Posts Tagged ‘messianic banquet’

The literary structure of Luke 14:15-24

Our Scripture today is sometimes called the parable of the great banquet. It’s part of a larger set of material in Luke 14 where Jesus is at a banquet or fancy meal in a Pharisee’s home.

And there is some tension. Have you ever been at a meal where there was tension? Jesus has just healed someone on the Sabbath right in front of them, which we know would make them unhappy. Then he went on to criticize how they all wanted the best seats at the banquet. And then we come to our passage, where the tension increases even more.

The parable of the great banquet

Eating bread in the kingdom.

15When one of those who reclined at table with Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”


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Last week we looked at what the Lord’s supper means. Here’s a bit of review as we get started today.

  • The bread is a figurative way of speaking of Jesus’ broken body on the cross. It also points back to the Passover deliverance from slavery. The bread, then, teaches and reminds us that Jesus’ death delivers us from slavery to Sin, Satan and Death.
  • The cup is a figurative way of speaking of Jesus’ blood poured out on the cross. It also points back to the covenant ceremony at Sinai when Israel entered into a new relationship with God, when God forgave their sins and they committed to obey God. The cup, then, teaches and reminds us that Jesus’ death brings us into a new relationship with God. God forgives our sins and we commit to obey God.

So this is the symbolism of the meal.

But the Lord’s supper invites our participation. Think about it, Jesus didn’t say to the disciples look here are tokens of my death on the cross. Put this on a table in front and look at it.

  • Jesus said of the bread, “Take, eat.”
  • And he said of the cup, “Take, drink of it all of you.”

But what are we doing when we accept Jesus’ invitation and participate in the meal? Let’s look briefly at this, this morning, to help prepare us to share in communion together.

1. We remember Jesus

In speaking of his meal, Jesus said twice, “Do this in remembrance of me” – 1 Corinthians 11:24/25. This remembering command is similar to the one from the Passover meal. Exodus 12:14 says, “This day (Passover) shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord.” Just as Israel was told to remember their salvation, so Jesus tells us to remember him – his death for us and the salvation we have through him.

Now, this is not a funeral like remembrance, you know, Jesus is gone and we miss him, and it’s grim and somber. No, Jesus is alive having been raised from the dead and is present with us as we celebrate! He is the true host of his meal.

So, this is a joyful remembrance as we think of his sacrificial love for us, our salvation through him and as we enjoy his presence with us.

2. We renew our baptismal testimony and commitments

In taking the bread we are reaffirming the testimony we made when we were baptized, we have been delivered from our sin, Satan and death, through the death of Jesus on the cross. And as well, in taking the cup we are reaffirming the testimony we gave when we were baptized, we have entered into a new relationship with God.

Also, we are reaffirming the commitments we made to God in baptism. In taking the bread, we are recommitting to leave behind sin and the world; that is we are re-expressing our repentance. And in taking the cup, we are recommitting to “obey everything” that Jesus has commanded us – Matthew 28:20; that is we are re-expressing our commitment to live a new life in Christ.

You see here that the Lord’s supper assumes that you have been baptized (which is why the church has always held that baptism was necessary to receive the bread and cup.) But also take note of this: baptism happens only once, but every time we continue to partake of the Lord’s supper, we renew our original baptismal testimony and commitment. It’s like our baptism once again.

3. We proclaim Jesus’ death

1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

As we go through the meal, and the meaning is made clear, it is a presentation of the gospel. We communicate that:

  • Jesus has died for us
  • He didn’t have to die, but freely gave himself in love for us
  • His death brings us salvation – deliverance and new relationship with God
  • If we want this salvation, we have to respond by receiving his body and blood, the benefits of his death on the cross
  • He is still alive, having been raised from the dead and is with us
  • He will return one day with blessing for those who wait for him

As we partake, we proclaim the gospel of Jesus.

4. We publicly show our covenant connection to Jesus

1 Corinthians 10:16 says, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a partnering with the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a partnering with the body of Christ?”

