The Kingdom of God is Like Attending a Banquet

Do you like banquets? Jesus did. It is amazing how many stories we have of Jesus eating with people or talking about eating. And he was sometimes criticized for not being choosy enough about whom he ate with. Banquets were special and he used them as a metaphor for participation in the kingdom of God.

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The Feast with Abraham in the Kingdom

Jesus observed that the Pharisees were partial to banquets as well—but for the wrong reasons. Matthew 23 shares Jesus’ opinion of them in this regard:

Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the market places and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

But, in Luke 13, Jesus warned those who thought they were God’s special people:

There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.

In other words, those who should have been first will be surpassed by latecomers. Can you imagine how these privileged people of God would respond to being disrespected in favor of those from outside Israel? I would say the imagery of weeping and gnashing of teeth appropriately captures their disappointment.

The Parable of the Great Banquet

When Jesus noticed guests choosing the places of honor, he said in Luke 14:

When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.

But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

The kingdom is not the place for us to compete or promote ourselves; instead we should be humble. Remember Jesus’ answer to the disciples who wanted to be the greatest in the kingdom?

The story continues:

When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus replied: A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame…I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’

I think this recalls what we learned in the past two articles about recognizing the great value and high priority of the kingdom. Becoming part of the kingdom is not difficult, but it’s not a hobby—it involves serious commitment.

I don’t think Jesus is being harsh here but rather uses hyperbole to make a point. And I don’t think God will be ‘angry’ with any of us, but we do need be committed to the kingdom.

The Virgins and the Wedding Banquet

Matthew shares this story in chapter 25:

The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them…The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

For some believers, this is a great ‘rapture’ passage: ‘You must always be ready so that you don’t miss the rapture!’ But I think not. Again, this parable reminds us that the kingdom is a serious priority and requires commitment.

What Insights Did You Discover?

Did you gain any new insights from these kingdom stories? If so, what were they? I hope you found this series on the kingdom of God useful. We will return to the kingdom sometime next year.

Jesus without Baggage exists to assist and support those questioning beliefs they have been taught in fundamentalist, traditional evangelical, and other groups. If you know someone who might find Jesus without Baggage helpful, feel free to send them the introductory page: About Jesus without Baggage.

Articles in this series: The Kingdom of God
What Is Heaven and Where Is It?
Heaven, the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Kingdom of God
How Do We Become Part of the Kingdom of God?
2 Parables of the Kingdom from Planting
The Kingdom of God is Like… (7 Short Kingdom Parables)
The Kingdom of God is Like Attending a Banquet

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25 Responses to The Kingdom of God is Like Attending a Banquet

  1. Pingback: The Kingdom of God is Like… (7 Short, Informative Kingdom Parables) | Jesus Without Baggage

  2. Pingback: 2 Parables of the Kingdom from Planting | Jesus Without Baggage

  3. Pingback: How Do We Become Part of the Kingdom of God? | Jesus Without Baggage

  4. Pingback: Heaven, the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Kingdom of God | Jesus Without Baggage

  5. Pingback: What Is Heaven and Where Is It? | Jesus Without Baggage

  6. newtonfinn says:

    This whole recent series about the Kingdom and associated parables has been most helpful to me and, I’m certain, to many others. Thanks again, Tim, for all of the hard work involved in initiating such discussions and keeping them going in a positive direction. Which, of course, does not mean that respectful disagreement is not welcomed on JWOB, especially because it can deepen and enliven the dialogue. So allow me to say that while I am in accord, as usual, with the substance of this week’s post, I do not agree with this excerpt: “I don’t think Jesus is being harsh here but rather uses hyperbole to make a point. And I don’t think God will be ‘angry’ with any of us, but we do need be committed to the kingdom.”

    For me, to jettison the idea, the feeling, and yes, perhaps, the fear that God does indeed become angry with us, not because of personal sins of weakness but because of our complacence toward and complicity in structural evil, the powers and principalities described in the article linked below, would be to lose a crucial aspect of the personhood of God, His being like a father, His being, in the words of Pascal, NOT the god of the scholars and philosophers but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I suspect our difference in this regard stems from your background in fundamentalist Evangelicalism, where the fear of God and hell is wielded as a weapon of mind-control, and mine in liberal mainline Protestantism, where talk of God’s wrath and eternal punishment is rarely, if ever, heard. I’d be interested in whether you agree that our theological difference likely derives from our divergent backgrounds or from somewhere else.

