Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Parable of the Great Banquet

Most of us have people in our lives who do not wish to hear anything about Jesus Christ.

But can we say we really love people if we continually hide the truth from them?

Several years ago, I had some friends who had some kind Catholic neighbors that
were always helping them.

One day I asked them, have you tried to talk with them about Jesus yet?

What they said surprised and disappointed me.

They said, “Well, they basically believe the same thing, and we don’t want to offend
them since they are so nice to us.”

It is a common thought, even among Christians, that sharing the truth of Christ is not loving.

Many are also afraid to share the truth for fear that they might be rejected.

But 1 Corinthians 13:6 says that love “rejoices with the truth”.    真理を喜ぶ

Jesus said, “Then they will know the truth and the truth will set them free.” (John 8:32)

Yes, we need to be wise so that we can speak the truth in love, and avoid offense if at
all possible, but we cannot keep hiding truth from people and claim that we love people.

The most loving thing we can do is to share the only news that will set people free.

It is very much like inviting people to a great feast of delights that will never end.

And only as we know and accept the truth of Christ can we be both saved for eternal life
in heaven, and come to know the wonderful God we were created for.

The Scriptures say that we all make up excuses to avoid the truth of God, until God helps
us to begin to realize that the truth is far better than all we can imagine --

The truth that God is not only in control, but that He is good, and that He loves us, and
that He has the absolute best future planned for us.

In Luke 14:1, we see that Jesus had been invited by some Pharisees to dinner.

Now the invitation itself was probably given chiefly in order to trick Jesus into healing
a man on the Sabbath and thus providing one more reason to condemn Him.

The Pharisees were looking for any excuse they could find to avoid the truth that Jesus
is the Messiah, sent from God.

They liked their own exalted status as respected religious leaders, and they did not wish
to believe that God had something to teach them through this lowly man from Galilee.

However, as the sovereign Lord over all, Jesus uses the occasion to speak to the
Pharisees and to us about the truth of God’s kingdom, and how it is like a great dinner

You see, deep down, Jesus loved these Pharisees, just as the Father in the parable
of the prodigal son loved the older brother.

He wanted to help them even though they didn’t want to hear the truth.

The Old Testament book of Isaiah in particular speaks of the coming kingdom of God
as a feast, and so Jesus spoke from an idea that the Pharisees could understand.

Isaiah 25:6&8 says, “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all
peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow...
8  He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from
all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for
the LORD has spoken.”

イザヤ 25:6、8「 万軍の主はこの山の上で万民のために、あぶらの多い肉の宴会、
… 8 永久に死を滅ぼされる。神である主はすべての顔から涙をぬぐい、ご自分の民へ

So let’s jump into the text for today, near the end of Jesus’ meal with the Pharisees,
when he shares this parable.

15 When one of those who reclined at table with Him heard these things, he said
to Him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
16 But He (Jesus) said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.
17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had
been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to
make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out
and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five
yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another
said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came
and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became
angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city,
and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said,
‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the
master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel
people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those
men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

In those days, being invited guests to a large banquet prepared by a wealthy man who
could afford such a feast, well, it would be the pinnacle of social life.

For an important person like this to invite you to a big banquet, filled with many other
important guests, was to receive not only a day of feasting,

but it would mean great music, fun, and the social honor that went along with the

So a banquet like this was the pinnacle of Jewish social life in the rather boring and
hard world of living hand-to-mouth in a primitive agrarian society.

In these days, one could not just go to a supermarket and expect that each day
enough fresh food would be available for all.

There were no refrigerators to keep food fresh for long periods of time.

So we can see here that there was always an initial invitation and then a call to come
quickly when everything at the large banquet was finally prepared.

In the difficult routine of daily life, to have a great feast like this prepared for you,
and to be invited by a very prominent person, well you surely would not turn it down!

So this whole story just wouldn't happen; that people who had accepted an invitation
like this would then refuse to come when everything was ready.

So as Jesus told this parable, smiles certainly started to fill the listeners faces as the
laughable, ludicrous, even impossible sounding excuses started to come into the story.

No such ridiculous excuses would ever be uttered, and so certainly the Pharisees,
who were listening, began to smile or even laugh over the story part way through.

Someone bought a field, so they need to go look at it... at this very moment?

Would you not look at a field well before you bought it?!

What a foolish and flimsy excuse to miss this amazing opportunity!

The same with the 5 yoke of oxen and the new wife - It has absolutely no bearing on
the issue of this great invitation!

Who, in their right mind, would turn down such a wonderful opportunity for these silly

And then the rich man gets angry and goes and fills his banquet table with the poor,
crippled, blind and lame.  

Absolutely absurd and laughable in that world - It would never be done.

The rich and socially elite invited those who could return the favor in some way.

