Listen to these opening words of our Old Testament lesson again from Isaiah 25.
“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.”
I don’t know about you, but I love a good feast. Contrary to my physical appearance, I love a good feast for more than just the eating portion of it. I love a good feast because of the preparation, all the work which goes into that feast.
There was a lean cuisine commercial a few years ago which essentially asked viewers “who wants to come home after a busy day at work and chop and dice in the kitchen when you can pop one of their nutritious meals in the microwave?” When I saw that commercial, I was like … um, me. You see, about my second year of college I had contemplated dropping out and going to culinary school. But before making such a rash decision, I decided to talk with our school’s chefs. What I found out disturbed me and kept me from going on to culinary school. You see, they loved to cook, so they said, but when they get done they went home and threw a lean cuisine like dinner in the microwave. Now something about this just seemed wrong to me.
Jessica will tell you, one of my favorite things to do is to get in the kitchen, get out the cutting boards, the sharp knives, a bunch of pots and pans, all kinds spices and other ingredients and start working on a new recipe or a big feast. Being in the kitchen and cooking up a large feast is therapeutic for me. Cooking is one of the ways in which I relieve stress. The satisfaction comes not only in the fact that I get to play with knives and the cooking of the feast, but it also in the partaking of the feast.
But you know, if you have ever cooked a large feast you do know, there is a lot of work which goes into making that large feast. You need to first develop a menu. You need make sure you have all the ingredients you need. You need to make sure you have all the cooking tools to make the meal. And you need to make sure you have the time and your timing down. Once you get everything together, then you need to prep everything. Once everything is prepped, then you can start putting together that mouthwatering masterpiece.
But before you do any of that stuff in the kitchen we need to take a step back because there is a lot of work which goes into the meal which takes place behind the scenes. And it is more than just going to the store and purchasing all the things you need. We are currently in the midst of the harvest season. In order to have the flour you need to make the rue for your sauce, you need a farmer to plant the wheat, harvest it, sell it, get it to the factory so that it can be milled, refined, bleached, and put into the bags which we buy at the store.
In order to make that rue for your sauce you also need butter, which means you need a farmer somewhere to milk cows, send it in to be turned into butter.
In order to make that succulent pork tenderloin or filet mignon, you need a farmer who bred and raised that animal, sold it at market, had it butchered somewhere and delivered to a meat market or store. In order to get the spices you need, you need someone to grow and pick them. I’m sure you get the point of where I’m going with this. There is a lot of prep work outside the kitchen which has to happen before the prep work can happen in the kitchen.
With all this prep to the prep work, there are more chances for something to go wrong along the way. This year has been a pretty good year overall for us but some years, in different places around our country, farmers have to deal with things like droughts, floods, wind, hail, bugs and other diseases which affect the crops. Then you have the issues which can arise on the animal side of farming as well.
And even if you get all the ingredients you need, all the prep work is done according to plan, there are so many points in the cooking process which can go wrong. As your cooking, you get distracted by the kids and burn something. You look at the recipe to see what is next and realize you skipped a crucial step and that dish is now ruined. Your meat is undercooked and is raw or the opposite, it is overcooked and looks like a piece of leather. Or your meat is dry or you are lacking in the seasoning department. Or, you over season and the food leaves a horrible taste in your mouth. So many things can go wrong which can leave a chef hanging his head. That wonderfully planned feast is now ruined and you end up calling in for take-out.
This train wreck of a wonderful feast going to pots is a good analogy for you and me to use in terms of our lives. You see in the beginning, God put all the ingredients of creation together and it was good, it was very good. Everything was going along just perfectly and then … then something was added which totally ruined it. Satan tempted Adam and Eve to be like God and they bit. They literally bit into Satan’s lie and then proceeded to bite into the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. With that single bite, the whole good recipe of life was spoiled. Sin entered into the world, man’s relationship with God has been clouded and tainted, the creation’s relationship with man has been burnt and spoiled.
God tried once to scrap the recipe and start over. God sent the flood to wipe everything off of the counter so he could start over. The recipe though was still not right. And maybe that was because the creation itself and man’s heart were still burnt with sin.
So in order for the LORD Almighty to have this feast of rich food upon this mountain mentioned in Isaiah 25, something different had to be done. An absolutely perfect, a spotless, a without blemish kind of sacrifice had to be made. So God took a lamb which met all the criteria for this feast and sacrificed it.
It is by the blood of this sacrificed lamb prepared by God by which you have been washed, you have been cleansed of all your sins. Jesus, the sacrificial lamb who sits upon the throne, he is not only the host of this great feast, but he is the one who freely offers himself as he gives his body and blood to you and me in the great meal of the Lord’s Supper.
Every time we gather around this table and partake of the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, we are getting a foretaste of that great feast which all the saints, angels, and archangels are partaking of in the presence of the Lamb, in the presence of Jesus. That feast Isaiah says is a feast prepared for all peoples. It is a feast of rich food, a banquet of aged wine – the best meats and the finest wines (25:6).
This great high feast in the presence of the Lamb, in the presence of Jesus is the feast of all feasts. When Christ returns in glory and the shroud which covers all people is destroyed, death will be swallowed up forever. When death is swallowed up forever … you and I … we will partake of the great feast God has prepared with all of our loved ones who have gone before us. When death is swallowed up forever … the Sovereign LORD will once again hold us close like he did with Adam and Eve and he will wipe away every tear from your eye. On that day, we 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” (Isaiah 25:9).
But we aren’t quite there yet are we? Instead of feasting on rich food, aged wine, the best meats and the finest wines … we get to feast on burnt toast and soured milk. Yummy I know. But as we feast on the far from perfect meals, you have the solid assurance that God is still feeding you, nurturing you, and strengthening you in your faith. He does it through the sweet taste of His Word and through the feast which you and I partake of here at this altar. Remember though … when you come to this altar and partake in Christ’s body and blood, you don’t do it alone. No, you are enjoying this feast which forgives you of your sins, gives you the promise of eternal life, and strengthens your faith with your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world as well as with the saints who have gone before us, the angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, now and forever. Amen.