Bread in the Kingdom of God
“Blessed is the one who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God.”
As Jesus was teaching the people, he shared with them that the Kingdom of God is at hand, that we can live under the reign of God as a present reality, and that the Kingdom of Heaven in within us. As He said this, someone in the crowd excitedly shouted out, “Blessed is the one who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God.” This listener was just imagining what an incredible blessing to be invited, to sit at the heavenly banquet, and to actually eat with our Lord the heavenly bread in the Kingdom of God!
Imagine that! Can you imagine being chosen, being invited, being treated like a VIP in the Kingdom of God? Breaking bread with our Lord Jesus Christ, at a table with all the saints, and having the angelic powers all around us singing praises to God? That would be quite an honor and experience!!!
And this is why the person in the crowd shouted out, “Blessed is the one who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God.” Yet Jesus responds to these words by telling the story of the Great Banquet where the Master of the feast sends out his servants to remind his invited guests that all is ready. Come and join in the feast! Come and participate in my great celebration! One by one, however, make excuses about why they can’t come. One just bought a new property and has to look after his affairs. Another has certain investments that require his attention. And the third had a worthy excuse –commitments with my family to which he must attend. Each one prioritizes something above the Great Banquet.
Jesus shares this story to highlight how in life, we all have decisions to make about our priorities, about what is most important in our lives! Yet be careful, because even though many of us say we prioritize God and our faith above all, He will judge us not by what we say, but by what we do. He will look at how we live our lives and how we spend our time, for this will reveal our true priorities! He will look at where and how we spend our money, for this will highlight our greatest priorities! Where is our heart, our passion, our desire, and ultimately our action?
Jesus’ story of the Great Banquet challenges each of us to reflect on whether we make similar excuses when invited to His heavenly banquet? Do we truly feel it’s an incredible blessing to “eat bread in the Kingdom of God,” or do we prioritize other things above the Kingdom?
This story makes me think of when Moses miraculously led the Israelites out of captivity after 400 years of slavery and took them on a journey that would lead them into the Promised Land. Their first stop on that journey was to Mount Sinai, where Moses received the 10 Commandments – a blueprint on how to prioritize our lives with God! God promised the Israelites, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you OBEY my voice and KEEP my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples.” (Exodus 19:4-5) IF we OBEY His voice and strive to KEEP His covenant, WE will be HIS treasured possession!
Yes Lord, we want to be Your treasured possession! We want to be Your sacred people and Your holy nation! So what do we need to do?!?
Well, to help us prioritize God in our lives, He gave us the 10 Commandments. I’ve been going through these commandments in my children’s sermons throughout the Fall – “I am the Lord your God, have no other gods before me. Do not worship any idols. Do not use the Lord’s name in vain. Honor your father and mother. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not covet… But the one I want to highlight today in relation to this story of the Great Banquet is God’s commandment to “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. There are six days to work, but the seventh is a sabbath to the Lord… It is consecrated.”
On one out of every seven days we are to prioritize God in a special way. We dedicate an entire day to the Lord. Of course, every day we follow and obey God, but for Jews the Sabbath, the seventh day, Saturday, was considered a sacred day dedicated to God. Two thousand years ago, however, with the Resurrection from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ on the first day of the week, the Sabbath for the followers of Jesus became Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the Day of Resurrection. And the primary way that Christians, over the past 2000 years, have kept this day holy and consecrated to the Lord is by partaking in His heavenly banquet through our worship in the Divine Liturgy.
How many of us realize that each Sunday we are invited, just as Jesus told in the story, to a Great Banquet where we “eat bread in the Kingdom of God!” We have the greatest privilege, and receive the most amazing treasure, when we accept the weekly invitation to enter into God’s Kingdom and participate in His Heavenly Banquet. And we do not only eat “bread” in His Kingdom, but we actually commune with God Himself, participating in the great mystery of united with Jesus Christ by eating His body and His blood.
As Jesus said in the Gospel of John, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever, and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51) He goes on to say, “Most assuredly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:53-54)
This incredible promise of our Lord should help us understand the centrality of our Sunday worship. Each week, the highlight of our week should be gathering together in the Lord’s Name, worshipping Him, and communing with Him! We gather every Sunday not only to fulfill one of the 10 Commandments by honoring God one out of every seven days, but we especially participate in the Great Banquet of the Kingdom of God by communing with God and partaking of His body and blood for eternal life!
This is why coming to Church every Sunday should be so exciting and such a blessing. If we understand what is truly happening, it can never be boring! When we make excuses, however, and when we say we are too tired and need to sleep in, or we have other more urgent issues, or we find some other reasons to skip our weekly worship, we are acting like the unfaithful friends in the Gospel story today whom Jesus condemned. We don’t understand that we are skipping out on a meal in the Kingdom of God.
“Blessed is the one who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God.” Let’s remember to begin each and every week by partaking of the Great Banquet, and eating the bread and wine of the Kingdom of God, partaking in the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life!
Macarius the Great of Egypt; Mark, Bishop of Ephesus; Arsenius of Corfu; Makarios of Alexandria; Makarios, Hierodeacon of Kalogera, Patmos; Removal of the Honorable Relics of Saint Gregory the Theologian; Branwallader, Bishop of Jersey
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