The Messianic Banquet

In a parable, Yeshua likened the kingdom to a banquet or a wedding. “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many… But they all alike began to make excuses” (Luke 14:16-18).

It’s not just a parable; a great banquet will literally take place when the kingdom comes. Yeshua taught:

But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14:13-14)

How will such generous people be repaid at the resurrection? An interpretation of this verse from second-century church father Irenaeus has a surprisingly Jewish ring to it:

For what are the hundred-fold [rewards] in this word, the entertainments given to the poor, and the suppers for which a return is made? These are [to take place] in the times of the kingdom, that is, upon the seventh day, which has been sanctified, in which God rested from all the works which He created, which is the true Sabbath of the righteous, which they shall not be engaged in any earthly occupation; but shall have a table at hand prepared for them by God, supplying them with all sorts of dishes.[1]

In other words, the Messianic Era at the end of the age is like Shabbat at the end of a seven-day week. When the Messianic Era comes, God himself will prepare a banquet for the righteous.

This early Christian interpretation accords so well with rabbinic interpretation on the topic that it is unthinkable that Irenaeus made it up himself. It must reflect an authentic teaching of the early Messianic Jewish community.

The Garden of Delights

Yeshua taught us to be like servants, ready and waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast. For when we do, “He will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them” (Luke 12:37)!

According to the Midrash [2], the righteous will not be satisfied with eating all by themselves. They will argue, “Is there a host who makes a meal for guests but does not recline with them? Is there a bridegroom who makes a wedding meal but does not sit with those he invited? If you please, ‘Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits'” (Song of Solomon 4:16). God will respond, “Look, I am doing just as you asked, “in keeping with the verse, “I came to my garden, my sister, my bride” (Song of Solomon 5:1).

The Wine of Creation

Yeshua was describing the Messianic banquet when he lifted his Passover cup and told his disciples, “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” (Matthew 26:29).

The sages interpreted the Hebrew of Isaiah 64:3(4) as “No eye has seen except you, O God, what he will prepare for those who wait for him.” What hidden treat is God preparing? Wine preserved in its grapes since the first week of creation.[3] The wine itself may not be new, but drinking it will certainly be a new experience!

The sages discerned another hint about the banquet from the redundant wording of Genesis 21:8:

And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.

The Hebrew word for “weaned” shares its root with the word “repaid.” To the sages, this was a signal that God will repay Abraham and Isaac’s kindness and devotion at the Messianic banquet in the kingdom.

Don’t Miss the Banquet

According to our Master, “people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:29). Yeshua and the sages agree that this Messianic banquet is not for everyone but only for the righteous. However, Yeshua goes so far as to say that even righteous Gentiles will be welcomed at the table (Matthew 8:10-12)!

However, don’t make the mistake of equating “righteous” with having a religious social identity. The main point of Yeshua’s parable is to say that the invitation extends to everyone: “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).

On the other hand, don’t let this invitation go to your head:

But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” And he was speechless. (Matthew 22:11-12)

Come as you are? Not so fast. Yeshua’s call is an invitation to repent and prepare.

Footnotes:
  1. Against Heresies book 5, chapter 33
  2. Numbers Rabbah 13:2.
  3. b.Brachot 34b.
  4. b.Pesachim 119b.


First Fruits of Zion