Monday, January 12, 2009
The Messianic Feast
I think it would be safe to say that many people, in their twenty-something’s, spend their Friday night looking to get drunk, or at least rely on alcohol as the source of ‘fun’. In my experience growing up, if there is no alcohol consumption taking place at a party it is considered boring and not worth ‘making an appearance’. Our culture is obsessed with alcoholism. But why? Most people probably simply enjoy the feelings they get from such experience. Not to mention if both sexes are together getting hammered something is ‘bound’ to happen. Simply put, our culture’s infatuation with drunkenness is pleasure seeking.
The church has responded in different ways to the sins of our culture. Some have supposed that since people in our day use alcohol in such immoral ways we ought to avoid it altogether. Others see alcohol as a gift from God; for them Christians are free to enjoy it as long as it doesn’t lead to abuse and drunkenness.
Whatever your personal view on this, the bible frequently uses wine to depict the joy, delight and abundance of God’s people in the messianic age. The prophet Jeremiah said, “They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord – the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more” (Jer. 31.12 emphasis added). God’s people were being punished for their sins against Yahweh. They were sent into exile but a day was promised when they would ‘rejoice in the bounty of the Lord’.
In the Gospel of John when Jesus first begins his ministry he attends a wedding feast. It is a popular story where the wine runs out, a social embarrassment in that day which could actually lead to lawsuits, and Jesus’ mother turns to Jesus because of his past resourcefulness. But Jesus responds to her with a rebuke. They have different agendas on their minds. Mary is thinking about the feast at hand but Jesus is focussed on a greater feast, the messianic feast that was promised to God’s people.
Throughout his entire ministry Jesus had the cross on his mind. Everything that he did must be seen in light of this. Jesus responds to his mother by saying, “my hour has not yet come.” His ‘hour’ was the time of his crucifixion when he would bear the wrath of his heavenly Father. Jesus would be nailed to a cross so that those whom he called to himself might have life, the life of the age to come (i.e. eternal life); we might say that the cross is the entrance-way into the messianic feast.
In a culture where satisfaction and delight are things that are earnestly sought after through drugs and alcohol Christ offers the world true everlasting joy and pleasure. The world knows it wants something but it looks in all the wrong places. Jesus says, “Come to me!” He is “the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus offers us the true wine, the true life. The alcoholism of our age is a tragedy but we can point people to the risen saviour who, by virtue of his death and resurrection, makes the messianic feast available to all who come to him in repentance and faith.