The Mountain of the Feast

The Mountain of the Feast

The Mountain of the Feast.

“Your saving grace and your righteousness are like the mountains of God.” (Psalm 36:6).

Yes, God lives in heaven. But all through Scripture He appears to have a second home here on the earth, in the mountains. God’s personal involvement on mountains deepen the meaning and significance of what mountains have come to symbolize through the ages… stability; safety; permanence; majesty; beauty; spiritual inspiration. One of God’s names in Scripture is El-Shaddai (Genesis 17:1), and an ancient meaning of that name is “God of the Mountain.” It’s easy to see why. God’s attributes can clearly be seen in mountains, including the fixed foundation of His faithful love. “For even if the mountains move and the hills disappear, even then my mercy for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken, says Yahweh Lord, who has mercy on you.” Isaiah is saying that we all know how next to impossible it would be for a mountain to totter and fall. But it’s more likely for mountains to move away than for God to withdraw His unshakeable love for you.

God is like the mountains: He doesn’t change, He stays the same, He is consistently steadfast and stable. Mountains are referenced over 500 times in Scripture. Not only are mountains the go-to place for momentous events all through the Bible, but God Himself made it clear from the beginning that mountains are His first choice as a site to reveal Himself and His favorite place to meet with people. “I lift my eyes to the mountains; where is my help to come from? My help comes from Yahweh Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2).

Down through history people have assumed that since God is in His heavens, the closer one can get to God on high, the more spiritual enlightenment one can receive. There have been pagan shrines and mountaintop gurus as long as we can remember. People have always climbed to the “high places” for heavenly insight and personal contact with the gods, or with God. Irish Christians consider mountains to be one of those sacred “thin places” where the layer between heaven and earth is so thin that a believer can easily step from one to the other. As one person excitedly told Barbara Brown Taylor, ‘You’re sinners going up, but you’ll be saints going down!” People still refer to a special time with God as a “mountaintop experience.” As we study the Mountains of God in Scripture, we come to appreciate how central mountains are in the Word, how important they are to God himself. Mountains will be seen as a sacred part of nature that consistently has seen powerful events and profound conversations between us mere mortals and the Almighty God. Let us rejoice and applaud the God who is the Rock, who has a glorious history of preferring His own mountaintop experiences with us.

“You are a tower of refuge to the poor, O Yahweh, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat… On this mountain in Jerusalem, Mt. Zion by name, the LORD of Heaven’s armies, Yahweh-Sabaoth, will spread an extravagant feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with elegant, well-aged wine and rich, choice meat, a feast of succulent food and the finest of vintage wines. On this mountain He will destroy the shroud of gloom that is draped over the earth, the shadow of death that covers all the faces of the nations. He will swallow up and destroy death forever! LORD Yahweh will wipe away the tears from the cheek of each and every face. He will remove the disgrace and shame of every person on earth, for Yahweh has spoken! In that day the people will proclaim, This is our God! We trusted in Him, and He saved us! This is Yahweh, in whom we trusted. Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation!’ For the Lord’s hand of blessing will rest on this mountain.” (Isaiah 25:4, 6-10).

Yahweh-sabaoth = LORD of Hosts; LORD of the Angel Armies; Commander of Heaven’s Armies; Leader of Angelic Warriors; a host of angelic forces massing together for battle at the command of the LORD. This name of God is the most frequently used compound name for God in the Hebrew Bible. “Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh-sabaoth. His glory fills the whole earth.”  (Isaiah 6:1). It is used over 280 times, most of them found in the biblical Prophets, especially JeremiahIsaiah, and in many of the Psalms. “For Yahweh is the One who shaped the mountains, stirs up the winds, and reveals His thoughts to mankind. He turns the light of dawn into darkness and treads on the heights of the earth. Yahweh-sabaoth is His name!  (Amos 4:13).

The Parable of the Great Feast. (Please read Luke 14:15-24.) It’s clear throughout the gospels that Jesus loved to tell stories, especially when they have been prompted by the context, by a question or comment of someone in His audience. His parable of the Great Feast is His direct response to a listener’s comment at a meal regarding the Feast of Isaiah 25, the Messianic Feast expected by all Jewish believers.

THE CONTEXT. a. Jesus is reclining at a supper hosted by a Pharisee. As usual, they are grumbling, putting Jesus under their microscope. They didn’t like it when he healed a man right there at supper, on the Sabbath! And they didn’t like it when Jesus gave them some basic table manners, and challenged them to change their guest list the next time they had a supper. He told them to invite the outcasts.

