The Lord’s supper as an anticipation of the Messianic banquet

Celebration of Church Life seminar, 2022

I chose this topic because our theme for this weekend, “come to the table” comes from Luke 13:29 which talks about the Messianic banquet. Jesus said, “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.”

So, I want to talk about how every time we partake of the Lord’s supper, we’re actually to be thinking about this meal and the theme of coming to the table. But first –

What is the Messianic banquet?

This refers to an event that will happen on the final day:

  1. There will be a lavish meal for the faithful,
  2. which will be a great celebration of God’s salvation and triumph over his enemies.[1]
  3. And specifically there will be a celebration of the blessing of resurrection to eternal life

The idea of a great feast at the end of all things comes from the Old Testament. I want to briefly share two passages[2] and note how the three aspects of the Messianic banquet we just noted show up in them.

First we have Zechariah 9:9-17. 1) A feast is mentioned toward the end of the passage in v. 17 – “Grain shall make the young men flourish, and new wine the young women.”[3] 2) The celebration of God’s salvation is described in vs. 16-17a – “On that day the Lord their God will save them, as the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land. For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty!” 3) The resurrection is talked about in v. 11 – “As for you, also because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.” The phrase, “the waterless pit” refers to Sheol or the realm of the dead. So to be set free from this is an allusion to resurrection.

By far, the clearest reference to the Messianic banquet is found in our second passage, Isaiah 25:6-9. We have 1) a feast in v. 6 – “On 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.” 2) The celebration of God’s salvation is talked about in vs. 8-9 – “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. It 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.’” 3) The resurrection is talked about in vs. 7-8 – “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.”

The idea of a Messianic banquet is also tied to two Old Testament meals. And the first should be obvious enough, the Passover meal – Exodus 12:1-14. This was a meal of deliverance from death (the angel of death) and a new beginning, just as the Messianic banquet is. Jesus himself connects Passover to the Messianic banquet in Luke 22:15-16, as we’ll see.[4]

Also it is tied to the less well known covenant meal – Exodus 24:8-11. This was the meal the leaders of Israel ate in the presence of God when God first entered into a covenant with them. Verse 11 says, “They beheld God and ate and drank.” The common Old Testament metaphor of Israel as God’s bride is rooted in this ceremony, celebrated at this meal, based on the analogy of marriage as a covenant. Zechariah 9:11, a passage on the Messianic banquet which we just looked at mentions the phrase “the blood of the covenant” from this covenant ceremony. Also, Jesus frequently speaks of the Messianic banquet as a wedding feast.

The Messianic banquet is also talked about by other Jewish groups beyond the Old Testament. Just very briefly, 1 Enoch 62:13-15 says, “The righteous and elect ones shall be saved on that day; and from henceforth they shall never see the faces of the sinners and oppressors. The Lord of the Spirits will abide over them; they shall eat and rest and rise with that Son of Man forever and ever. The righteous and elect shall rise from the earth and shall cease being of downcast face.” Also, in Midrash Tanhuma B Numbers VIII, 3, 12, a much later Rabbinic Midrash on the book of Numbers, God says to Israel, “In this world you bring me food offerings and show bread and sacrifices, but in the world to come I will prepare a great table for you . . ..”[5]

Next we come to –

Jesus on the Messianic banquet

He talks about it quite often. 1. Here are some examples of the language he uses:

  • “Recline at table in the kingdom” – Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:29. The word “recline” here refers to laying down on your side as you eat at an ancient banquet.
  • “Eating and drinking at my table in my kingdom” – Luke 22:30[6]

2. It will be “a great banquet” – Luke 14:16. This text is a parable that talks about this event.

  • There will be wine – Mark 14:25. Jesus talks about drinking wine with us “in the kingdom.”
  • And in a parable about it, Jesus talks about “oxen and fat calves” being served – Matthew 22:4.

It is sometimes hard to know how much of what is said about our existence in the eternal kingdom is metaphor or not. But it is true that the resurrected Jesus ate “broiled fish” in Luke 24:42-43. So we will be able to eat real food in our resurrected bodies.

