Johnson On The Timing Of The Kingdom

Jesus’ parables sometimes send mixed messages about the timing of the coming kingdom. He speaks the parable of the wedding banquet in response to a fellow dinner guest’s pious-sounding beatitude that seemed to envision a distant future age, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:15). On the contrary, Jesus’ story underscores that the feast of the kingdom is now ready and its host is issuing his urgent invitations in the present: those who make excuse now will never enjoy his table fellowship or taste his banquet. On the other hand, when many who accompanied his approach to Jerusalem “supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately” (19:11), he told the story of the ten minas to disabuse them of that expectation and to prepare them for faithful stewardship during his absence. In one sense, the kingdom feast is spread and its invitation must be responded to immediately; in another sense, the kingdom will arrive in consummation form only after a prolonged period of the king’s absence, during which obedient servants must invest his gifts, although defiant subjects oppose his reign (19:13–14). Jesus’ parables show the kingdom of God to be surprising not only in its double arrival (first in grace and weakness, finally in justice and power) but also in its reversal of received wisdom and conventional expectations. Jesus’ stories are subversive. In them the younger son who shamed his father’s name and squandered his father’s wealth is feted upon his return in rags, while his obedient, hard-working brother sulks outside. The tax collector who has sold out his own people to Gentile oppressors leaves the temple right with God, whereas the scrupulously obedient Pharisee does not. Invited guests forego a wedding feast to pursue other interests while disabled outcasts take their places at the groom’s table. Farm workers who put in one hour of work receive equal pay with those who labored for twelve, through the heat of the day, as their employer insists that his right to show lavish generosity to some does no injustice to others.

Dennis Johnson | Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures, ed. John J. Hughes (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), 342–43.


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