The Satisfying Banquet

August 02, 2020, Seminarian Scott Van Raes

Allow me to tell you a story, one that many have read to their children countless of times. The story is about a very hungry caterpillar, it was in the light of the moon, a little egg lay on the leaf. One sunday morning the warm sun came up and pop! Out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar. He started to look for some food. On monday he ate through one apple, but he was still hungry. On tuesday he ate through two pears, but he was still hungry. On wednesday he ate through three pears, but he was still hungry. On thursday he ate through four strawberries, but he was still hungry. On friday he ate through five oranges, but he was still hungry. On saturday he ate through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one slice of swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon. That night he had a stomach ache. The next day was Sunday and he ate through one nice Healthy green leaf, and after that he felt much better. Now he wasn’t hungry anymore, as He was a big fat caterpillar. And with this he built himself a cocoon and stayed in for two weeks and came out as a beautiful butterfly.

 

Spiritually speaking, we can relate to this caterpillar. NOthing that our souls on all the buffets that the world offers seems to satisfy. For, the feast that we are actually seeking is the only truly healthy one, and you can’t just find it just anywhere. For it is not something abundant by sight. Rather, it’s abundance is accessible only by faith.

 

And so i draw your attention to the altar this morning. What you see before you is simple bread and wine, but the nutrition that is hidden there in, is much more than what meets the eye. As only the leaf would satisfy the caterpillar, this feast uniquely satisfies our appetite. And just like that leaf transformed him into the beautiful butterfly, this food transforms us too. This is the feast transforms us into God’s beautiful children, with new health, and energy as we do the work of a Christian. The body and blood of Jesus offers us the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. It renews our spirits and rejuvenates our souls. This is the feast that satisfies those who truly hunger. And this meal, brothers and sisters, cannot be bought by money --thank god, since not one of us here would be able to afford it-- but something that has been paid in full by the all atoning sacrifice of the lamb of God, christ our savior. As the prophet Isaiah says, “The lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine. “ This feast is for us.

 

Just like in the grocery store, In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had access to every kind of food. Hunger for this couple was unimaginable, until they looked elsewhere for nutrition, listening to the lie of the serpent and distrusting the Word of God. It wasn’t until they ate of the only dish that was forbidden by their host, that they became hungry as they fell from their place at the supper table of the heavenly garden of Eden.

 

And because of this, the guests who once sat at the table with their master have become the dogs who feast on the crumbs off from the dirt of the ground. And that includes us. Try to imagine it like this: While on the ground, under that table of the Lord, we are tempted by another feast, prepared by that very same serpent who tempted us to eat poorly the first time. Our eyes catch the attention of another banquet prepared by our enemy, easily accessible, surrounding us on all sides. The aroma seems delightful, as we walk closer to the table, or rather crawl like the hungry, misdirected caterpillars that we are.

 

Now imagine our deceptive devilish host approaches in good cheer and assures us that everything that will satisfy our needs in this banished world can be found at this banquet. “All this can be yours”. “Come, take a seat and I will give you enough food that will satisfy your belly”, he says with a sly grin on his face. As we look at THIS table, what is it that we believe would satisfy our hunger? Is it the accomplishment and fulfillments in this life? Ones that offer to secure our financial future, ensure we have secured the right friends in life, or make sure that our name passes on through time, to name a few examples, so that, like the unbelieving world around us, we can “eat, drink and be merry”? If so, then carpe diem, a saying that means ‘seize the day, or in this case, seize the feast’. Waste no second in life so that you can fulfill only your temporal needs as the most important thing. Put your time and energy in the career that will quench such carnal desires. And that will provide all your needs. Or is it something more “spiritual”? Maybe a more lively worship will fill our hunger, one that satisfies our emotional appetites and cravings. Take a glance out there at the multitude of protestant congregations. many have embraced more modernistic approaches to worship that have the intention to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. To the old Adam, all of this sounds delightful, filling and touching what our physical wants are in life – giving our itching ears what they want to hear, or, our rumbling stomachs what they FEEL will satisfy them.

 

Yet in reality, this is only the Devil’s attempt to starve you of what is good. Each motion toward his wicked feast, is a step away from God’s, the true feast and only feast that truly satisfies. Each step we take to the Devil’s table, we get a closer look at those deceived guests. And we notice something odd about them. They don’t look healthy. The more they eat, the thinner they get! Their faces are starving, malnourished, and yet their eyes desire still for more and more of the same as they continue to consume the food before them. They will pay anything, and do anything, to keep eating at this unholy feast. They are tragically trapped in trying to feed their physical bellies that can never be satisfied by the world.

 

After all Isaiah asked the question: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” Jesus tells us that our nourishment is not to be found in this life. Jesus tells us “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” As the people who seat themselves starve with every bite, we dread to see our fate shared with them.