    Here’s that article I referenced, which, ironically, is more closely related to the Christian tradition you come from than it is to mine:

    https://www.plough.com/en/topics/justice/social-justice/powers-and-principalities

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dennis Wade says:

      Newton, you sure find good articles! Once again I followed your link and once again the article gave me much food for thought. I, too, see the power of Christianity coming from the power of the Spirit within us and not from correct doctrinal beliefs. Correct beliefs are important, but they only get you to the right place. Whether you have any power in that place can only come from the Spirit within.

      I don’t know whether I accept the idea of an actual adversary such as Satan, but I do accept that hate, bigotry, economic oppression, etc have real spiritual power and can take on a life of their own to the point that a person can said to be “possessed” by them. Such a person cannot be changed by arguments and facts, but must be freed from these powers by a true conversion of the heart.
      In the years i spent away from Jesus I researched and studied many other teachings, and there was one teaching that i found to be very prevalent in many places.
      it was taught that thoughts and emotions had a power to them that could actually enable them to take on a life of their own.. These were referred to as “thoughtforms”, and it was said that the more people gave energy to these thoughtforms by indulging in them, the more energy and autonomy they gained, and the more able they were to influence the minds and behaviors of others. I think there is a lot of truth in this teaching.

      My comments here are in response to the article you linked, and not to Tim’s present post, so i will stop there, except to say that I find no difficulty in the idea that God can feel disappointment with us if we too act like the people in the parable and make excuses as to why we can’t find time to “come to the feast”, and that he is quite capable of speaking firmly to us when we need it. Such “anger” does not express hatred, but is born from a sincere parental wish to guide us into better paths, just like we do with our children

      When we look at the excuses that were made by those who were invited to the feast, they relate to worldly concerns, business ventures, affairs of the heart, starting new enterprises, and so on, In that sense they seem to be quite acceptable, and I dare to say that quite a few of us would agree that these affairs should be strongly focused on in order to have them succeed. But Jesus makes it very clear that we can put no worldly concerns before the Kingdom. It sounds like a tough teaching, but we need to remember that Jesus doesn’t say that we can’t have these concerns, only that they can’t come before the Kingdom.
      And if they do, not only will our relationship with the Kingdom suffer, but these worldly concerns will also come to naught in the end.

      Liked by 2 people

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        “I, too, see the power of Christianity coming from the power of the Spirit within us and not from correct doctrinal beliefs.” I also agree with this.

        Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      “I do not agree with this excerpt: “I don’t think Jesus is being harsh here but rather uses hyperbole to make a point. And I don’t think God will be ‘angry’ with any of us, but we do need be committed to the kingdom…I’d be interested in whether you agree that our theological difference likely derives from our divergent backgrounds or from somewhere else.”

      Newton, you might be right about that–I don’t know. I am sure I am influenced by being taught that God is angry with us, but I think even more important is my understanding of the character of God. I see God as being perfectly mature; do very mature people respond in anger?

      Another thing to consider is that we might have different concepts in mind when we say ‘angry’. I think God wants us to change and grow, and we certainly come up short in that. But is God angry? Is God disappointed? Is God surprised? I think God understands us better than we understand ourselves and better than the most skilled psychologist can understand us. Total insight.

      What do we even mean when we say that God is angry with us? How would you describe that anger and God’s wrathful response to us? What does that look like in your mind?

      Liked by 2 people

    • theotherlestrangegirl says:

      I understand what you mean, Newton, but I’m not sure that would be called “anger” from God. I’m not sure what it would be called, but anger doesn’t seem quite right.

      We know that God does not forcefully intervene Himself in the world. Could He wipe away all natural disasters and disease without a second thought? Sure. But He doesn’t. Why is that? There is the matter of free will, but I think there’s also the fact that we share some of the responsibility to help with that stuff.

      Since I don’t believe in the story of Adam and Eve as a historical account, nor do I believe in a satanic creature, I think that God made us flawed from the beginning. On purpose.

      Because there can be no good without bad. There can be no light without darkness. We have to fight the darkness in order to appreciate the light.

      If God had made us perfect and infallible from the beginning, there would really be no point to anything. We could still be told that God offers perfect love, but so what? We would already have it from ourselves and from each other.

      When I say this, I don’t mean that God planted evil in us. I think He simply just gave us the power to choose one or the other. And, as it turns out, a lot of people make the wrong choice. But that’s only what makes the good so, well, good.

      I’m sure I could make many points with this, but my main one is that God understands the balance. He understands the bad that exists in order for the good to counteract it.

      I don’t think He relishes in or likes the evil. I think it hurts Him very much. But that’s what happens when you give creatures their own free will, and He gets that.

      This is why I don’t really think God gets angry with us. I think, like I said, He is hurt by the bad things and the wrong choices. But you get angry at something because it’s out of your control. Nothing is out of God’s control. He is not seething, stomping His feet because He can’t fix a broken world. He is holding Himself back and allowing it to happen for the sake of that balance. If He didn’t want the balance, He wouldn’t have bothered with free will and would have just created a bunch of mindless robots.

