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Isaiah provides us with a beautiful vision of the grandest mountaintop feast, at which all God’s people partake in an eternally life-giving meal together. But our lives are so far from that mountaintop, and we cannot ascend that mountain of the Lord on our own. Watch this Maundy Thursday sermon as we remember how Jesus descended from the mountain to a place of humble earthly service, right before his ultimate descent into the grave that miraculously paved our path up the mountain to glory.

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    Tonight we continue our journey to the cross of Jesus that started a few weeks ago with Ash Wednesday. On Ash Wednesday, with ashes on our foreheads, we were honest about our mortality, our frailty, and our sin. But we were also reminded and we also professed that we have been called to hope, that even with ashes on our foreheads and the presence of sin in our lives and in our world, all those things would not have the last word. Even in the ashes, we are invited to this real and certain hope that in Jesus, God has come to deliver us from sin and death and to restore us and to restore the world.

    All throughout the season of Lent, in order to see Jesus, in order to experience and trust in his promises, we've been looking at Jesus through Isaiah’s eyes. Isaiah’s grand vision of God's rescue and redemption lead us right to life — to the death and to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus. This evening, once again, we're going to see Jesus through Isaiah's eyes by looking at Isaiah 25. We're going to read the whole passage, but we're actually not going to look at the entire passage. We're going to focus primarily on verses 6-9. But for context, let's give our attention to God's word and all of Isaiah 25.

    1O Lord, you are my God; 

        I will exalt you; I will praise your name, 

    for you have done wonderful things, 

        plans formed of old, faithful and sure. 

    2For you have made the city a heap, 

        the fortified city a ruin; 

    the foreigners’ palace is a city no more; 

        it will never be rebuilt. 

    3Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; 

        cities of ruthless nations will fear you. 

    4For you have been a stronghold to the poor, 

        a stronghold to the needy in his distress, 

        a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; 

    for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,

        5like heat in a dry place. 

    You subdue the noise of the foreigners; 

        as heat by the shade of a cloud,

        so the song of the ruthless is put down.

    6On 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.

    7And he will swallow up on this mountain 

        the covering that is cast over all peoples, 

        the veil that is spread over all nations. 

        8He will swallow up death forever; 

    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. 

    9It 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.”

    10For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain, 

        and Moab shall be trampled down in his place, 

        as straw is trampled down in a dunghill.

    11And he will spread out his hands in the midst of it 

        as a swimmer spreads his hands out to swim,

        but the Lord will lay low his pompous pride together with 

        the skill of his hands. 

    12And the high fortifications of his walls he will bring down, 

        lay low, and cast to the ground, to the dust.

    Back in January of 2021, when the world was still mid-pandemic, I was getting anxious to get outside and get some exercise and find some new ways to just be outdoors. It so happened that a good friend of mine had made it his goal to hike all 35 peaks of the Catskill Mountains during that winter. He was constantly going on these hikes and inviting people to join him. He had been trying to convince me for some time to go. Even though I was eager to be outside, hiking up a mountain in a foot of snow wasn't really what I was looking to do. But he was persistent and was able to convince me to go.

    But in order to convince me to go, he really sold me on two aspects of this hike. The first one was that he promised that he would help to get me up the mountain. He had already done these hikes many times, and he knew what he was doing. A week or so before we went on this hike, he said, “Here is the type of boots you need to get. You need to have spikes. You need to make sure you have plenty of water. Make sure your cell phone is charged. You need to get the All Trails app on your phone and be and be ready to go.” He was telling me how I was going to make it up this mountain. The second thing he did to convince me to go is that he told me that once we got to the top, this view would be absolutely amazing. He promised me that all the trudging through the snow, the hours of hiking, would all be worth it for this experience of getting to the top of the mountain. The views would be incredible. The sense of accomplishment would be so fulfilling. So he convinced me to go, and we did it. On that cold, snowy day in January of 2021, we made it to the top of the mountain.

    I tell you that story because when Isaiah wants to talk about the love of God, and the glory of God, and the promises of salvation for us and for the world, sometimes he talks about a person, sometimes he talks about a suffering servant (we'll look at that tomorrow night), and sometimes he talks about a place. He talks about the mountain of the Lord, as he does here and Isaiah 25. Isaiah, like my friend, is trying to convince us to ascend this mountain, and he does it like my friend did, in two ways. First, he paints this glorious picture of this life at the top of the mountain. It's so glorious. It's so beautiful. It's entirely life-giving. He wants us to see that the journey will be worth it. Second, Isaiah shows us how we're going to get to the top of the mountain. That's what I want to look at briefly this evening from Isaiah 25. I want to reflect on these two things for Maundy Thursday: 1) the glory of the mountain and 2) how we get there.

    The Glory Of The Mountain

    First, the glory of the mountain. Let's look again at verses 6-8. It says,

    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.

    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; 

    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. 

    Notice the glory of the mountain that Isaiah describes is one where we experience God's loving hospitality and his provision. He says in verse 6,

    [There will be] a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, 

    of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

    Isaiah is employing repetition and parallelism here in order to stress just how amazing this feast is going to be. This is like Hebrew poetry’s version of high definition 4K TV or whatever the latest technology is where you can see the food, you see the table spread out, and you can almost smell it, you can almost taste it because the picture is so clear. That's what Isaiah is doing here as he describes the nature of this feast. Also, notice that this feast is for all the nations. All peoples are invited. Here God is the host, and everyone is invited — not just Israel, but all peoples. Those who trust in the Lord are welcome to partake of this feast.

    While the people are feasting and filling themselves with rich food and well-aged wine, the Lord of hosts is consuming as well. He's feasting as well, except he's swallowing up the covering, that cloud, that weight that is over everyone. He is swallowing up and he is destroying the thing that brings destruction. He is consuming death. He is destroying death itself. God is like this warrior going to defeat the last enemy while his people celebrate this victory meal that they feast on — the victory that he has accomplished.

    Even more, this same host who has exhibited generous hospitality in preparing this feast, who has invited the nations to come, who as a warrior has swallowed up the greatest enemy — death itself — is also so very tender. Did you see that? Here he is tending to the grief, to the sorrow, to the shame of his guests. He's wiping away their tears from all faces. He's taking away the reproach from all peoples. You get the impression that the guests are so overwhelmed by this feast and so overwhelmed by this invitation to come up this mountain that they're left wondering should I be here? Do we even deserve to be here? They've been through a very difficult journey, but as they get to the top of the mountain, they need someone to tend to them. They need someone to love them. They need someone to care for them, to tend to their wounds and to their sorrows, to deal with their shame and their guilt and their grief. Here's the Lord of hosts doing just that.

    Isaiah is giving us a preview of the new heavens and the new earth. In fact, as the New Testament comes to a close in the Book of Revelation, it's Isaiah’s feast that John will rely upon to describe his own picture, his own feast of the consummation of Heaven and earth. As Jesus returns as the victorious king, the same language is used in Revelation 7 and Revelation 21, where God is speaking, and his people are dwelling forever with him. He is with them, and he's wiping away their tears from their eyes. All throughout the ministry of Jesus, we see him as well as this host, the host of a feast. Jesus is so oftentimes ascending a mountain, and he's inviting the nations to come to them. He's feeding the hungry on the side of a mountain. He's wiping away tears. He's forgiving sins. He's burying the guilt and the shame of those who have been outcasts. Jesus comes to swallow up death and to wipe away tears and to take away our shame. Jesus' very life and ministry really is like a mobile mountaintop. It's a mountaintop feast where the nations come and gather to experience life, where what Isaiah promised in chapter 25 now becomes a living reality in Jesus himself.

    Isaiah gives us this picture of this feast on this mountain with God to remind us that this is the only mountain worth ascending. This is the only mountain, the only feast worth attending. Jesus is the only host worthy of having our attention and our affection. This mountain that Isaiah describes and that Jesus embodies is the place — the home that we longed for and the life that we are seeking. It's on this mountain that we experience life in its fullness because God, our creator, our redeemer, our provider, our warrior, and our King dwells there. The reality is, if we're honest, you and I spend our lives and our energy climbing up all sorts of other mountains, hoping desperately to find joy and life and satisfaction. But these are always fruitless expeditions, and they don't end in life. They actually end in death. We climb up hills of pleasure, mountains of addiction, mountains of career achievement, mountains of vague hope of a brighter future, mountains of having the perfect family or being able to write the perfect story for ourselves. But we climb them hoping that we will be made whole. We climb these mountains hoping that we will find purpose for our lives and that we will find all of our longings at long last satisfied. All of our hunger and our thirst will be filled if we can just climb these mountains. We climb these mountains because we've lost sight of the greater, far more beautiful mountain where God dwells, where he feeds us, and where he sustains us.