And yet in that humorous, even silly moment, Jesus suddenly turns to the Pharisees
who are now intently listening and with a sudden serious tone points to them and says:

For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste My banquet.” (v. 24)

You are the ones I’m talking to.

How do I know that, that this last sentence was indeed addressed to the Pharisees?

In the context of the story the master is talking with his one servant.

But in the original Greek, suddenly the “you” Jesus uses here switches to plural:
You Pharisees.

In verse 24, the master isn’t talking to the servant, Jesus is now talking to the group
of Pharisees who had been making every excuse to avoid coming into the kingdom of God.

They are the ones who are making the absurd and ridiculous excuses to avoid God’s
invitation, and therefore they themselves were the ones to be laughed at and ridiculed.

The Pharisees were proudly rejecting God’s personal invitation into His kingdom through
the person of Jesus Christ,
and they had made many laughable excuses in order to do so.

The Pharisees were rich, enjoyed respect from the people, and were justified in their
own eyes because of their strict adherence to the Old Testament Law.

So they made flimsy excuses and used poor reasoning in order to reject Jesus so that
they could keep their comfortable lifestyle and lofty position.

How about us? Do we avoid humbling ourselves before God and following Him and the
truth because deep down, we like our own way better?

Whatever excuse we use, it is a ridiculous and absurd excuse when we understand
what and WHOM we are rejecting.

We are rejecting the Author and Maker of every good thing who simply wants to bless
us more than we can possibly understand.ー

In high school, while I believed in Jesus and would have told others that I was certainly
a Christian, I really wanted to be the king of my own life.

I thought that after I enjoyed life a little the way I wanted it, then I could just say sorry
and come back to God later and be saved for heaven.

I was enjoying my lifestyle and position, and I didn’t want God to get in the way of it
just then.

So I made flimsy excuses and lifted myself up as the king of my own life through
my actions.

And except by God’s grace, I would have continued in my absurdity and been justly
shut out of God’s kingdom forever just like the Pharisees were.

Now Jesus had told the Pharisees in verse 11 that they needed to humble themselves
and trust God, and yet they were not willing to listen to plain talk. (show verse)

But Jesus did not give up. He simply tries a different approach with them through this
comedy in order to shine light and to help them see more clearly.

Initially, when they heard what Jesus had to say about humility in verse 11, they had
nothing but scorn for His comments, if indeed they bothered to process it at all.  

In response to Jesus’ words, one Pharisee in verse 15 had responded, ““Blessed is
everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

There wasn’t any doubt in their minds that they were going to be there at the feast in

And it was clear that they did not accept what Jesus had just said about the need for

And so it was a pronouncing of blessing upon their own heads, a kind of toast to
themselves, affirming that they had rejected the indictment of Jesus.  

Confident they were secure in the resurrection of the righteous because of their
Abrahamic ancestry and their strict adherence to traditions and laws of the O.T.,
they had missed God Himself.

In their minds, they would not only be there, but they would be in the most prominent seats.

It is the same with most religions today.

They teach that if we just jump through the right religious hoops and do the right
religious actions we will earn our way.

Man-made religion is good at lifting up the pride of man, while simultaneously pushing
away our sin against God and our deep need for His forgiveness through Christ.

But Jesus was saying to them and to us: you are so caught up in what you are doing
that by it you are rejecting the amazing free gift of God’s kingdom that has been
prepared for sinners.

How about us? Are we living today for God’s kingdom or are we living for our own
pretend kingdoms?

Are we living for the fading things of this world, thinking that by them we have security
and joy?

Do you think that you are good enough to get into heaven, if there is a heaven after
we die?

Jesus said, “none of those men who were invited shall taste My banquet.” (v. 24)  

Jesus also said in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Basically, we cannot receive God’s kingdom while simultaneously trying to build our
own kingdom in this world.

People living in rich, developed, and successful countries like Japan must especially
be careful.

We resemble Pharisees in many ways: rich, respectable, and moral.

But we should beware to think that we somehow have enough or are blessed already
without Jesus.

That we deserve heaven, or even worse, that we deserve His grace.

Jesus did not come to hand out awards to the worthy, or pay back those who had
earned salvation.

He humbled Himself and came to suffer and die for us on the cross because there
is absolutely no way for us to go to heaven otherwise.

This news is difficult to receive in such a moral and polite society that Japan is.

But our morality and politeness cannot save us, just as it could not save the Pharisees.

As Jesus said in the parable, the master was angry at these very polite excuses that
were given.

John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life;
whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God
remains on him.”

So notice who the master of the banquet invites next: Not more rich, polite, and
noble people; but the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame (v. 21).

That is you and me, if we will accept it.

If we’ll admit it, if we will admit our sins against God, and our great need and utter
lostness apart from His grace, we will be able to come to the feast also.

We need to see ourselves as the lost sheep, as the lost coin, and the lost son,
as Gregg talked about the last two weeks, completely unable to save ourselves.