One of the diners next to Jesus said a beautiful thing, a beatitude: How happy is the one who eats a meal in the Kingdom of God! A wonderful sentiment. This man is like every other Jew, well aware of the Messianic Banquet prophesied in Isaiah 25. This Banquet will be for all people at the end of time, and patriarchs are on the guest list! All the faithful Jews were expecting this at some point in the future, during the Messianic Age, in the fullness of time.

Jesus responds to this pious, inspired diner by telling them this parable of the Great Feast.

I think this story has two different levels of meaning: First, this was a parable of exposure, to the heart of God and his son Jesus, to what his ministry looks like, to what his Kingdom, now-and-not-yet, looks like. Second, this is a parable of warning, referring to the Messianic Banquet, that many in Israel were in spiritual danger of not making it to the Feast, because many Jews were not accepting Jesus, making excuses to the host of the Banquet, the Messiah himself.

THE PARABLE. An exposure to the heart of Jesus. When Jesus plans a party, we might be in for a few surprises. We’ll eventually be serving appetizers to scandalous outsiders and sexual offenders. We’ll be filling the water glasses of Roman sympathizers and religious half-breeds. We’ll be passing the salt to unclean lepers, political troublemakers, and sneaky thieves. We’ll be offering dessert to way-faring strangers who have no way to invite you back. We’ll be pouring coffee to a wonderful diversity of people, listening to a symphony of languages, and gazing upon a human rainbow of skin colors. And our serving table better be handicap accessible, because Jesus will go to every group home in town and hand out personal invitations to everyone who has a disability. With Jesus, the outcasts become the in-crowd. All those who live in the margins will find themselves smack in the middle of mercy and conviviality.

Forgetting his questionable guest list for a minute, think about his unlikely guests of honor as revealed in his many experiences and stories. He wouldn’t hesitate to have dinner in Jericho with a compromising scoundrel who would cheat his own people. He’d want to celebrate with a lowly shepherd after finding his lost sheep. Or a humble woman who finally found her long-lost coin. Perhaps most surprising of all, he would have no problem hosting a village feast to honor a runaway son who just squandered his whole inheritance. The bigger the screw-up, the better the feast. The more humble the person, the more extravagant the party. Jesus was one big welcome mat, intentionally inviting all the undeserving into his life of love and joy and forgiveness. With Jesus, open house is 24/7.

To underscore his grace, Jesus tells this parable of the Great Feast. The story is about a certain man who wanted to throw a big banquet. He sent out invitations to his friends, which were then accepted. On the day of the feast the meat is grilled, the food is prepared, the pillows are fluffed, and the guests receive their confirming invitations. As they are seated around the table, the host encourages all to begin the feast. But all of a sudden, the guests surprisingly offer weak excuses and then walk out the door, one by one. One guest mutters that he just bought some farmland and he wants to go have his first look. Another says he bought a yoke of oxen and wants to see if they actually work together as a team. A third whispers he was just married and wants to spend some time with his bride. It’s reasonable at this point to suspect that the landowner probably got a good look at the land before he bought it, that the farmer most likely observed the oxen before he had bought them, and the newlywed has already had his honeymoon. All their excuses were insulting, dishonest, hurtful, and unacceptable. So these friends, familiar with the host, in the end rejected his invitation to be a part of his life, his world. It actually looks like these so-called friends in Jesus’ story wanted to shut down the party as they rejected the host.

As the story continues, the host of the banquet was understandably miffed. My life of love is an open book, spits out the host, and they slammed the book shutThey could have had everything, including my friendship, he says, and they turned their backs! So the angry host decides on making a second guest list, right on the spot. He sends out invitations to precisely those who are never invited to anything, no less a huge feast like this one.

So through the door come the residents of the rescue mission and the local nursing home, then come the students from the school for the blind, and then those in creaky wheelchairs and aluminum walkers. The rejected host is now accepted as he opens the door wide to all who have been rejected or put on the margins, just like him. The host turns his anger into grace. But wait, the story isn’t finished. He finds that there’s still plenty of room for more, and he wants a full house! So he sends out even more invitations, this time asking complete strangers, the immigrants and the aliens, the homeless travelers, the far-flung foreigners, who probably need to be convinced that, yes, they really are invited to the feast. Soon enough the house is full and everyone is seated and the party can begin. Jesus says that his Kingdom looks like that, and we respond with, May your Kingdom come! Jesus is the life of the party, his heart is as big as the world, and his banquet hall always has room for more.

