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.


Anonymous said...

This is not a sign of the times as it has always been this way; unsatisfied people trying to use alcohol to find what they are missing. Even during prohibition there were speak-easy clubs for those who wanted alcohol. Now, if you were talking about crack or ecstasy that would indicate more recently developed activities of people who use substances in their search for satisfaction; of course, there’s nothing new under the sun as these have just replaced older drugs like opium.

So how do we respond? Love our neighbor and spread the Gospel to all who will hear.
God bless,

Mason said...

"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"

Nicly said Nick,
Though of course while we celebrate the proleptic “already” of the banquet we must also anticipate and celebrate the “not yet” of the banquet of the Second Advent and new creation.

Not often you see someone with both Wright and Piper so prominent in their profile. I’d be curious to hear how you see their current debate? Based on your appreciation for Bird I’d guess some sort of third way, but perhaps you tend towards one or the other.

Nicholas P. Mitchell said...

Hey Mason,

Thanks for your comment. Very encouraging! Yes I love both Piper and Wright. I benefit from both of them greatly, even when it comes to Paul. In terms of the debate between Wright and Piper I think if we are going to get a better reading of Paul himself we are going to have to 'pick and choose' from both of these men; both have good things to say and both are sometimes wrong. For ex. I disagree with Piper's skepticism of reading Paul in context. We are all reading Paul in some context we might as well try to get into the first century. But I disagree with Wright when he defines God's Righteousness solely as covenant faithfulness. However, I am begininng to think that the Righteousness of God is primarily saying something about God rather than a status we receive. I don't know about that one fully though. I'd love your thoughts. But what I do know is that God's righteousness does cause him to give us a new status as we are united to Jesus.

Mason said...

My thoughts... well as far as Wright and the whole NPP debate, there's far too much to even scratch the surface in a comment box, but personally I find myself increasingly lining up with Wright on these issues, and increasingly frustrated with what your post above calls the "New Reformers" (this despite the fact that I historically have/had a lot of Reformed leanings).
As far as the righteousness of God goes, I do think that Wright, Dunn and Hays make a great case for that being about God's covenant faithfulness, and taking such an approach seems to link the concept a lot better with the Scriptural narrative instead of limiting it to personal soteriology.

Nicholas P. Mitchell said...

Hey Mason,

I think you are correct in seeing God's righteousness as his covenant faithfulness. However, I don't think it is a sufficient definition. I think Piper does some good work in his response to Wright in seeing it as something 'bigger' than what Wright says. I think once we look to the OT and all the different ways the term is used (see Michael Bird and Doug Moo) then it is apparent that there is something about God's righteousness that causes him to be faithful to his covenant. I believe Piper asked the question in his book, "Was God Rigtheous before he established his covenant with Abraham?" It is God's committment to do what is right and to uphold his glory that gives him reason to establish a covenant in the first place. I am still learning.