In the ancient world, to eat with someone was a big deal. And to eat with a god in an idol sacrifice was a big deal. It spoke to a bond with the person or the god. This is the context of our verse in 1 Corinthians 10:16.

What I have translated “partnering with” is a difficult word to translate here. The word is Koinonia. It means sharing in, or fellowshipping with. It’s where we get the word “communion.” Here it has the sense of showing your connection or covenant bond with someone.

Paul is saying, instead of publicly identifying with and connecting with demons through idol meals, we are to show forth our public connection or covenant bond with Jesus through the Lord’s Supper. When we partake, we declare for all to see that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. It is a declaration of allegiance.

5. We publicly show our covenant connection to each other

1 Corinthians 10:17 says, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.”

Because we are all connected to Jesus, through him we are all connected to each other! And partaking of the bread symbolizes this, that we are one body of Christ.

This is why it is important to make sure our relationships with each other are in good order. Not that there can’t be disagreements or conflict, but that we are doing everything we can, from our end, to live in peace with everyone. Paul talks about this in Romans 12:18 – “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

And Jesus gives us this general principle of worship in Matthew 5:23-24 – “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”

6. We offer up a sacrifice of praise to God

One word that is used to speak of the Lord’s Supper is “Eucharist” which means thanksgiving. The Lord’s Supper was often called this in the early church. And that’s because there is thanksgiving to God involved in the Lord’s Supper.

When Jesus took the bread and the cup, he gave thanks for them – Luke 22:19. This thanksgiving is rooted in a simple table blessing of food, but it is more – because Jesus says this bread and cup are not simply food. They represent his death for us. So Jesus teaches us here to give thanks for what this food and drink represent. We give thanks for his death on the cross for us.

Also, just after the Lord’s supper we are told – “when they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” – Matthew 26:30. During Passover it was traditional to sing from Psalms 113-118. These are praises, or hymns to God for, among other things, deliverance from Egypt, God’s steadfast love, and in Psalm 118:26 the Messiah. So after the meal they were praising God for salvation.

Scripture talks in several places about our praises as a sacrifice that we offer up to God. For instance Psalm 50:14 says, “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” As we partake and give thanks, we offer up to God a sacrifice of praise. (See Hebrews 13:15, which I take as a Lord’s supper reference.)

7. We look forward to the Messianic banquet

This refers to a time of feasting and celebration at the end of the age when God’s victory is established through Jesus and the kingdom of God has come in its fullness. Here are a couple of Scriptures that talk about this:

Isaiah 25:6-8 says, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”

Revelation 19:9 talks about this meal as “the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Jesus makes the connection between the Lord’s supper and the Messianic banquet in Matthew 26:29. He said, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” So every time we partake, we anticipate the day when we will feast with Jesus in the kingdom of God.

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We are back in the Gospel of John this morning. As we saw two weeks ago, Jesus has just gathered together his first disciples and has made them a big promise. He said to Nathanael that they would see greater things than just knowing what was in a person’s heart – how Jesus had seen into Nathanael’s heart. They would see “heaven opened.” Jesus promises them that through him God will be revealed to them.

And our story today is a down payment on this promise, the first of his miraculous signs, turning water into wine. And this took place in Cana of Galilee, which, by the way, is Nathanael’s hometown (21:2).

Alright, let’s look at –

The story

2:1On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. The phrase “on the third day” means two days after the last recorded event, which was Jesus’ promise to the disciples.

Weddings were above all else joyful  celebrations, lasting for a week. And there was much feasting. It was a big party.  Jesus comes after it has started, perhaps in the middle or near to the end of the week.

He was most likely invited because of social connections. As we saw Cana was not too far from Nazareth (8.5 miles). And his mother is at the wedding, and as we will see in a minute she seems to be helping out, because she can tell the servants what to do. But also it would not be unusual to invite a prominent teacher to a wedding. (News of John the Baptist’s praise of Jesus would have traveled far.)

