Esther is a beautiful woman with a ginormous task; she must use the position that God has put her in to save her people from a wicked plot against them. It's dramatic. It's dark. It's suspenseful.
And it's a foreshadowing of things to come.
Prompted by her uncle, Mordecai, to approach the king and seek his favor for her people, Esther steps boldly but respectfully into the throne room of Artaxerxes, hoping to be welcomed and accepted. When she is, she asks not for what she truly wants, but for something different altogether - she asks for the king and for the servant Haman (who is wicked, but who is not yet known to be wicked) to come to a banquet that she will prepare for them.
They come, gladly so, but the king knows that this is not really what Esther has wanted. So he asks her again, what is is that you want? And she invites them to a second banquet, where she promises to reveal her true request. Again, they come, gladly so, and after feasting together, she lays it on them. What she wants is the redemption of her condemned people.
It's easy for us to defer to worldly power structures here, to think how cunning and shrewd Esther was to know how to ask for what it was that she really wanted. She was buttering them up, certainly. Wasn't she? She was going through the steps and preparing all the decorum and doing things the right way to honor these men who were so much greater than she was, deferring to their power and prestige and playing to their sense of exaltedness by serving them first. Ah yes, Esther truly understood the way the world works.
Or did she perhaps understand better the Kingdom?
Because this is not the only banquet in Scripture. It's not even the only banquet where both a King and an enemy are present. Remember that generations later, Jesus is going to break bread with Judas, a feast prepared by the disciples who want something, who desperately want something - they want to see all that Jesus is going to do.
In fact, the Scriptures are often about a banquet. We're told over and over and over again how God Himself breaks bread with us in fellowship. How He broke bread in the Upper Room. How He fried fish on the seashore. How He divided loaves on the hillsides. How He calls us again and again to a wedding feast, to a banquet, to a table He's prepared for us.
And yet, we know that to eat with us is not the full measure of what He desires. He wants something more.
He wants the redemption of His condemned people.
We want that, too.
So when we read the story of Esther, we absolutely ought to praise the way she goes about it. But let us never fail to see how the story of her banquet is the story of our banquet, where so much more is on the line than a mere meal. It's our very hearts, our souls, our lives. Our eternal life. Where we are called to break bread, but the real end game, the real mission, is the redemption of us, a condemned people, as it has been all along.