Shopping at the Lord's Supermarket
v.1 Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Dear friends in Christ, it is harvest time. A time of feasting and celebration as the fruits of the field are gathered and people rejoice in God's good gifts that provide sustenance and life. Indeed, just this past weekend in Canada was our Thanksgiving weekend--a time of special feasting and joy! Many a bird and pig were sacrificed on the altar of our ovens for the delicious dining experience. For these special meals come at a price, don't they? Turkeys, potatoes, yams, salads, cakes, and pies--all come at a price. Not to mention the fine wines and aperitifs that are often enjoyed at such meals.
Which is what makes our text for today seem so very strange. The picture is of a marketplace--a place where food and drink--the staples of life--are bought and sold, like our supermarkets. However, the vendor at this marketplace is very odd, indeed. He calls out to those who are thirsty and hungry, "Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." How can He do that? How can anyone stay in business by selling things at no cost? He'll be bankrupt in no time!
Of course, this is no ordinary vendor. And the food He is "selling" is no ordinary food. The picture painted for us here in Holy Scripture is that of God Himself, calling to His people to come and receive from Him the food of life. You see, earlier in Isaiah we find that the people had turned away from God toward idols. They attempted to pay by their efforts to appease these false gods--in effect, spending money for that which is not bread, and their labour for that which does not satisfy, to paraphrase our text in v.2.
This left the people hungry and thirsty and penniless, due to their idolatry. But God would have none of this. His love for His people is too great. That is why He sent His own Servant, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, who would work to re-establish God's covenant with His people. This Suffering Servant does what God's people cannot do because He actually listens to the Lord and speaks His Word.
This Servant, then, is the reason why the Lord can now offer such a sumptuous feast for His people completely free of charge. For the price has been paid--in full--by another! The Lord Jesus. Jesus is the suffering Servant of God whose very death and resurrection established a covenant of mercy and peace between God and His people--you and me. So, the Lord calls to all people--you and me and the whole world--through His blessed Gospel Word--to offer to all people the Bread of Life--the food of immortality through the forgiveness of sins, purchased and won by the blood of Jesus. He is the Servant who imputes His righteousness to all who believe.
By hearing Jesus' Word--heeding His call to come and eat and drink--feast on His body and blood--in Spirit and in truth--in simple bread and wine--your souls may live--and you are incorporated into the everlasting covenant with God--a covenant founded in His steadfast and sure love for David. A covenant established by the Suffering Servant, who is the Son of David, Jesus Christ--who went to the cross to suffer for your sins and to earn for you a place at the eternal feast of the Lord.
Beloved, through faith in the triune God--He who calls you into fellowship with Himself by the blood of the Son--your cup overflows--at no cost to you! For Christ Jesus has paid the price for you to eat and drink in the Father's Kingdom. Jesus has paid with His suffering, death, and resurrection. Jesus has paid with the blood outpoured by nail, thorn, and spear. You and I now drink deeply from the side of Christ--drinking His blood--washed in the water and the Word of Holy Baptism--called now to be His holy people--called to be His witnesses to the world.
Now, dear friends, as those who have been and nourished by eating and drinking freely of the Lord's bounteous goodness in Word and Sacrament--we have the great joy and privilege of being a light and a witness to this dark world of sin and death. Yet, how effective is this witness? For it seems a small and paltry attempt to gain more people into God's fellowship with simply words proclaimed from a pulpit or read from a book. It seems utter folly to expect that water and word can drive off demons and breathe eternal life and salvation. It seems ludicrous that simple bread and wine given by God's Word and at His bidding can cleanse a person from all sin and guilt.
Yet, indeed, this is exactly where the Lord may be found. And God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways our ways. Through these simple means--and through simple folk like you and me--God calls to nations and people that we do not know--and they run to join us in the holy Christian church. They flock to hear His Word proclaimed and receive His gifts of life and salvation. Not because our witness is so good and convincing, but because the Lord's promises are so good and trustworthy.
Beloved, though we are the wicked, hungry and starving, conformed to the way of this world--made destitute by chasing after empty idols (like health, wealth, and happiness), yet we are called by God to forsake our ways, to turn from our thoughts, and to trust in the Lord. To turn to Him and seek His goodness and mercy--this amazing gift of faith and life--in the place where He has directed us. We sinners turn to Jesus. To the One who calls out to us to eat and drink without price--to feast with Him at His side in glory everlasting. To delight ourselves in the rich food of His table, which is His very own body and blood. And we are not disappointed. Nor are we left wanting. For we have been graciously filled with the goodness of the Bread of Life from heaven.
Our ears have heard the Word of the Lord and digested Him and His promises to us. No longer do we walk this earth hungry and thirsty, longing to be filled with joy and peace. For in Christ Jesus you have been filled with every good thing--the very richest of food--the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world--your sin--your death--so that your cup may overflow with goodness and mercy and life. Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus. Amen.