Tuesday Jul 30, 2019
Tuesday Jul 30, 2019
Tuesday Jul 30, 2019
The Great Banquet
Good evening. About this time of year, it seems to me that summer barely arrived and now it is winding down. Perhaps the week of cooler temperatures after the last hot spell made me think that. For whatever reason I started to think of the things we have to look forward to in the latter part of the year.
For example; I appreciate the month of November for two days that remind us to be thankful of where we are and what we have, and to be thankful of the sacrifice made by those that serve. Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving Day.
I heard a story about little Johnny I’d like to tell you. One Sunday morning the preacher noticed little Johnny was standing staring up at the large plaque that hung in the foyer of the church. It was covered with names and small American flags mounted on either side of it. The young man of six had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the preacher walked up and stood beside him and gazing up at the plaque he said quietly, "Good morning son."
"Good morning sir " replied little Johnny not taking his eyes off the plaque.
"Sir, what is this?" Johnny asked.
"Well son, this is in memorial to all of our young men and women who have died in the service," replied the preacher.
Soberly, they stood together staring up at the large plaque.
Little Johnny's voice barely broke the silence when he asked quietly, "Which one sir, the 11:00am or the 6:00pm?"
I can easily understand little Johnny’s confusion and perhaps you can as well. Fortunately, when it comes to telling us of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus does not confuse, though His audience may sometimes be uncomfortable. Please turn in your Bibles to Luke 14 which will be our reference for this evening’s lesson. One of the great qualities, which dominated the life of Jesus, was His unselfishness. While He was eating dinner in the presence of the Pharisees, Jesus’ thoughts turned to the many people who hadn’t been invited.
He spoke to His host in the plainest of terms and said in Luke 14:12-14 – “Then He also said to him who invited Him, "When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. "But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. "And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.''”[NKJ]
Make no mistake about this, these were hard words, I would imagine the host staring at Jesus with anger in his eyes, but that didn’t deter Jesus.
- Have you ever been in a conversation about a subject that you just don’t want to talk about or that makes you uncomfortable? When that happens to me, I usually try to change the subject or say something that will make my thinking a little easier.
- I suspect something like that is what happens next because out of nowhere one of the other guests tries to break the spell and dismiss the statement by saying in Luke 14:15 – “… Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Jesus then responds with a parable that compares God’s kingdom to a banquet furnished by God.
- Luke 14:16-24 – “Then He said to him, "A certain man (God) gave a great supper (God’s Kingdom) and invited many (these being the Jews), "and sent his servant (God’s messengers) at supper time (the coming of the Messiah) to say to those who were invited, `Come, for all things are now ready (We sing about this – so the fullness of time has come).' "But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, `I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.' "And another said, `I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.' "Still another said, `I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.' "So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, `Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.' "And the servant said, `Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.' "Then the master said to the servant, `Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. `For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.' ''”[NKJ]
- Before we get into the parable, I need to mention Matthew’s account. In Matthew 22:1-14 we find a similar parable by Jesus about a feast like the one we have just read. I suspect the two parables are independent of each other, but the obvious similarities are due to their common origin, Jesus Christ.
- What Jesus does here, is compare the kingdom of heaven to a wonderful banquet. It’s significant that in most of Luke 14 Jesus talks about feasts and banquets. In this atmosphere Jesus compares entering the kingdom of heaven to coming to a feast.
- During the days of Jesus there was a rumor that went around which the Jews believed as fact, even today many Jews still believe it.
- It was a common belief at that time that in a literal sense when the Messiah came, in the golden age of His reign, all the Jews would be invited to sit at His table in a great feast. With that in mind Jesus may have used this popular notion and compared the kingdom to a banquet. It’s not a long dreary funeral procession; it’s a festive occasion of warm fellowship and unheard of delight. Our meal that we enjoy at our potluck is like that. A meal with loving brothers and sisters.
- Remember that Jesus didn’t come to darken an already gloomy world. His mission was to bring good news. I wish the world would recognize that. Jesus’ message of good news has been distorted almost beyond the point of recognition. Multitudes of people have come to believe that people cannot enjoy themselves and still be a Christian.
- People have misconceptions about Christianity because they have a distorted view of Jesus. Yes, it’s true that Isaiah 53:3 describes Him as a “Man of sorrows”, but this point has been magnified out of all proportion. Look with me at how scripture, Isaiah 53:2-3, describes the messiah; “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
- A man named Publius Lentulus supposedly wrote a letter to the Roman Senate. It is reported he was a Roman Counsel from 27 BC to 14 AD and Governor of Judea before Pontius Pilate. This letter is considered apocryphal for several reasons. But listen to the way he describes Jesus.
