in marriage is the shouldering of burdens together. Weep with the weeping, rejoice with the rejoicing. As a married couple, you don’t know what the future holds, what the challenges will be, what trials and seasons are down the road. But whatever load is down the road, we will bear it together.

4. Laughing – I love my wife’s laugh, and I love to make her laugh–not just a chuckle or brief guffaw but the kind that makes the gut hurt, when you think you can’t catch your breath because the laughter won’t let up. Laughing together is beautiful music in marriage. She’s so quick-witted and funny.

5. Dreaming – For ten years we have been dreaming. We dream of places we want to see, things we want to do, and what life may be like when we’re old. Practically every new milestone in this last decade was preceded by a late-night conversation or over early-morning coffee.

6. Studying – During most of our ten years together, one or both of us have been in school. So many classes taken, books read, papers written. While that season has finally ended, the studying continues, though no longer for course credit. We share a love for learning, as well as a love of sharing what we’re learning!

7. Traveling – There is no one else I’d rather be in a car or on a plane with than Stacie. She makes traveling fun, and over ten years we have had such wonderful travels together. Not all travels have been vacation though. We were married in Texas and lived five years there (2005-2010), but then moved to Louisville, Kentucky for our next five years (2010-2015).

8. Hosting – We love people and having them in our home. I’ve continually appreciated Stacie’s heart of hospitality and open-armed posture toward friends and family. Over our decade together, we have enjoyed the company of family and friends who have stayed days, weeks, or months at a time.

9. Parenting – For six-and-a-half of our ten years, we have been a father and mother. We are married with children–three boys ages 6, 4, and 2. Life is loud and energetic, and we’re tired all the time. Stacie is an incredibly devoted mother. Our boys adore her and are so blessed to have her.

10. Worshiping – I praise God that my wife is a disciple of Jesus Christ. I enjoy being with her at church every week with our family. In addition to being a church member, she is also the pastor’s wife. After the time of singing each week, I leave our pew, walk up the stage steps, and stand behind a pulpit to preach. I love being her husband and also her pastor.

God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle

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I’ve heard it for years: “God will never give you more than you can handle.” But does that conventional wisdom stand up to biblical and theological scrutiny? Over at The Gospel Coalition, I’ve written against this popular saying and argue that God does and will give you more than you can handle. An excerpt:

You might not consider overwhelming sufferings to be “light” and “momentary,” but think of your trials in terms of a trillion years from now. In the middle of affliction, sometimes the most difficult thing to hold onto is an eternal vision. Paul isn’t trying to minimize your affliction; he’s trying to maximize your perspective.

Suffering doesn’t get the last line in the script. In this life, God will give you more than you can handle, but the coming weight of glory will be greater than you can imagine.

“Endurance for the Pastor’s Heart”

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Over on Dan Dumas’ blog, I’ve written on “Endurance for the Pastor’s Heart.”

An excerpt:

The pastor will have to wage war against his acts of flesh, just as he exhorts his hearers to walk in the Spirit and in the light. He must endure this battle, in season and out of season. He must not justify his sinful failings but repent of them. The pastor should lead the way in obedience, setting an example for the flock (1 Pet. 5:3). He should hold to the gospel more firmly, take holiness more seriously, love God’s word more deeply, and intercede in prayer more fervently—all for the glory of God and the good of his family and church.

This post was the last installment of a three-part series. Parts 1 and 2 can be found here:

“Rest for the Pastor’s Heart”

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Over at Dan Dumas’ blog, I’ve written on “Rest for the Pastor’s Heart.”

An excerpt:

Wherever ministers are, there they should be faithful. The growth, the success, comes according to God’s perfect providence and wisdom. The pastor’s goal must be faithfulness, to shepherd the souls in our care as we exhort our flock with God’s Word. Some ministers plant while others water, but only God grants the growth that matters—and the One who gives the growth deserves the glory. God’s glory and the pastor’s rest are not at odds. 

Previously on Dan’s blog, I discussed “Prayer for the Pastor’s Heart.”

“Prayer and the Pastor’s Heart”

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Today on Dan Dumas’ blog, I had the privilege of contributing a post on “Prayer for the Pastor’s Heart.”

The beginning:

Listening to sermons each Lord’s Day, while important and necessary, comes with a danger that must be faced and overcome by God’s grace. We already know that pews fill up with some people who may not respond to the sermon in a way that honors God, people who may be hearers only, and not doers, of the preached word (see James 1:22-24). But the pastor must keep in mind his own temptation during the sermon time. Because he is a herald of God’s word, he is also a hearer of it, yet he may leave the service a hearer only. Pastors face the weekly danger of not sitting under their own sermons.

“Biblical Theology and Discipleship”

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Today I’m over at the Boyce College blog discussing “Biblical Theology and Discipleship.

An excerpt:

The Bible calls you to a different kind of seeing. The biblical authors, across sixty-six books, give you a set of lenses through which to view the world. The Bible’s worldview allows us to see why we’re here, what went wrong in the world, what God has done to rescue us, and what will happen when Jesus returns. We need biblical theology because we need to live faithfully before God, walking in a manner worthy of the gospel and understanding that our struggle is not against flesh and blood. To be a disciple on this narrow road, we need to see the world and our lives as the Bible does.