Without Christ we are the spiritually poor, crippled, blind, and lame because of our sin.

But we can see here that the Master welcomes these with open arms, ready to help us.

One thing about the list of needy people here is this: None of them will ever be able
to pay back the rich master!

And we will never be able to pay back God for all that He has done for us either.

That is the way God wants it and that is exactly how He wanted it from the very beginning.

Romans 11:35-36 says, “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Oh yes, we’ll want to repay Him, but salvation is of the Lord and for His glory, not for ours.

And so some, like the Pharisees, will choose not to come because they cannot repay
Him, because they want the glory for their own hard work.

But, by God’s grace, some will be awakened to the truth and see their great need before
the Master.

They will see that they are poor, crippled, lame and blind without Him.

Some may even feel too unworthy to come, too sinful, too messed up and too crippled
to be honored with God’s love and with heaven.

And so the master says to his servant, “compel these to come in.”

The use of “compel” reflects ancient Near Eastern practices, in which a resolute host
takes the hand of a hesitant guest and ushers him or her personally into the house.
It isn’t always easy to receive a free gift.

Sometimes we must personally urge the people who feel unworthy or unable and
strongly urge them to receive God’s gift for free.

Many people feel that we must do something to earn or repay the kindness shown.

But if we do not receive His kingdom as a free gift, we cannot receive it at all.

And so we need to lovingly and unashamedly urge people to receive the gift of God for free.

On their own they are not going to do that, and so we who are God’s servants must
keep coming.

We must keep at it until they receive the free gift and until they too give all glory to God.

We know from the rest of the New Testament that people will come from every tribe,
tongue, people, and nation on the planet. (show Rev 5:9)

But Jesus wants to bless us to be a part of His work to help others enter into His
wonderful family and kingdom, and then He alone gets all of the glory.

Because this world was created for God’s glory, not for the glory of man.

Sometimes we also make silly excuses just like the Pharisees did.

In our sinful nature, we like our self-centered ways of life more than God.

Our sinful nature likes making idols out of anything instead of turning to the real God.

And so we are blind to the reality of God’s greatness and therefore the depths of our
sins against Him unless Jesus helps us.

Of course the Pharisees were blind too, but most of them would not admit to it.

Just like the Pharisees none of us naturally sees or understands the goodness of our
God or His grace.

In our sinful nature, we all make flimsy excuses to keep the lust of the flesh and the
pride of life.
Yes, mankind naturally prefers man-centered religion and short-sighted, man-centered
living over God’s kingdom.

We prefer to take the credit for our own goodness, for our own faith and hard work.

But Jesus purposefully invites the needy, precisely because He does not want to be
repaid, nor does He need our repayment.

A truly rich, generous, and kind person longs to give to and help others for their benefit.

And Jesus is not different — He richly and generously gives to us to help us to become
more like Him.

And if we have really tasted God’s amazing grace in Christ, we will want to tell others
about it and give that same amazing grace to others too.

In verses 12-14 Jesus helps us as Christians to apply this verse, so that we can enjoy
His grace every day as it shines out through our own lives.

12 ...“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your
brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return
and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled,
the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

12 また、イエスは、自分を招いてくれた人にも、こう話された。
になるからです。 13 祝宴を催すばあいには、むしろ、貧しい人、不具の人、足なえ、
盲人たちを招きなさい。14 その人たちはお返しができないので、あなたは幸いです。

In order to help people understand and receive God’s great love for them, we are to become like Christ and freely give and graciously love those around us —

Especially to those who can already see their own needs.

That is why Jesus summed up His ministry like this:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim
good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Lk 4:18–19)

19 主の恵みの年を告げ知らせるために。」

We do these things to point people to God, and so His greatness and love and truth
that we enjoy can be enjoyed by others too.

And any debt we go into to love others will be amply repaid at the resurrection.

We will be honored, when the victory feast begins and we join with all the saints in enjoying
all that God is and has done for us and through us forever.

In the span of 50 years, between 300-350 AD Christianity went from 2% of the population
of the Roman Empire to 50%.

Many factors contributed to this rise, but one of the major factors was that Christians cared
for the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.

They cared for the sick, and they rescued the discarded infants who were often abandoned
outside to die, and they took them and raised them as their own.

It is the kind of thing that they themselves had experienced from God, so they longed to
share that same kind of love with others.

And if we have received such grace and love, if we have really received it into our hearts
and minds, we will be compelled from within to give the same grace to others.

The Roman emperor Julian writing in 360 AD said of Christians, “They don’t just take
care for their own poor, they take care of ours too.”

May we who have tasted such grace and love, likewise keep sharing that same love
not only through what we do, but through the truth of Him whom we proclaim.

And for those who have not yet received the free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus,

I urge you not to be caught unprepared when Jesus comes soon and says, “The feast
is now prepared for all of those who have made themselves ready.”

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