      And that’s where our responsibility comes into play. Yes, we have free will, but we are also held accountable for our choices. It’s not all, “Here kids, do what you want and have fun forever.” Sometimes our choices cause very bad things to happen, and we have to answer for that.

      We are co-creators with God. We can’t build worlds the way He does, but we build other things. I don’t mean only physical things, but also things like relationships, systems, knowledge, etc.

      We have responsibility in this world. If a murder happens, it’s not always because it’s “part of God’s plan.” Let’s not blame it all on God! Sometimes it’s simply because a person chose to do a very evil thing.

      As for God’s plan, if He does truly have a master plan (there’s some debate about that), I don’t have a clue what it is and, to be honest, I’m done with trying to figure it out. We’re never going to know anyway.

      Liked by 3 people

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Strange girl, you have SO MUCH great stuff in this comment! “There is the matter of free will, but I think there’s also the fact that we share some of the responsibility to help with that stuff.” is only the beginning.

        Like

  7. fiddlrts says:

    Just one thing that struck me re-reading the Parable of the Virgins: One lesson we might see is that we have to look at the Kingdom from the long-term perspective. We can’t go into it thinking we will see the Kingdom quickly – so we had better be in it for the long haul. We can expect, perhaps, to feel frustrated with a lack of progress, results, or whatever, but the Kingdom most assuredly comes. (And indeed is here now, but not always visible.) I am reminded of the set of books by David and Karen Mains from my childhood, where the call would be “How goes the world?” “The world goes not well.” “But the Kingdom comes!”

    Liked by 2 people

  8. newtonfinn says:

    I appreciate the discomfort that some of my JWOB brothers and sisters feel when God is spoken of in terms of anger. But so much of the Biblical record has to do with God’s righteous anger and indignation toward those who use earthly power to oppress and exploit the weak and the vulnerable. Indeed, that is the major theme of the entire prophetic tradition, in which Jesus squarely stood. Did not Jesus himself feel anger when he drove the money changers from the temple and dressed down, in the strongest language, the chief priests, scribes, and lawyers? I can’t help but sense genuine passion in these words and actions, as opposed to the merely strategic use of hyperbole and symbolism. Yet I, too, draw the line when it comes to hate, which I believe contradicts God’s character, as Tim puts it, and which Jesus emphatically teaches us to eliminate, with God’s grace, from our hearts and minds.

    Perhaps this is one of many places where ordinary human language simply breaks down, as it attempts to describe divine realities beyond our utmost effort to comprehend. Kierkegaard uses the concept of paradox to talk about such things, with the ultimate paradox being, of course, the union of the eternal and the temporal in a crucified Palestinian prophet. The trick to getting to the truth in such situations, Kierkegaard advises, is not to reject one or the other of the apparent opposites (i.e., deciding that Jesus is either wholly man or wholly God, or that God can’t be both angry and loving), but rather to maintain the tension of believing simultaneously in two things which, in purely logical terms, should not be able to co-exist. This, I think, gets to the heart of my own discomfort with totally rejecting the idea of a God who gets angry with us, not for our personal weakness but for our taking advantage of the weakness of others. “It is in the nature of things that evil comes, but woe to man by whom it comes.”

    What that “woe” is also remains a mystery beyond our comprehension. For those of us who believe that eternal torture is incompatible with a loving God, even one who feels righteous anger, I suggest that we nevertheless will benefit ethically and spiritually from feeling a bit of a shudder when we hear these and similar words from mouth of Jesus or find them spoken to us in other places in the Bible. This shudder should not dominate our inner lives; we are not meant to live in continual “fear and trembling.” But I believe that we are meant to know and feel that God, while being our loving father, is also, at the same time, in the very process of loving us unconditionally, awesomely holy and righteous, not to be trifled with or taken for granted in the slightest respect. Thus when I soon go to meet my Maker, I expect to be overwhelmed by love beyond my imagining…but, at least initially, my head will be bowed and my knees will shake as I fall down upon them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      “Perhaps this is one of many places where ordinary human language simply breaks down, as it attempts to describe divine realities beyond our utmost effort to comprehend.”

      Newton, I like the way you say this. Perhaps your idea of God’s anger is not of the vindictive, retaliatory type.

      Like

    • Newton, I’m still not entirely convinced.

