Do you see him? He walks through the streets, the crowds gathered round. The lepers and lame are there, the fevered and demon-possessed. He turns away none. He sets a feast “for all peoples.” “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited, that He might save us.” How gracious our God is! He invites us to a feast. He invites us to lavish grace. But it does not come as easily as we would like.
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.
And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples,
Even the veil which is woven over all nations.
He will swallow up death for all time.
And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth;
For the LORD has spoken.
And it will be said in that day,
“Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.
This is the LORD for whom we have waited;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.
A banquet, a feast, a lavish display of grace. Tears wiped away, reproach removed, death swallowed up for ever… But death was not swallowed up easily. Reproach is not removed by simple divine fiat. There was a cross, a crown of thorns, the blood of a dying Savior; the cost of this Feast was far more than we could ever know. We are tempted to choose a simple heaven, a cheap grace, that bypasses suffering, but as Julian of Norwich learned, we must never look away from the Cross.
During this time I would have looked up from the Cross, but I didn’t dare…Then I had a suggestion in my mind, “Look away from the Cross, to Heaven, to His Father.”…I had to either look up, or to answer. And so I answered inwardly with all the might of my soul, saying, “Nay; I may not, for You are my Heaven.” This I said for I would not look away from the Cross. For I would rather have been in pain till Doomsday than to come to Heaven otherwise than by Him…Thus I was taught to choose Jesus for my Heaven, whom I only saw in suffering at that time. I wanted to no other Heaven than Jesus, who will be my bliss when I come there.
And this has ever since been a comfort to me, that I chose Jesus for my Heaven, by His grace, in all this time of Passion and sorrow; and that has been a lesson to me that I should evermore do so: choose only Jesus for my Heaven whether in prosperity or poverty.
—Julian of Norwich (1342-1416)
Revelations of Divine Love 19