Sunday, March 31: Easter – God’s Victory Banquet

Written by Brian Johnson, Pastor, Haymarket Church, Haymarket, VA

Trees with light coming through. A Voice in the Wilderness

Isaiah 25:6-9

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
     a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
     the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
     the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
     he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
     from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
     from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
     we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
     let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

_______________

In the end, God’s going to throw a party.

Throughout Scripture, we see God’s ultimate victory imagined as a feast at which all people are welcome. Jesus consistently describes the Kingdom of God (God’s way of doing things, God’s way of being in the world, how the world looks when God’s love reigns – now and in the future) as a feast – a banquet to which all people are invited, and at which the poor, hungry, and outcast are given seats of honor.  The ministry of Jesus was, to a large extent, defined by his willingness to share his table with anyone and everyone – so much so that his opponents accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard. 

In the book of Revelation, this feast – God’s victory banquet – is described as “the marriage feast of the Lamb.”  When God puts all things right, and we are united in love (to Jesus and each other) for all eternity, it’s going to be a party.

Isaiah paints a similar picture. This is a promise of hope for people who are struggling, starving, overwhelmed by suffering and despair.  In the end, God shall set all things right. God will set a feast, and all people will be welcome, and evil shall be destroyed, and death will be defeated, and God will wipe every tear from every eye, and our mourning shall be turned to dancing.

What’s interesting about this passage – this word of hope, this promise of a banquet, this pronouncement of blessing – is that it comes in the middle of a long section in which the prophet pronounces God’s judgment.  The prophet Isaiah is denouncing the evil he sees around him, decrying all that is wrong with the world.  And then, in the middle of denouncing evil, he proclaims this word of hope: all people shall come to God’s banquet, death itself will be defeated, and God will wipe every tear from every eye.

What this tells us – at least in part – is that God’s victory includes the destruction of all that is evil.  The triumph of God’s justice means the defeat of injustice.  The victory of love means overthrowing the power of hate.  For hope to reign, those who spread hopelessness must be stopped.

In other words, the glorious banquet that God has promised does not come easily.  In the end, love will reign, and God will win (in fact, God has already won!).  But, also, evil must be destroyed and death must be defeated (in fact, death has already lost!).  God promises universal salvation AND universal judgment of evil.  And because evil has its fingers in everything, that judgment is going to hurt a little.  Parts of us that are broken will have to be healed.  Things that are not as they should be will have to be set right.  All that is wrong – within us, among us, around us – must be wiped away.  And it will be wiped away – we can trust that God will win because we have already seen God’s victory, on the cross and in the empty tomb.  We do not get to Easter without Good Friday, and we do not get to the resurrection without the crucifixion.  God says no to all that is wrong so that God can establish – and invite us into – the Kingdom of God’s righteousness.

In the face of a world that is sometimes overwhelmingly beautiful and, at other times, overwhelmingly broken – and often a mixture of the two – the Good News is that God has promised to fix it – to overcome evil, drive out sin, destroy death – and bring us home to a victory feast that is greater than we could ever imagine.  It might hurt a little, we will certainly have to let go of many things (our sin, our selfishness, our desire for power, our participation in all that is opposed to what God wants for the world).  But God has already won the victory, God shall make all things right, and all of us – every last one of us – will have a place at the victory party.

And not only is this a promise, but it’s also something that we have experienced.  It is something we celebrate and anticipate every time we celebrate communion.  When we worship Jesus, we get a glimpse – even if just for a moment – of God’s party. There is a feast coming – a party at which all are welcome, and God’s glory is offered to everyone – and we have seen it, we have tasted it.  Jesus sets a table for us, he invites us to a feast, at which the bread is his body, the wine is his blood, death is defeated, and God’s Love reigns.

God’s victory feast is coming.  God’s victory has already been won.  Sin and despair and pain and suffering and death are on the run.  Jesus is our host.  Jesus is the feast.  Jesus invites everybody to his party.  No one is excluded.  And the feast is even better than we can imagine.

“The crucified and risen savior sets the table, and the rich meat and fine wine [envisioned by Isaiah] are [Christ’s] own body and blood.” – Alan Padgett

A Voice in the Wilderness: Lent 2024

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