      I don’t believe that God is one of anger and threats. I don’t need to be “reminded” that He is “not to be trifled with.” We all know that God could kill us all and wipe out the world if He truly wanted to, sure, but I don’t think we need to be told that. The only thing that inspires is fear.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. MAS Images says:

    There is a great point you made about taking the goal of the Kingdom a serious commitment. Living your life as, fundamentally, a good hearted person with the humility of a child [does not mean being a push over], then that seems to me to be good prep to be accepted into the higher realms of heaven. Meaning if you vibrate in lower consciousness, there Your reward will be. If you vibrate in higher consciousness, there Your reward will be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Well said, MAS!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hmm, I’m not sure I agree. I do believe that the Kingdom is a serious commitment.

      But the other part of what you said sounds more like a “good works” doctrine and less of a grace doctrine.

      Liked by 1 person

      • MAS Images says:

        I can see your point. However, I believe Grace is very likely bestowed upon a righteous person exhibiting these traits. Traits that Jesus/Jeshua/Jesu encourged. The reward, in my opinion, IS Grace. Thank you for helping me make my point a little clearer.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, I gotta totally disagree with you on that one.

          Grace is bestowed upon a righteous person exhibiting these traits? Do you know what Grace is? Among many other things, it does not come with expectations.

          Plus, you pretty much nullify Jesus. Why did we need Him to shed His blood and bestow us all with the love, grace, and mercy of God if we can simply buy our grace with the right personality traits?

          Sure, Jesus encouraged people to be loving and kind and generous. But it wasn’t so they could supernaturally buy anything! It was because, I don’t know, it’s good to be kind?

          Grace is not a reward. It’s a gift from God. Not only that, but it’s the purest gift that God could possibly give. Even if we could somehow get a bigger helping of grace by being nice or something, do you know how unbelievably short we would all fall?

          Jesus did not come here to teach people to be better so they can get more from God. He came here to show God’s unbelievable love and to say, “This gift is yours, whether you deserve it or not.”

          Just…that message. That’s a pretty harmful message your sending.

          Liked by 2 people

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Strange Girl, I must agree with you; grace is not given to the righteous.

            Like

          • MAS Images says:

            No not being harmful, to get that out the way. Jesus’ example did and, for some, does help and guide to help us return to our true natures. There are many other ways, religions, spiritual paths, and personal relationships with the Divine to continually aim to return to our true selves as human beings and that is what some could term as Grace. Its semantics. And I always believe that as children we are inately born to be loving individuals dwelling within this place of grace/ innoncence/wholesomeness/bliss/Higher Consciousness/etc. We learn separatism, spiritual conflict (going against our natural selves and nature around us), and begin our battle with the very nature we were born to love and serve not trying to make it serve us. We loose our way and Jesu happens to be a part of that journey back home, for some. We are seeking and truly headed to return to that place, than our acts in life will be considered by many traditions and non traditions to be of righteous nature. Some traditions and non traditions alike call it “Grace” others do not. It is immaterial. The point is there is a reaction to every action. Thus, you do good, goodness comes back to to you and you are more in sync with your true Nature(whatever name you wish to address it as). Okay, so the “Reward” terminology is another symmantic way of describing the benefits in this life and after, what righteous acts (within our Nature) by someone true at heart bring to the doer.
            My message, is is confusing to you due to my semantics, my terminology. Next time, I will do a lot of slashes to include various versions of the word(s) to help all readers coming from various opinions and interpretations of the words I use. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

        • I agree that Jesus led us to be kind, and that we get what we put out into the world. We reap what we sow, as they say.

          I just don’t think that concept applies to God’s grace.

          The problem I have with that idea is it gets very close to “getting right with God” and believing that certain things happen as punishments from God.

          In other words, say you struggle through a drug addiction during your teens and then, years later when you’ve been sober for a long time, you suffer a miscarriage. And you believe that God is punishing you for your past sins with drugs by causing your miscarriage. I use this example because it really happened to a friend of mine, and some people at her church told her just that.

          That’s a terrible message, and it’s not how God works.

          So, yeah, to be clear, I agree that you reap what you sow. If you are kind to someone and go out of your way to help them, they feel inclined to do it back. You see this a lot around the holidays. And if you are rude to someone and ignore them, you probably won’t get any help when you need it either.

          But that’s the way the world works, and I think you’re confusing that with how God works. I don’t really believe in afterlife benefits for those who are extra-righteous or something.

          And I understand what you’re saying about the use of semantics, and no, those aren’t words I would use either.

          The only thing you have to “do” to get God’s grace is receive it.

          Liked by 2 people

          • MAS Images says:

            Yes!! I love your last sentence. And we must be open to receive it. It is a constant flow to us (one spiritual tradition taught me)We must live our lives that allows for the Grace to be seen and enjoyed in our lives. It is our doing that opens our lives up to it and the Kingsome will be at hand. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

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