    Lent reminds us that our longings will not be satisfied by climbing these lesser mountains, so we need our imaginations captivated by the image that Isaiah is giving us here, captivated by the mountain of the Lord that has been established as the highest of all mountains. We need to hear once again the invitation and the promise of our God, that he's the host of this rich feast, and he has come to wipe away our tears and swallow up death forever. As Isaiah cries out to his original audience — who find themselves deep in the valley of death — to remember to look and to hope in the mountain of the Lord, in the same way Isaiah cries out to us to look and behold this mountain of the Lord, the top of this mountain. It's the mountain of the Lord.

    We're a long way from it, aren't we? We're a long way from that mountain. This week, Holy Week, in many ways, we're moving into a valley as we get closer and closer to the cross. Tonight: Maundy Thursday. Tomorrow: Good Friday where we will consider and behold Jesus dying on a cross for our sins and the sins of the world. It takes us deeper into a valley, deeper into a pit, seemingly farther from the top of this mountain. We're far from the top of the mountain. But even in the experience of our lives and in the reality of our world, it's still the same thing. Isaiah’s vision of this mountain can seem so far away, so far out of reach, and oftentimes impossible for us to imagine because we live in a world, we're in a valley where death and war are everywhere. Nations aren't gathered together. Nations are divided. Families are divided. Relationships are broken. The challenges of this city and the darkness and brokenness of this city is so overwhelming. There's still very much a covering cast over all peoples — to use Isaiah’s language — and a veil that is spread over all the nations. So we dwell in the valleys of our own shame and our own guilt as well. Even if we wanted to, even for those who believe Isaiah’s vision for this mountain of the Lord, the question remains: If that's the picture — and it is a beautiful picture — how do we get there?

    How To Get To The Top Of The Mountain

    How will we ever get to the top of this mountain to dwell with God like he's promised, like Isaiah has promised? How can we ever experience this kind of feast, this kind of fullness and satisfaction, this life and love and blessing that has been promised to us? That's the other thing I want to look at tonight. I want to look closely at verse nine. Isaiah tells us,

    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.”

    This is the beautiful thing about Isaiah’s vision. Those who are at the top of the mountain experiencing this generous, life-giving, loving hospitality of the Lord of hosts got there not because of their own power, not in their own strength, not from climbing the mountain on their own. They got there because they waited for the Lord in the valley, in the darkness, in the chaos. As they were waiting, and because they waited, God saved them. He rescued them. He brought them into the presence of this feast on this mountain. Verse 9 is a remarkable verse. Israel now sees that their God is their rescuer and their redeemer. All the generations of waiting and lamenting and longing, and all the tears, all the valleys of the shadow of death, all the wars and the rumors of war, they're all gone. Now at long last, they see that the Lord hasn't forgotten them. He didn't forget his promise. He is their delight. He's their salvation.

    I want you to see the beauty of Holy Week. The glory of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday is that we find ourselves in the valley of the shadow of death, staring at the darkness of the world, and it's there we find our Savior. That's where Jesus is. That's where we find him. It might be true that we are far from the fulfillment of the promise in Isaiah 25, but we're not far from Jesus. We're never far from our host. We're never far from our rescuer. We're never far from the one who wipes away our tears.

    On the night Jesus was betrayed, he prepared a feast for his disciples. That's why, as Jason said, we gather here on Maundy Thursday. Jesus did it because he wanted to show them how much he loved them. It's this meal, this act that we remember on Maundy Thursday. Jesus wanted them to know that even though they were deep in this valley of death, that he was going to be with them. There they were under the shadow of death, under the shadow of the Roman Empire. They were under the shadow of the religious leaders, deep in the valley of death, and there is Jesus with them. That kind of valley is no place for a king. That kind of valley is no place for God himself. Jesus has claimed to be king. He's claiming to be God himself. If he's king then he should be up on a mountain. He should be up above it all, removed from this darkness, in a safe haven, protected from all this darkness and brokenness and the filth and the sin of the world. But there he was, a long way from the mountaintop, preparing a feast in the valley with his disciples, because he loves them and because he loves the world.