THE PARABLE. A warning of spiritual danger. Through the story of the Great Feast, Jesus gives fair warning to the religious leaders of Israel. All faithful Jews were well aware of the future messianic banquet, and so the audience would have easily understood the setting and the main characters of this little drama. The original guests were the leaders of Israel, rightfully invited first to the kingdom of Messiah. The lame and the poor of the city were the outcasts within the house of Israel. The travelers on the highway outside the city were the gentiles, outside the house of Israel.

THE ORIGINAL GUESTS. They were the religious leaders among the Jews, and of course they were invited first. But Jesus didn’t look like the Messiah they were expecting. He broke the law on the Sabbath. He claimed to fulfill the law and prophets. He eats with sinners, with the ritually impure. He didn’t fit their picture of Messiah. So they don’t accept him, and they run the risk of missing out on the Kingdom, on the final Banquet. They offer many poor excuses, but none of those excuses are acceptable. Jesus wants them to accept him into their life, but they choose to close themselves off from the banquet of salvation.

THE EVENTUAL GUESTS. The rejected, the poor, the disabled, the gentiles, all accept the invitation of the host Jesus. They welcome the chance to be with the host and enjoy his Feast. Jesus no doubt has everyone thinking about Isaiah 49:6, when God’s salvation is to reach to the ends of the earth. God’s grace invites the unworthy, and that fact is unacceptable to the religious leaders.

JESUS. He wants a full house. There’s always room for more at the table. His grace knows no boundaries. The only ones not present at the banquet are those who rejected the invitation, self-imposed exiles. In the very last verse, Jesus calls this feast “my banquet.” He is claiming to be the Messiah Host, and he’s handing out invitations to the feast of salvation, anticipating the Heavenly Banquet in the future upon his return.


  1. Now and Not Yet.The Kingdom begins now, with Jesus. Salvation has come. He wants table fellowship now through His Spirit. The final fulfillment of the Messianic Banquet will occur when he returns to take his believers to heaven. In the meantime, his followers have the opportunity to continue his table fellowship through Communion, the Eucharist, in which the Lord is indeed the Host. The Lord’s Supper is the foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet. And it’s important we recognize our fellow partygoers. Let us offer no excuses as we continue to rub shoulders with God’s Kingdom people.
  2. This is the Messianic Banquet expected by all Jews. As William Salmond says, “The supper is a figure of the rich grace which was to come to people by Christ.”  Grace, being what it is, and Jesus, being who He is, offers this richest of fare to the undeserving. “Yahweh Sabaoth (LORD of Hosts) is preparing a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of succulent food, of well-strained (matured) wines.” (Isaiah 25:6, New Jerusalem Version).
  3. This is the Messianic word that the Lord will reach a wide variety of people, to the ends of the earth, starting with the people of Israel. “It is not enough for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I shall make you a light to the nations so that my salvation may reach the remotest parts of earth.” (Isaiah 49:6New Jerusalem Version). Surely His banquet of salvation and grace will extend to the outsiders and marginalized, from the highways and back roads of the world, both Jew and Gentile.
  4. The Great Feast will include the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the outlier, the alien, and those from different cultures who also want to follow the Messiah. Every people group imaginable will be welcomed. This is what the Great Feast will look like: “After that I saw that there was a huge number, impossible for anyone to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language. They were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb…” ( 7:9NJB). Jesus has issued invitations to the ends of the earth! What a glorious time that will be.

No wonder every Jew was looking forward to the Messianic Age! Sumptuous banquets that celebrate Yahweh’s return, the eternal destruction of death, every tear wiped away by Yahweh Himself. Shame put away forever, no longer disgraced by one’s sins and shortcomings. The appearance, at last, of Who everyone was hoping for all these years… Messiah Yahweh! And to top it all for us who believe in Christ… That last word in Is. 25:9 is “salvation,” which is pronounced in the Hebrew as yesh-oo-aw. The word for salvation here is pronounced Yeshua, or Jesus! So the last line is read, “Let us rejoice and be glad in Jesus!

“How great is the Lord Yahweh, how deserving of praise, in the city of our God, which sits on His holy mountain! It is high and magnificent; the whole earth rejoices to see it! Mount Zion, the holy mountain, is the city of the great King! (Psalm 48:1-2).