Every good party has an after-party, am I right? When we attend a wedding, we typically attend a second celebration—the reception—right after. Following a graduation ceremony, the party can really begin.
Even some holidays follow a similar pattern. After Thanksgiving, you ramp up for Christmas. And about a week later, you ring in the New Year. But it always occurred to me that Easter’s not really like this—at least, there really aren’t that many major holidays that follow Easter. You have to wait until the fourth of July. And that always seemed kinda lame, because we go from celebrating the resurrection of Jesus to sitting on mountains of stale marshmallow peeps. And something called “Easter grass,” which is just annoying.
There’s good news. If we flip the pages of our Bible to the very end, we find that there really is the greatest after-party of them all:
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”– for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:6-9)
It’s not clear when this party takes place exactly. But at some point, as a way of celebrating God making all things new again, Christ’s followers are gathered to celebrate the “marriage” of heaven and earth at a feast called the “marriage supper of the Lamb.”
So if we put our pieces together from the past week, we see that God’s kingdom had been described as a gracious feast (Isaiah 55:1), one where grace trumps our usual standards of self-righteous moralism (Luke 14). Now we see that we are promised a greater feast to come, where we are finally gathered to celebrate the fulfillment of God’s great story.
When we consider that we are granted a place at the table, what does this tell us about the character of the Host of the party?
Any party that honors the broken and the outcasts says more about the character of the host than the character of the guests.
You might be aware that J.R.R. Tolkien—the mind that brought us the famous Lord of the Rings series—was a follower of Jesus. In a letter to one of his sons, Tolkien beautifully reflected on how coming to the table of communion—and rubbing shoulders with the outcasts—is an unparalleled way of understanding the magnificent grace of God:
“The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion.… Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved…open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand – after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.”
If the marriage supper of the Lamb is the feast we anticipate, then communion is the feast we celebrate as sort of the “rehearsal dinner” before the main event. And at that table we’ll find people we don’t like, people who don’t like us, people who don’t resemble us in their speech, their thoughts, their actions. But at that table we’ll recognize that in Christ we are all one and the same—blessed beyond measure by the grace shown to each of us.
And take heart: the after-party’s on its way.