    As the night went on, Jesus would descend, and he would go even lower. Because as we find in John 13, Jesus, after this dinner, the feast that he had prepared, he gets on his hands and knees, he wraps a towel around his waist, he takes on the posture of a slave, and he washes his disciples feet. You can't get farther from the mountain than that. You can't get farther from the mountain than Jesus at the feet of his disciples. These are the very feet of those who are willing to deny him, the very feet who are not ready to do the thing that Jesus is asking them to do that night. He's asked them to watch with him. He's asked them to pray with him. He's asked them to keep vigil over him. They're not ready, and they can't do it. It would seem you can't get much lower than that. You can't descend much farther. But as the story goes on, Jesus will descend even farther, because he will wash the feet of Judas, the one who betrays him and sends him to the cross. Judas will get up after this, leave this meal, and walk out the door with the clean feet that Jesus just washed and betray him. None of the disciples on this night, at this moment, are prepared to ascend any sort of mountain. After all, Psalm 24 reminds us,

    Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?

        And who shall stand in his holy place?

    He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

        who does not lift up his soul to what is false

        and does not swear deceitfully.

    None of them were worthy to be near the Lord of hosts. And yet there Jesus is. He's feeding them. He's washing them. He's serving them, loving them, forgiving them. This is what I want you to see: Jesus comes all the way down — all the way down off the mountain — to rescue us and to bring us home.

    What the disciples will learn, and what you and I need to learn each and every day, is that you don't get to the feast, you don't get up the mountain of the Lord, you don't get the life you long for any other way than by God's loving, sacrificial grace. That's what the disciples experience that night as Jesus descends to their feet to wash them, and he shows them how much he loves them. It's why he's washing their feet the night before his death. He's fulfilling Isaiah’s vision and all the hopes of the Old Testament that the Lord now has come to rescue the world and to wipe away our tears and to wipe away our sorrows and to swallow up death forever. That's what he's doing as he’s at their feet. He's come to swallow up death forever.

    I had no business climbing up that mountain in the Catskills on that January day. I almost didn't make it back. I told my family upon return that I almost died. That was a bit of an exaggeration. But I did get cold. My feet got wet. My socks were drenched. I ran out of water. My phone — which also had the app for the trail and also was my flashlight — died very early on in the descent. By the time we got to the top, another storm had rolled in, and there were no views. There was no amazing view off the Catskills. We did a majority of the hike back down the mountain in the dark because we started too late in the day. I might have asked my friend to carry me on the way down. He refused and told me to stop whining, which was fair. All to say, I was not prepared. I had no business ascending that mountain.

    It might seem for us, for you, for me, as we look at our own lives, as you look at the world around you, that when it comes to Isaiah’s vision of this glorious mountain, this glorious feast that he offers, we too, like the disciples might seem like we have no business being on top of that mountain. We have no business being invited to that feast. Even if we got to the feast, would it really be worth it? But remember, that's why Jesus has come down. That's why he comes so low. That is why tomorrow night we will gather to remember that Jesus goes even lower than the disciples feet. Jesus descends even lower than footwashing; he's going to ascend this terrible hill of Golgotha. He's going to ascend this terrible cross to die for us, and then he's gonna descend. He's going to go down even lower, even to hell itself, to defeat death and swallow it forever. So you need not worry. You need not fear. In Jesus, you have everything you need. You have everything you need to ascend the mountain of the Lord. Jesus promises to get us there. He's going to get you to the feast. And because he's the host, all of these promises will come to fruition, and it will be absolutely worth it.

    Only Jesus can do this. Only his love can cleanse us. Only his power can heal us. Only his feast can satisfy us. Only his hands can console us. And only his death can deliver us. There's a beautiful feast that awaits all who put their faith in this Jesus. He is your host. He promises to wipe away your tears, and he's going to bring you to this mountain. The beautiful thing we celebrate now, we celebrate at this table, we celebrate tonight is that he is here with us even now, by the power of his Spirit, in our valleys, at the foot of the cross, in the brokenness of this world, and the promises for us hold sure.

    Let's pray.

    O God, we need a vision of this mountain. We need Isaiah’s vision of this feast, of this rest, of this glory, of your presence. We confess to you that it seems so far away from our experience, from our life, from our world. God I pray that you would give us hearts and faith to long to climb only this mountain, and we thank you. Help us to trust in your son and our Savior Jesus who promises to get us there. We cannot get there on our own. We cannot get there by our own power. Only you can get us there. Tonight, as we ponder the wonder of a Savior who had washed the feet of his disciples, may we take great hope and courage that you will in fact do just that. We pray this all in Jesus’ name. Amen.