 

Yet, then from above, from the table from which we were justly banished, we hear a gracious voice:the host of hosts calls to us and says “Listen diligently to me and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear and come to me; hear, that your soul may live”. And upon hearing this word, the greenest leaf falls from the table and above drifts down into our caterpillar mouths. Upon hearing his word, we happily receive and desperately eat the leaf he gifted us. And low and behold, we find ourselves healthier, as we become filled with THIS food. Our spirit is satisfied, and we respond with joy and thanksgiving. This gift is Christ. This nourishing leaf is the body and blood of Christ, the words that make it as it is, “This is my body, given for you, this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Trying to fill our hunger by satisfying our temporal desires, whether it be career goals, being popular in your school or workplace, or making sure you enjoy a pleasure filled easy retirement, can quickly become the dishes on the table of the devil’s worldly feast that will never satisfy. Instead, These words that our God has provided us is the food our bodies need, as “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ That is more essential in life than all of our worldly hopes and dreams. Only God’s Word -- only Christ’s presence -- truly satisfies. While the bread of the earth is temporal, the bread of heaven -- is eternal.

 

When you choose what restaurant you are going to go to, say on your birthday, the first question is normally. “What is it going to cost”. And, well, we all know that normally, “you get what you pay for”. That’s how it works in the world. But not in the kingdom of God.

 

In our world, the cost escalates based on the number of guests. When planning a banquet, the main question is “how much it will cost to feed all the guests?” The best solution is to find the nearest costco and buy the food in bulk so that you know you are saving as much as you can. How much could you put Costco to the limit with how many people will be served. For Jesus and the disciples, we recall how they had an unexpected surplus of people show up, and all they had for food was barely enough to feed them for lunch. Talk about last minute desperation! With little money to go to the market and get more food, Jesus calms the disciples and tells them that it is unnecessary to send anyone out, as money will not be needed to provide the food that will feed the thousands who have come to eat and some. God’s way is always different from the world’s. Jesus’ feast is unique. For in the midst of their worldly thinking and concerns, asking (“who is going to satisfy all these guests?”) we see Jesus taking the bread and fish, raising it before God, blessing it with his very own words. Then we see the miracle. His word always makes a miracle. It turns those crumbs of food into a FEAST FIT for kings!

 

Here we see what it means to be a guest at Jesus’ feast. Though we have fallen, our Lord has mercifully picked us up off the floor, away from the crumbs, and the world’s poisonous buffet. Here he offers us the true banquet that satisfies. And this banquet is free to come and dine. There is enough for all and some.. And the best part is, its free! Well, at least its free for us. There was no means of purchasing the plentiful of bread, but through Christ he provided the guests everything that was needed to feed and nourish them. Isaiah tells us that we are to find this food as people who have no money to purchase food. There is no cost for us, but there is a cost to God. The feast of salvation comes with a price: the price of his very life acting as the sacrificial lamb for us. He died on the cross in order to offer you, his hungry guests, a feast. In fact, He is the feast.

 

Imagine leaving the fanciest and most expensive restaurant and realizing you forgot your wallet. We have no means to pay. And then some stranger comes to pay the whole bill on our behalf. When Jesus died on the cross, he paid the price fully for us, so that we could eat at his salutary meal. Because of his sacrifice, Christ freely offers himself as the meal of our redemption, the feast that satisfies our spiritual needs, the forgiveness of sins, the newness of life. And most importantly, the opportunity to be reinstated at the table with our Lord and Host, feasting like the sons of God and inheritors of the kingdom. His food transforms us. For as healthy, nourished and empowered new creatures, we now live differently. No longer are we starving to death like miserable stray dogs on the ground, and ones that act like miserable dogs on the ground, but guests of the banquet of heaven! And so out of gratitude, we pray, praise and give thanks to God. We warn others about their malnourishing junk food feasts, and invite them to join us at the only truly satisfying feast. We call that “evangelism”. Sharing the food that we have received here, with those outside these doors.

 

So Why spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? The food that this world sells and offers will never satisfy your deepest needs. Sure, it may LOOK more attractive, but , in fact, it can make us spiritually sick! Instead, let God feed you with the food from heaven, the bread of immortality. For even this morning, your host, invites and calls each one of his baptized believing guests to the table that he has so lovingly prepared. He is the host and the meal, FOR he transforms this ordinary bread and wine to the life saving and rejuvenating body and blood that our Lord freely gives to us on the cross as he reinstates us to his table for all eternity. Like the hungry caterpillar was transformed into a butterfly, we hungry caterpillars undergo a transformation of sorts. A transformation that will only be completely revealed and comprehended when we join all the saints and company of heaven in the eternal banquet in heaven itself. Amen