Gather is excited to share that Mark Allan Powell, author of the Gather’s winter 2020 Bible study, “The kingdom of God,” has created a video to accompany the study.
Those readers who provided what Powell calls “not altogether favorable” reviews of the blanket backdrop (he used this backdrop for the first two videos), will get a chuckle out of his introduction. (Note: The Bible study portion begins about 2 minutes into the 18-minutes video.)
Gather is glad to be able to offer these videos to help subscribers continue to connect in Bible study during these unprecedented times. If you enjoy these videos, please consider making a donation to support Women of the ELCA’s publishing ministry, which makes this work possible. Make your gift here.
Our teacher is so delightful , and I have a page full of notes to share with others! I look forward to next month’s study. Thank you so much “Gather” for this opportunity and for an excellent resource for us to use.
Enjoying Mr. Powell’s study. My group had a question in session 2. Mr. Powell said in his video that Jesus went around putting on fake banquets in order to show what people would be welcomed into heaven. We looked at the suggested Bible passages but we couldn’t find anywhere that it said Jesus put on banquets. Jesus attended banquets but nowhere that we could find that He put on banquets. I called and left a voicemail for Elizabeth Hunter but she did not call me back. How can we ask our question to Mr. Powell to find out what he meant? Thank you.
Hi, Beverly! I’ve reached out to Dr. Powell about your question. 🙂
You are right that is hard to find texts that say this in so many words. The best known passage where Jesus is at a banquet with a tax collector is the story of Levi: in Mark 2:15 and Luke 5:27-29, Levi apparently hosts this banquet in his own house—this would make him a wealthy tax collector (who has a “booth” or office, Luke 5:28) similar to Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10.
But later on, the Gospels note that Jesus had a reputation for eating with tax-collectors—so it wasn’t just the one-time thing. See, for example, Luke 7:34 and 15:1-2. The first of these (7:34) is especially important because it seems to present a definitive charge against Jesus: the number one thing that his opponents had against him.
What I lay out in the study does require some guesswork but the thinking goes along these lines: 1) If Jesus had a reputation for eating with tax-collectors and sinners (prostitutes), this must have been something he did frequently; 2) If doing this was enormously offensive to the religious leaders of the day, it must have carried some sort of message that contradicted their religion; 3) we know that Jesus typically used “banquets” as his favorite symbol for the kingdom of God; 4) we also know that Jesus frequently indicated God favored people like tax-collectors and prostitutes to the Pharisees and other religious leaders of the day (Luke 18:9-14; 7:36-50; Matthew 21:28-31); 5) so, it seems likely that “eating with tax-collectors and sinners” was a symbolic way of telling those outcasts that they were included in the kingdom of God (symbolized by banquets)—a message that would have been highly offensive to the religious leaders. Granted, this is not explained as such in the Gospels, but it seems to make sense of several things that would otherwise be disconnected or a little peculiar.
The idea that the “banquets” were meager affairs (pretend or fake banquets) follows logically from the fact that neither the tax-collectors nor the prostitutes nor Jesus would have had money to pay for exorbitant affairs. One guess, then, is that Levi (a converted rich tax collector) threw a real banquet for poor and destitute people (compare Luke 14:12-14)—in this case, low life tax collectors and prostitutes (possibly all slaves). Jesus used that occasion as an opportunity to tell the guests of their inclusion in God’s kingdom. He was sharply criticized by the religious leaders but, afterwards, began doing something similar in the villages he visited and earned a reputation as the prophet who ate with the unworthy (that is, shared the “banquet” of God’s kingdom with people the religious leaders of his day had said would not be welcome).
In any case, I didn’t come up with this myself. It is all dependent on studies of Jesus’s ministry by a number of scholars, especially these two: E. P. Sanders (The Historical Figure of Jesus) and John Dominic Crossan (The Historical Jesus). They go into far more detail, with arguments that may be more persuasive than my little summary. They persuaded me anyway.