3When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” We can speculate on why the wine ran out. The family doesn’t seem to be poor – there are servants present. The story simply doesn’t tell us. (“the mother of Jesus” – Mary is never named in this Gospel.)

But for sure, this would have shamed the groom, who was to provide adequate supplies for the guests (vs. 9-10). So there is a social etiquette disaster brewing here. Something that would be talked about for years (Keener).

4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus takes his mother’s statement, “they have no wine” as a request for him to do something about the situation.

Now, why Jesus addresses his mother as “woman” is not clear. It is highly unusual. (In fact, there is no parallel yet found of a son addressing his mother in this way in ancient literature.) The only other place where he addresses his mother, and in this way is when he is on the cross giving her into the care of the Beloved disciple (19:25-27). So it isn’t a rude way of speaking. He is taking care of her here.

Perhaps how he addresses his mother and the ensuing back and forth between Jesus and his mother all have to do with Jesus reframing his relationships as he gets ready to launch his ministry. He is the agent of the heavenly Father and must do just what the Father tells him (5:19). He is not simply Mary’s dutiful son. (For synoptic interactions between Jesus and Mary see – Luke 2:48-51; Matthew 12:46-50; Luke 11:27-28. These are all distancing, and downplay natural relationships for spiritual ones.)

Jesus’ actual response to Mary is a mild rebuke. The question “what does this have to do with me?” is literally “what to me and to you.” It means, “why is this our problem?” It was the bridegroom’s responsibility (vs. 9-10). So there is some tension here.

She knew from when Jesus was born (not recorded in this Gospel) and from what John the Baptist was saying about Jesus, that he was to do great things for God. And perhaps she thought, “This is the time to launch your ministry son.” Perhaps she even expected miracles to be a part of this, it’s not clear.

In any case, she is prompting him to act. And she lets him know before those in charge of the wedding find out. (If this scenario is right this would be similar to how Jesus’ brothers counsel him to promote himself in chapter 7. Jesus responds negatively there as well, although we are explicitly told in their case that they do not believe in him.)

The problem with her suggestion, according to Jesus, is that his “hour has not yet come.” Jesus’ hour has to do with his death/resurrection. He doesn’t want to be forced into something on her terms or because of a social crisis. It is not the time to publicly begin his ministry with signs, which will eventually lead to his death and resurrection. The how and when of this is up to his heavenly Father.

So Jesus is saying to his mother, “This doesn’t concern me, it’s not my time.” But she puts it on him anyway, and that  in front of the servants. 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Although she would not have understood Jesus’ ministry leading to a cross (which is why she is confused and thinks Jesus is crazy later – Mark 3:21, 31), she does seem to demonstrate some faith in him here. She knew that he could take care of this problem. (We can all put ourselves in the place of the servants here and here Mary’s admonition, “do whatever Jesus tells you.” Dale Bruner).

As the rest of the story shows, Jesus responds, but does so on his own terms. He meets the need, and honors his mother’s request, but behind the scenes so as not to gain attention; so that it is not the public inauguration of his ministry. (A. Kostenberger)

6Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine . . .

The “six stone water jars” held water for ritual purifications, for use in keeping their utensils, hands, and their whole bodies ritually pure (see Mark 7:2-4). They are stone jars because stone was not susceptible to contracting ritual impurity, so the water could be used to clean other items. (This was not up to strict Pharisaic requirements, which required flowing water, but most Jews didn’t follow these stricter regulations.) (There is no necessity to see a negative message here on the water that is used for ritual purity. After the water was made wine, there was still water available for purification, from the same place they got the water to fill up the stone jars.)

The miracle isn’t really narrated. It happens in vs. 7-8 between filling up the jars and drawing out some of their contents.

Now, Jesus made real wine, that is, it is fermented. In fact, whenever the word “wine” is used in the Bible it refers to a fermented drink, or one that is in the early stages of fermentation (new wine). That this is true in this case will come out in v. 10. Although it should be noted that the wine was customarily served watered down at two to four parts water to one part wine.

The title, “master of the feast” was an honorary position. It was the person in charge of the feast and the wine.

