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.
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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