- “There has appeared in our times, and there still lives, a man of great power (virtue), called Jesus Christ. The people call him a prophet of truth; his disciples, son of God. He raises the dead and heals infirmities. He is a man of medium size (statura procerus, mediocris et spectabilis); he has a venerable aspect, and his beholders can both fear and love him. His hair is of the color of the ripe hazelnut, straight down to the ears, but below the ears wavy and curled, with a bluish and bright reflection, flowing over his shoulders. It is parted in two on the top of the head, after the pattern of the Nazarenes. His brow is smooth and very cheerful with a face without wrinkle or spot, embellished by a slightly reddish complexion. His nose and mouth are faultless. His beard is abundant, the color of his hair, not long, but divided at the chin. His aspect is simple and mature, his eyes are changeable and bright. He is terrible in his reprimands, sweet and amiable in his admonitions, cheerful without loss of gravity. He was never known to laugh, but often to weep. His stature is straight, his hands and arms beautiful to behold. His conversation is grave, infrequent, and modest. He is the most beautiful among the children of men.”
- This image of Jesus has had a lasting effect on the art of succeeding ages, and even today Jesus is seen as a man who never laughed. Is this what Jesus was like?
- I’m reminded of Romans 14:17 – “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Matthew tells us in chapter 25 that the faithful servant will enter the joy of his Lord. John 15:11 says; “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
- We’re not expected in “Monk fashion” to withdraw from the world and punish ourselves. We’re not expected to be like the Pharisees and bind ourselves with a code so strict that even toys for children are condemned as “Works of the flesh.” Jesus said, “His kingdom is one of Joy”. Not a joy of bodily depravity and sensual living but a joy of what is spiritual and eternal.
- Back to Luke 14:16-18 - "… A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, "and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses..”
- There are three excuses given, but they can be divided into two classes. The first two have to do with earthly possessions and the third concerns earthly ties. We are going to look at the excuses in more depth in a minute, but let me first say this; the word translated as “with one consent” or “with one accord” or “alike” in verse 18 is interesting because it doesn’t mean they couldn’t go or they simply said “No thank you”. What it points to is that they “didn’t want to go”. “from one motive they began to make excuse”.
- Let’s look at the first two excuses, the earthly possessions. Luke 14:18-19 - “The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.” “And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.”
- There is little difference between the two excuses. Both men are absorbed in their own interests. Both men were so tied up in their business affairs that they had no time for anything else. They were basically saying that, “They had too much to do, so they couldn’t come.”
- How many times have we heard that excuse over the years? I would love to come to worship, or I’d love to stay for the fellowship meal, or I’d come back this evening, - but my life is just so busy at the moment! It’s like focusing on “self” is everything and the “life that is now” gets the most attention. Their business is their “Bible” and making a living is their creed. They rarely seem to have time for other people… never mind time for God.
- God knew that all of mankind would struggle with this and so what He did to help us take our minds away from our earthly possessions, is institute what is called the Lord’s Day. It’s a special occasion with a special service of worship on the first day of every week. Sunday’s are the days when He gives us a spiritual call to put aside all our concerns of the previous week and give full attention to the concerns of God.
- As we meet every week with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we encourage one another and each of us reflects upon the sacrifice of Jesus, as we are reminded again of the cost of sin. In Matthew 4:4 - Jesus tells us that, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
- Let me quote a passage of Scripture that some Christians don’t like. Hebrews 10:25 - “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” “the assembling of ourselves together” is a reference to the Lord's day worship of the assembly, the regular Sunday services of congregations of believers, as set in motion by the apostles, honored by disciples in all ages, and fully recognized as a sacred obligation for all Christians by the author of Hebrews who penned this formal commandment regarding attendance.
- The reason I said that some Christians don’t like this verse is because it is a direct command from the Holy Spirit, through the Hebrew writer, for us to continually come together. The ones who don’t like this verse are those who are already in the habit of not meeting together. I don’t know about you but I need encouragement. Maybe I’m not as strong as some other Christians but I need encouragement more than once a week.
- That’s why I am glad I’m not alone with my struggle. That’s why I’m glad that others attend the “Wednesday night Bible study”. I feel very privileged to have an opportunity to attend those classes. I thank God for our Sunday Bible study.
- I thank God for “Potluck meals”; because I need the encouragement from other Christians to help me through.
- How important is this attending of the assembly? First consider John 20:19-20 – “19. Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you.'' 20. Now when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
- The beginning of the church on Pentecost occurred on a first day of the week when the disciples were gathered together.
- Consider such references as "Let every one of you lay by him in store on the first day of the week" (1 Corinthians 16:2), and "When the disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread" (Acts 20:7).
- We don’t want to end up like “Demas who loved this world, and deserted Paul and went away to Thessalonica” according to 2 Timothy 4:10. When James is talking about those who are rich and are oppressing other people, he says in James 5:5 - “You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.” You see it’s not just a matter of commitment; it’s a matter of encouragement.