9When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

So, the servants knew what was going on, but the maser of the feast didn’t. (And so he certifies here that a miracle has in fact happened.)  He called the bridegroom because he was the one responsible for the wine. The point of his comment is that usually you serve the good wine first and then when it has had some effect on people from the alcohol – then you bring out the bad wine because they won’t notice it. But they have done the opposite. (The word for “drunk freely” is the regular word for being drunk. But given Jewish aversion to drunkenness perhaps he means some smaller measure of the effect of the alcohol on their taste.)

John likes to focus on really difficult miracles; the cream of the crop of miracles. This is true here in two ways:

  • First, in terms of amount, Jesus made somewhere between 120-180 gallons of wine. In v. 7 he said fill the jars and they filled them to the brim. This speaks to abundance.
  • Also, in terms of character, it was excellent wine, as the master of the feast said.

11This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him. As was noted this was a private miracle. The servants and his disciples saw it, and Mary would have known. But not the bride and groom, the master of the feast or the guests. There was no disturbance of the wedding. It was done behind the scenes.

But his disciples, we are told, “believed in him.” Their faith in him, already expressed in chapter 1, is deepened. (Literally they “believed into him,” a common phrase in John.) The function of Jesus’ signs is precisely to lead to some measure of faith, and this is what happed, in the case of his disciples.

Our story ends with v. 12 – After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

The bigger picture

In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ signs point beyond themselves to what God is doing through Jesus. In this case, the miracle, I believe, points to the coming celebration on the final day.

Isaiah 25:6-9 speaks of this. 6On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. God is going to throw a feast. Notice that the wine here is abundant, “a feast of” it, and it is high quality, “aged wine, well-refined” – just as in our story. (Also, the Messianic age in general was to be characterized by abundant wine and rejoicing – Jeremiah 31:12-14, Amos 9:13-14).

7And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. This is referring to the resurrection, when death is defeated and all suffering will end. It is talking about the last day.

9It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” We will be rejoicing in the salvation of God.

This end-time feast is also seen as a wedding celebration in Matthew 22:1-14; 25:1-13; Revelation 19:6-9. This is when Christ will be married to his bride, the church.

Our story is connected to this in several ways:

1. Both are wedding celebrations with feasts.

2. Both are linked to the resurrection. “On the third day” is a reference Jesus’ resurrection on the third day, the beginning of the resurrection of the dead. (This phrase in linked to 2:19, the only other place where “three” or “third” is used in John’s Gospel. 2:19 is a reference to Jesus’ resurrection – Keener).

3. Both have to do with an abundance of fine wine, which the Lord provides.

So taking all this into account his actions here point us to what God is doing through him – Jesus is bringing about the promised end-time feast/wedding banquet at the resurrection. This is what God is up to in him and his ministry, which is about to go public in Jerusalem.

Finally, this morning, there is a connection with all this to

The Lord’s Supper

In Matthew 26:29 Jesus says, “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” The cup of the Lord’s Supper anticipates this end-time banquet and wedding at the resurrection. So as we partake today, let us not only remember how Jesus provided the wine for this earthly wedding – but how he will also provide the wine for that end-time feast and wedding banquet.


Also, there is a way in which Jesus’ first week, ending with this wedding, is portrayed as a wedding:

– Wedding were a week long. John gives us a week’s worth of Jesus’ activity.  

– John the Baptist, at the beginning of the week, functions as the friend of the bridegroom, introducing Jesus, and testifying to him. (In chapter 3:29 John the Baptist uses this language of Jesus as the groom and himself as the friend of the bridegroom.) 

– During this week, Jesus gathers up his disciples/bride and comes to this wedding at the end of the seven days narrated in chapter 1.

– The groom was responsible to provide the wine – 2:9-10. Jesus as the bridegroom provides the wine here.

 Also note that the story in Mark 2:18-22 speaks of Jesus’ coming as a time of joy, connected to a wedding and there is a parable about wine.

William Higgins

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