3. It is also described as a wedding banquet. In the parable of Matthew 22:1-10 it is a royal “wedding feast.” In the parable of the bridesmaids in Matthew 25:10 it is a “marriage feast.” This makes sense given the connection to the covenant meal of Exodus 19 and the various images of the people of God as the bride of God or the Messiah. This also shows up several times in the book of Revelation. For instance Revelation 19:9 talks about this meal as “the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

4. Who all will be there? The Old Testament saints. Jesus says, “Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets” will be there – Luke 13:28. The apostles will be there – Luke 22:28-30. Jesus says to them, “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

  • Some who are expected will not be there. In Matthew 8:12 Jesus talks about “the sons of the kingdom” receiving judgment instead of place at this table because of their rejection of him.
  • He also teaches in parables that many will simply decline the invitation – Matthew 22; Luke 14 – again, referring to rejecting him.

Even though some who were expected will be excluded the table will still be full – Matthew 22:10 (the parable of the wedding banquet). And that’s because lots of other people will be there too – Luke 13:29. As we saw, this verse says, “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.” The primary reference here is to the coming influx of Gentile followers of Jesus.[7]

  • So all those who respond to Jesus’ invitation to come, Jew or Gentile will be a part – Luke 14:21[8]
  • All who are ready when Jesus returns, as taught in the parable of the ten bridesmaids in Matthew 25
  • All who are faithful, as taught in the parable of the banquet in Matthew 22.

5. Jesus will be the host and serve at table. Jesus says that it is “my table” in Luke 22:30. And in another parable about this event in Luke 12:37 he says, “Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.” Jesus is speaking of himself here. It’s pretty cool that Jesus will serve us dinner.

Just a quick note, the feeding miracles of Jesus, of the 5,000 and the 4,000,  are also meant to evoke the Messianic banquet.[9] This brings us to –

The Lord’s supper and the Messianic banquet

When we share together in the Lord’s supper there are a lot things going on:

  • We are remembering Jesus
  • We are proclaiming his death and our salvation through this
  • We are offering up a sacrifice of praise and thanks for our salvation
  • We are recovenanting with God, or to say it a bit differently, remembering our baptismal commitment to walk in Jesus’ way
  • We are sharing fellowship with Jesus and each other

But what I’m saying here is that we are also looking forward to this great celebration!

Jesus himself makes the connection between the Lord’s supper and the Messianic banquet in two places. In Luke 22:15-16, just before Jesus shared the Lord’s supper with his disciples, he said, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Here he connects the Lords’ supper with the Passover meal and then connects both of these to the coming Messianic banquet. And he teaches us that the Lord’s supper pictures something that will be “fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”

The other place is Matthew 26:29, just after he has shared the Lord’s supper with them. 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.” He connects the Lord’s supper with sharing a meal with them in the future, the Messianic banquet.[10]

So the Lord’s supper points ahead to something greater than it. So every time we partake we are reminded of and anticipate what is to come when we will celebrate with Jesus in the kingdom. So we are waiting for this.

But Jesus is also waiting for the great celebration! Specifically, as we saw in Matthew 26:29, Jesus 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.” He promises not to celebrate until that day when we are all united and celebrate together the salvation he has given to us.

We are waiting for and anticipating this reunion and celebration when we come to the table together, and so is Jesus!


[1] A part of several texts include God’s judgment/slaughter of his enemies and a feast of sorts connected to this, for instance Revelation 19:17-18 and Zechariah 9:14-15. Also see passages related to eating Leviathan at this meal.

[2] See also Isaiah 65:13; Psalm 23:5 read eschatologically.

[3] This eating may also be ongoing. Eating in the kingdom can be construed as a banquet at the beginning as well as continued eating in the age to come.

[4] See also Tosefta Ber 1:12

[5] Also 2 Baruch 29:1-8; 1 Q28a; 1 QSA 2:11-22; 5 Ezra (2 Esdras) 2:33-41

[6] Also Luke has a man say, “eat bread in the kingdom of God” – Luke 14:15

[7] E.g. a Gentile with faith in Jesus – Matthew 8:11

[8] The parable of the banquet

[9] Jesus’s table fellowship with “sinners” is not necessarily connected to the Messianic banquet given that Jesus is not the host of these meals. And those who ate with him were not always his followers. Also note the contrast between eating with Jesus on this earth and those who will not be a part of the Messianic banquet in Luke 13:26-29.

[10] This might also be a part of what Paul means in 1 Corinthians 11:26, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” The phrase “until he comes” might include looking forward to when this meal will be fulfilled in the kingdom when Jesus returns and we celebrate together.

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