9. The Lord's Supper and the Great Banquet (Luke 22:16, 18; Matthew 26:29)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
http://www.jesuswalk.com/lords-supper/9_banquet.htm
Audio (14:22)
http://www.jesuswalk.com/mp3files/lords-supper/9_banquet.mp3

The Invitation by Danny Richard Hahlbohm
Danny Richard Hahlbohm (American artist, 1949- ), "The Invitation," available as a poster.
"I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matthew 26:29 || Mark 14:25)
"14When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15And he said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.' 17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, 'Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.' (Luke 22:16-18)
"For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." (1 Corinthians 11:26)

In each of the Synoptic Gospels and in 1 Corinthians 11, the Words of Institution look forward to a fulfillment in the future. A key element in our own celebration of the Lord's Supper is future-looking as well. Let's explore this.

Jewish Expectation of the Great Feast

An expectation of the Great Feast on the Last Day began perhaps with a wonderful prophecy from Isaiah, clearly eschatological, that is, speaking of the Last Days:

"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.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people
from all the earth." (Isaiah 25:6-8)

You find echoes of this prophecy in the Old Testament and the New, finally being fulfilled in Revelation with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-9) and the New Heavens and the New Earth (Revelation 21:4).

It's pretty clear from the Bible and from Jewish rabbinical literature that at least the Pharisees in Jesus' time had a strong expectation of this Great Feast after the resurrection:

  • "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God" (Luke 14:15), comment by a dinner companion.
  • Yahweh will recline at table, the patriarchs and the righteous at His feet,2 and "They will recline at table and eat in Gan Eden,"3 rabbinical commentary on Exodus.
  • "At the last coming he will lead out Adam and the patriarchs and bring them (into the paradise of Eden) that they may rejoice, as when a man invites his friends to eat with him, and they come and speak with one another before the palace, joyously awaiting his feast, the enjoyment of good things, of immeasurable wealth and joy and happiness in light and everlasting life,"3 pseudepigraphical Book of Enoch
  • "Rise and stand, and see at the feast of the Lord the number of those who have been sealed," Old Testament Apocyrpha.4
  • "The feast of our God, which He will prepare for the righteous, has no end,"5 Midrash on Esther.

Jesus' Teaching on the Great Banquet

It was in this context that Jesus taught. He often alluded to the Great Feast in the Kingdom of God, both in parables and in direct comments. For example:

  • Parable of the Great Banquet. At a dinner to which Jesus was invited, he told his host not to invite those who could invite him back so that he would be rewarded "at the resurrection of the righteous" (Luke 14:14). One of the guests remarked: "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God" (Luke 14:15). Jesus followed with the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:18-24, partial parallel in Matthew 22:2-14), the point of which was that the Jews (who had been invited to the banquet but made excuses) would be displaced by the Gentiles.
  • Reward for the Apostles. "And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Luke 22:29-30)
  • Teachings on Inclusion and Exclusion. "People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God." (Luke 13:29-30 || Matthew 8:11)
  • Parable of the Delayed Householder. "It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them." (Luke 12:37)
  • Parable of the Ten Virgins. "And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut."6 (Matthew 25:10)
  • Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side...." (Luke 16:22). Being in Abraham's bosom pictures both a place of honor and a place of loving, intimate fellowship.7
  • Gathering the Elect. The elect are gathered at Christ's coming for this very feast. "And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens." (Mark 13:27 || Matthew 24:31)

Q1. Why are so many of Jesus' teachings oriented toward the future? What kinds of associations come to mind as you think of the Great Banquet?
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The Marriage Supper of the Lamb

The Book of Revelation also refers to the Great Banquet. In a promise to overcomers in his letter to the churches, Jesus says:

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7)

Revelation culminates with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb:

"Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
   'Hallelujah!
   For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
   Let us rejoice and be glad
   and give him glory!
   For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
   and his bride has made herself ready.
   Fine linen, bright and clean,
   was given her to wear.'
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
Then the angel said to me, 'Write: "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb! "' And he added, 'These are the true words of God.'" (Revelation 19:6-9)

The Lord's Supper Looks Forward to the Great Banquet

With this introduction, you can now appreciate Jesus' words on that last night:

"I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matthew 26:29 || Mark 14:25)
"For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God." (Luke 22:16)

"Fulfillment" is the verb plēroō, "to make full." Here it could have one of two meanings: "to bring to a designed end, fulfill" a prophecy, a promise, etc., or "to bring to completion an activity in which one has been involved from its beginning, complete, finish."8 Indeed, the Lord's Supper is fulfilled at the Great Banquet. This gathering of the redeemed of the Lord in the presence of God on the Last Day is the culmination and fulfillment of the incarnation, the cross, and the resurrection.

