Already, Not Yet
“I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:29
Thursday is a watershed day. Three events. Three symbols. Three ways of looking back to the “already” and looking forward to the “not yet.”
First, the Last Supper. It’s hard to overstate how radical Jesus’ actions are here. He takes the key symbols of the Passover meal and redefines them. He looks back to the unleavened bread, which was there as a reminder of the time when the Israelites left Egypt in such a hurry that they didn’t have time for the bread to rise. He looks back to the blood that was sprinkled on the door frame of every Hebrew home, a sign for the angel of death to “Passover” and spare the life of every first born.
Jesus says that He is the fulfilment of the symbols. This is the “already” part.
Now wars—both physical and theological—are still fought over exactly what is happening during this meal. Does the bread and the cup represent or become the body of Jesus? How should we take communion? Who is qualified to administer the sacraments? And even in our own season, how do you or should you do communion when you can’t physically meet together as a church?
Symbols matter because they connect us to the past and point us to the future.
We get a small sense of this in our own day in our own country with our own symbols. Think about flag burning during the Vietnam War or Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the National Anthem. We look back and think about the sacrifices people have made for the values represented by these symbols, but we also look forward. And then we imagine a future—where these values are more fully realized—or taken away.
At the Last Supper, Jesus looks forward as well, to a time when he will return, when he will drink from the fruit of the vine when his Father’s Kingdom will be fully restored. This is the “not yet” part.
Next, the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is here in the garden, agonizing over the pain that he knows he must endure, not just the physical trial that is ahead, but the separation from his Father, who will turn his back on his Son. “My God, My God. Why have you forsaken me?” he will cry on the cross. To make matters worse, his own inner circle can’t find the energy to at least stay awake and pray for him.
We have another “look back” that’s going on here. Think back to the first garden, the garden of Eden. Adam would disobey and suffer death because of his sin. Jesus will obey and suffer death to pay the penalty for our sin. One day the Garden will be restored. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. Already. Not Yet.
Finally, Peter’s denial. We look back and remember that Jesus told Peter he would be the rock, the foundation upon which he would build the church. We can look ahead and see Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, heroically preach his first sermon and 3,000 will come to faith in Jesus. We can look ahead to the promise that Jesus will return for His church.
But not on this night. On this night, Peter will deny Jesus three times. He doesn’t even have the courage to say, “Yes, I know this man. I am one of his followers” to a servant girl.
On this night, Thursday, we see the humanity underneath the layers of the symbols. We see the mess of the in between. We see Peter succumbing to his fear and his unbelief, his own confusion, his own fatigue.
But Jesus is already there, too, to meet Peter and to meet us in the middle of our own mess while we wait for the Not Yet.
What are you waiting on Jesus to do in your life?
Father, thank you for the already, give me faith and patience for the not yet.
Read Matthew 26