- Let’s look at the second excuse, the earthly ties. Luke 14:20 - "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'” This man’s excuse is a little more difficult to understand because of one of the Laws written in the Book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy 24:5 - says, “When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has married.”
- Perhaps the man was basing his excuse on this particular Law and maybe he felt that he had a perfectly good excuse. He placed the obligation of his family and his home first and he thought that everybody would understand, but when you think about it, it’s a paradox that something as lovely and sweet as home can stand between a man and God. After all Genesis 2:24 - says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” That doesn’t mean that he is to leave his Father in heaven.
- When we think about our homes, they are among our greatest blessings, but as we know many a blessing can turn into a disaster. There are at least two ways in which we can use our homes wrongly.
- Our home and our family ties can occupy the chief spot in our hearts. The man said in Luke 14:20 - “'I just got married, so I can't come.'” It seems like a reasonable excuse but read on in verse 26, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple.” We are going to look more at this another time, but for now let me say that Jesus commands an exclusive affection from us. He wants the whole heart.
- Our homes can be used selfishly. We can come home after a hard day at work and want to do nothing but relax and enjoy ourselves. We can spend much time and effort making our homes so livable that we wrap ourselves up in comfort and shut others out.
- You see, folks, regardless of how our homes are constructed; the windows should always look out on the needs of others. This is the way they were in the first century church and it’s the way we should think about our homes today.
- In Romans 12:13 – we are told; “Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”[para] In Hebrews 13:2 - “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” Practicing this is one of the great glories of having a Christian home. Ask yourself, when was the last time you invited someone to your home?
- Continue now in Luke 14:21-23 – “"So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, `Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.' "And the servant said, `Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.' "Then the master said to the servant, `Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
- The flimsy excuses had made the host angry, especially by those whom He invited but who didn’t want to come. He sent His servant out into the city, He sent his servant onto the streets, and the alleys.
- He wanted His house full. He sent his servant out into what we would call the slums. What’s Jesus point here? The point is that Jesus was saying to the Jews that if they reject the invitation they wouldn’t sit at God’s table. He’s telling them that those they consider the lower classes of people, the publicans, sinners and even the heathens are going to take their place at the table.
- He’s says in Luke 14:24 - “For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.” This is bad news for those who rejected His offer but great news for us. Isn’t that a wonderful truth – when you think about the applications here – that God wants His house to be full?
- Romans 5:17 – I paraphrase; “For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.”
- He is abundant in mercy and desires the salvation of all. Once His invitation is refused, He goes to others in order for those others to feast at His banquet. Matthew 28:19 - “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…”
- This is a universal invitation to come and feast at the Lord’s Table. The gospel is for all; the love of God desires a multitude of guests. What a sight it must have been! The cripples, the downcasts, the poor with their heads bowed. The blind groping around for a place to sit, the lame leaning on their crutches. You might think that is a miserable sight. No, no, no. It is not a miserable sight!
- What we need to remember is that it was a happy group of people on the happy occasion of this feast. I wish I could just leave the sermon on that happy note, but I can’t, because there are still the others, the ones who didn’t come in. They had closed themselves out, they had sent different excuses, yet there was only one reason why they didn’t come. The three excuses all plead something that pertains to self. They loved things too much, they rejected a generous Host and they rejected His grace.
- Imagine what it’s like. Some are filled with the bread of life and for others are dying of hunger! Some have living water at their feet and others are dying of thirst!
Matthew 5:6 - “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” What is Jesus doing through this parable? Jesus is giving those who aren’t Christians an invitation. He is generous. Yet people continue to reject His grace. When we converse with non-Christians, we need to try to get them to the point where they think about Jesus’ offer of salvation. When they get to that point perhaps, we can encourage them to think about confessing His Name before people. Talk to them about repentance, talk to them about turning away from self and start turning to God.
If they start thinking about those things, they may come to the question the Jews asked Peter in Acts 2:37, “What must we do to be saved?” Every person needs to get to that point. It is not a case of saying - “God, this is what I’m going to do to be saved”. It is asking what God wants us to do. When people come to that conclusion, we can teach them that they can become a child of God by doing what Peter told them to do and what every other Christian who is here today has done. Acts 2:38 "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
If we get anything from this parable tonight it is this. Jesus’ invitation is open to all of us. Anyone and everyone. Keep in mind people are going to come up with excuses. We need to put in their minds that an excuse is simply that. It’s an excuse. We need to let them know there is a table here, and there is a space at that table for them. We have not prepared it, Jesus Himself has.
Luke 14:21-23 - "So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, `Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.' "And the servant said, `Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.' "Then the master said to the servant, `Go out into the highways and hedges, and urge them to come in, that my house may be filled. " [para]
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
#607 “All Things Are Ready”