Q2. (Luke 22:16) In what sense does the Lord's Supper find its "fulfillment" in the Great Banquet at the end of the age? What should this do to our thoughts at the Lord's Table?
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The Promise of Future Fellowship

I'm saddened by the many Christians who, for one reason or another, no longer attend church. The church is flawed, they've been hurt in the church, the church is filled with hypocrites, and so forth. And these things are too often true! But we are not to give up on Christian fellowship.

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another -- and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25)

For in our future is a seat at the Great Banquet with millions of other fellow believers. Isn't it ironic that we would separate ourselves now from those with whom we'll share the Feast and an eternity in heaven? The essence of a banquet -- and of the Lord's Supper -- is not food on which to gorge ourselves, but the joyful fellowship of those at the table.

The Lord's Supper as a Promise of the Future

The Lord's Supper is our reminder that this life isn't "as good as it gets." Just as the seal of Holy Spirit is your guarantee of future glory (Ephesians 1:13; Romans 8:23; 2 Corinthians 1:22), so the piece of bread and portion of wine you hold in your hands are a token of your ticket to the Great Banquet at the end of the age.

The Lord's Supper looks backward as a remembrance to the death of Christ for our sins. It looks to the present as a communion with the living Christ, and it looks to the future as a promise of eternal life in the presence of God.

Q3. In what sense does the Lord's Supper point to the past? How does it point to the present? How does it point to the future?
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We Shall See His Face

As I think about that Great Banquet, I begin to look forward to it afresh, for it will be the time of "entering into the joy of our Lord." The chorus of an old gospel hymn comes to mind:

"O I want to see Him, look upon His face,
There to sing forever of His saving grace;
On the streets of glory let me lift my voice,
Cares all past, home at last, ever to rejoice."9

On that day, the promise of Revelation will be realized. Jesus told his disciples that despite various appearances in one form or another, "No one has seen God at any time" (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12), that is, his essential Spirit-nature. But on that Day, the scripture says,

"They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 22:4-5)

"I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." (Matthew 26:29)

Q4. (Revelation 22:4) When you meditate on "seeing his face," what thoughts come to mind? Why should the Lord's Supper stimulate these thoughts every time we partake of it?
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Lord's Supper: Meditations for Disciples on the Eucharist or Communion
Available as e-book and paperback.

Prayer

Father, so often our minds are focused on our own needs and problems. Henceforth, may the Lord's Supper turn our eyes instead to the Great Banquet and the culmination of all things in you. Maranatha. Come soon, Lord Jesus! Amen.

References

  1. Exodus rabba 25 on 16:4, cited by Rudolf Meyer, kolpos, TDNT 3:824-826, fn. 8.
  2. Exodus rabba, 25 on 16:4, in Strack and Billerback IV, 1148, cited by Johannes Behm, esthiō, TDNT 2:689-695.
  3. Slavic Enoch 42:5 Cited by Johannes Behm, deipnon, TDNT 1:35. Also, "The Lord of spirits will dwell over them, and they will eat and lie down and rise up to all eternity with that Son of Man," Ethiopian Enoch 62:14 Cited by Johannes Behm, deipnon, TDNT 1:35.
  4. 2 Esdras 2:38.
  5. Midrash Esther 1, 4 Cited by Johannes Behm, deipnon, TDNT 1:35. In Pesikta rabbati, 41, a collection of homilies, where Jacob is invited to the feast of redemption (Strack and Billerback, IV, 1154; I, 878f. Cited by Johannes Behm, deipnon, TDNT 1:35).
  6. "Entry into the kingdom, whether a door is mentioned (Matt. 25:10) or not, usually implies entry into the festive hall for the eschatological banquet (Matt. 7:7-8; 22:12; 25:10, 21ff.; Luke 13:24-25; 14:23)." Joachim Jeremias, TDNT 3:173-180.
  7. Rudolf Meyer, kolpos, TDNT 3:824-826; Gustav Stählin, agapaō, TDNT 9:113-171.
  8. plēroō, BDAG 828-829, 4.a or 5. Gerhard Delling, plērēs, ktl., TDNT 6:283-311.
  9. "O I Want to See Him," words and music by Rufus H. Cornelius (1916). Another gospel song on this theme is "All Things Are Ready, Come to the Feast," words by Charles H. Gabriel (1895), music by William A. Ogden.

Copyright © 1985-2014, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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