In my sermon last Sunday, I was pointing out how central the sharing of food was to Old Testament worship. Feasting and celebrating before God are essential to the practice of God’s people in the Bible
There were the weekly times of Sabbath, when families spent time together and shared a special Sabbath meal. While non-Jews often focus on the restrictions regarding work, Jews focus on “making the Sabbath a delight” (based on Isaiah 58:13), enjoying the best foods, wearing their best clothes, etc.
There were also the regular feast days. There were three times a year when Jewish men were expected to travel to Jerusalem:
- Passover/Unleavened Bread
- Feast of Tabernacles
There was one prescribed fast day, on the Day of Atonement, the week before the Feast of Tabernacles. As Jay noted in his comments yesterday, the Law says much more about feasting than it does about fasting.
The Israelites were also to have a harvest feast, setting aside a tenth of their yearly production to be eaten in a celebration of the Lord’s goodness. Deuteronomy 14 describes this:
“Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.” (Deuteronomy 14:22–27)
It was an out and out celebration, not a token tithe of the harvest.
There were also the fellowship offerings, which were communal meals held to celebrate ones thankfulness to the Lord or to announce the making of a vow to the Lord. These sacrifices included the command to eat the meat in a short period of time, which would necessitate gathering one’s friends and relatives to join in the feast.
So it was only natural that when Israel thought of what it would be like to be in the kingdom of the Messiah, they thought of a feast:
“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. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”” (Isaiah 25:6–9)
And it was only natural that Jesus would establish a new memorial for his followers, one that involved sharing food, one established during the great feast of Passover, one that looked forward to the great Messianic banquet.