THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS A PARTY

I just realized that the Kingdom of God is a party. There are hints to this throughout the Scriptures, but I only recently put them together to reach this conclusion. Jesus said he had come to give life more abundantly (John 10:10). The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines abundant as “occurring in large amounts” and “marked by great plenty”. Now having an abundant lifestyle seems to me to be a good reason to rejoice and throw a party. And throughout his ministry Jesus gave people reason to rejoice.

When Jesus began his ministry, he proclaimed “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) The Greek word translated “repent” is “metanoia”, meaning “change your mindset”. And the Greek word translated “gospel” is “euaggelion”, meaning “glad tidings”. So Jesus was saying “The kingdom of God is coming, change your outlook on life and believe the good news.”

I find it telling that the first recorded miracle of Jesus occurred when he and his disciples were invited to a wedding reception. When the host ran out of wine, Jesus’ mother urged him to do something about it. So he had the servants bring him six 20 or 30 gallon jars of water and turned the water into wine. It wasn’t cheap wine either (think Thunderbird or Strawberry Ripple), but wine of the very best vintage, to the amazement of the master of ceremonies, who apparently thought the bridegroom had been holding out on him. And the party went on. (John 2:1-10)

Jesus obviously wanted everyone to enjoy themselves and live life large (i.e., abundantly)

As his ministry continued “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” (Matthew 4:23-25 NIV)

Everywhere he went Jesus invited everyone to follow him into the kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven). In the Beatitudes he said the kingdom of heaven belonged to the poor in spirit and those who were persecuted because of righteousness. He said that those who mourned would be comforted, those who were meek and humble would inherit the earth, those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness would be filled, the merciful would receive mercy and the peacemakers would be called children of God. (Matthew 5:3-10)

He used many illustrations to describe the kingdom of heaven, comparing it to a hidden treasure, a priceless pearl, a net that brought in all kinds of fish and a tiny seed that grew into a great tree. In other words, he was saying, it is greatly to be desired and is open to all sorts of people. His invitation included those who were outcasts of society: lepers, those considered unrighteous (sinners), the working poor and even the hated tax collectors.

He obviously enjoyed being with all kinds of people and sharing good times with them. In doing so he violated all sorts of current social norms. So much so that he incurred the wrath of the entrenched religious and political leaders. He simply wasn’t austere enough to suit them. They thought he was enjoying life too much and was inviting all the wrong kind of people to join him. Because he came eating and drinking, they said of him “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” (Matthew 11:19 NIV) Eating and drinking; sounds like a party goer to me.

Jesus reserved his harshest words for those who not only refused to join him but were hindering others from entering the kingdom: “You hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13 NIV)

Shortly before this Jesus had likened the kingdom of heaven to a wedding banquet.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come…Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (Matthew 22:2, 3, 8-10 NIV)

One thing about this story used to bother me. When the king came in to see the guests, he noticed one man who was not wearing wedding clothes and had him thrown out. But then it occurred to me that the man must have tried to enter on the basis of his own righteous acts, which Isaiah tells us are “like filthy rags”. (Isaiah 64:6) If he had sought the kingdom of God and his righteousness as Jesus had instructed (Matthew 6:33), then he would have had the righteousness of God imputed to him and been properly dressed. Jesus concluded the story by saying, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14 NIV)

So when Jesus calls us to follow him and enter into the kingdom of God he is inviting us to the ultimate party, the wedding feast of the Son of God. As he said, “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:29 NIV) And the Apostle Paul tells us “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (I Corinthians 12:27) And furthermore Paul says when a man is united to his wife in marriage,   “the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31, 32 NIV) So if we are the body of Christ, as a man and wife become one flesh, we must be the bride of Christ. So we are not just to be guests at the wedding but Christ’s bride to be. Talk about a reason to celebrate.

John the Revelator was given a vision during which, he said, “After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God… Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Proper attire indeed for the bride of Christ.

So I am filled with excitement when I think about the unbelievable party Christ has invited us to. How about you?

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