For Easter Sunday this year Isaiah 25:6-9 is the reading from the Hebrew Scriptures.
25:6 The Lord who commands armies will hold a banquet for all the nations on this mountain. At this banquet there will be plenty of meat and aged wine tender meat and choicest wine.
25:7 On this mountain he will swallow up
the shroud that is over all the peoples,
the woven covering that is over all the nations;
25:8 he will swallow up death permanently.
The sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from every face,
and remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.
Indeed, the Lord has announced it!
25:9 At that time they will say,
“Look, here is our God!
We waited for him and he delivered us.
Here is the Lord! We waited for him.
Let’s rejoice and celebrate his deliverance!” (NET Bible)
We can read this passage separately from what goes before and after because those passages find their setting in the conflicts of Israel with other nations. But this passage is apocalyptic–oriented toward God’s final intervention in the last days–and speaks of a blessing for “all peoples” and “all nations” (vs. 6-7).
The blessing is a heavenly banquet that God prepares on Mount Zion. It will be a banquet of plenty, of the finest food and wine. God’s deliverance of his people and a victory over death and mourning will accompany this feast.
In church tradition Thursday night of holy week is Maundy Thursday. We generally have a communion or Seder service to observe the Last Supper on the night before the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.
Our traditions about the Last Supper go back to the days right after Jesus died. The gospels appeared decades later. But the disciples began repeating the Lord’s Supper almost immediately. The words were used, repeated and elaborated Sunday after Sunday. Eventually they got written down by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 in the mid 50s of the first century, and in the gospels several years after that.
Part of this old tradition is that Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, I will not again drink of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25). Jesus refers to “that day” when he expects to share with the disciples the banquet prophesied in Isaiah 25.
For Christians this means that the meal celebrated in worship is not just a commemoration of a past event or the affirmation of a present community. It is the anticipation or foretaste of the age to come. It points to a future beyond death, beyond the death of Jesus and beyond our deaths.
As pointed out in the book I just read about the resurrection of the body, theologians have inferred that we won’t need to eat in the resurrection. Our bodies will not depend on biological processes like nutrition, digestion, and metabolism.
So why does scripture use eating a banquet as a central image of life with God?
Human relationships often find their focus in meals shared by lovers, family, and friends. Somehow we are with someone more when we eat together.
It is a commentary on our times that even our connections by cell phone and internet lack this component. We can’t share meals electronically. So, even though we think we are connected, really we grasp these connections across ditches that separate us.
In our churches we often take the bread and wine to shut-ins and hospital patients. Even though at a distance, they share the community meal. Perhaps all our meals in this age are like that, stand-ins for the real community that will come with a new age.