Without Fail

Without Fail

Haman is out of the picture, but that’s not the end of the story. The Jewish people successfully (and overwhelmingly) win the battle against their attackers, but that’s not the end of the story either. Before the story can end, we must be allowed the chance to live in the new, post-conflict reality, a new equilibrium. And this new reality is built around a dinner table.

The conflict happened on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, and Mordecai declares that a new holiday is to begin taking place on the fourteenth and fifteenth days of that month. Mordecai and his Jewish kindred call this holiday “Purim.” Purim refers to the “lot” cast by Haman (kind of like rolling dice) to determine what month and day he should initiate his campaign of slaughter, which landed on the twelfth month and thirteenth day. To name this new holiday “Purim” is itself a nod to the grand ironic reversal that has taken place – Haman cast the lot, and look at how that worked out for him.

And so Mordecai directs that Purim will take place on these two days (it still does to this day among Jewish people). For these 48 hours, the Jews are to gather around tables for “feasting and gladness” (Esther 9:22), to tell and re-tell this story of deliverance, and to make sure everyone is accounted for and fed, including the poor. It makes perfect sense that Mordecai makes special mention of the poor. He and his Jewish kindred now know all too well the experience of being powerless, of being on the bottom of the social and economic ladder, so they will show a special love for those who remain there. Once again, we see the dramatic contrast of what power looks like in the hands of traditionally authoritarian people like Haman, and what power looks like in the hands of Esther and Mordecai. When Haman makes a law, people suffer. When Mordecai makes a law, people rejoice and the poor are fed.

Mordecai insists that the practice of Purim is not simply a nice idea, nor a well-intentioned get-together to try out but slowly dissipate over time. No, Purim is to be a fixture in the Jewish year forever. He says this a first time, but goes on to also say that “without fail they would continue to observe these two days every year,” (9:27) and that “these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews.” (9:28) Mordecai feels that Purim’s importance warrants this triple emphasis. This new table practice will be a highest good for them, one that cannot be pushed aside by anything else.

We hear echoes of Exodus and Passover here – gathering around a table every year to feed each other and tell the story of deliverance. And if Purim draws our attention toward Passover, how much more does it draw us toward the Lord’s Supper? The story of being rescued from that which tried to overtake us is not something we merely talk about, not an idea we merely grasp. The story of rescue is something we eat. The love of God that reaches into our mess and delivers us is something we consume. We take it into ourselves and absorb its plentiful nutrition. We are gathered around this table by Jesus every week because once or twice is not enough. We will come again and again, without fail, until this nutrition has remade us completely.


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *