We love a great party! Weddings, birthdays, Super Bowls, New Year’s celebrations, and more. We all love a great party. About this time last year I got word that the invitations were ready and would be sent out in the next few weeks. It was going to be the event of the year–the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. I went to my mailbox every day to check. I had heard that only 600 invitations were being mailed out, but a guy can hope can’t he?
Weeks went by and no invitation. I didn’t hear anyone say they’d received their invitation so I wasn’t too worried, I just kept going to the mailbox every day. Then, it happened. I heard Oprah got an invitation. Sir Elton John beamed as he held up his invitation. David and Victoria Beckham got an invitation. Surely if a Spice Girl can get an invitation there was still hope for me. Serena Williams and her husband posted an Instagram announcing they were headed to London. Long story short…I never got an invitation.
Time raced towards the big day. Details of the arrangements leaked out and everyone was captivated by the Disneylike fairy tale soon to take place. Meghan’s dress was reported to cost $430,000! The royal family was spending $686,000 on food and drinks; $195,000 alone for Bollinger champagne! Another $157,000 was being spent on flowers. Everyone knows if you’re going to throw a party you’ve got to have music right?! Wonder what $430,000 will get you? That’s what was spent on the musicians, choirs, DJ, and live wedding band for the wedding and reception. I’ve been to lots of weddings and I can tell you the centerpiece of the reception is the cake. You have to have an exquisitely beautiful as well as delectably delicious wedding cake. When I read the description I knew it was going to be the cake of all wedding cakes, it would be both beautiful and delicious. A lemon elderflower cake covered with buttercream and fresh flowers with a price tag of $71,600! I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the tab for the wedding would be approximately $42 million dollars, the bulk of which, $30 million, went to security. I didn’t get an invitation.
Just imagine going to your mailbox back in February of last year and finding an invitation from the royal family. You tear it open and begin to read, “His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales requests the pleasure of the company of,” and there it is…your name! Your name! You pause for a moment and then continue reading, “at the Marriage of His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales with Ms. Meghan Markle at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on Saturday, 19th of May 2018, at 12 Noon followed by a Reception at Windsor Castle.” You wouldn’t turn that down for anything! You’d clear your schedule, just like Elton John who cancelled two concerts when he got his invitation.
I’ve not shared this with you because I’m enamored with the royal couple, but to set the scene for another invitation that went out in Luke 14. Let’s read our Scripture and then we’ll talk.
12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” 15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” 16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'” (Luke 14:12-24 NIVO)
It was an evening no one would forget. Jesus had been invited to a dinner party, but it didn’t take Him long to realize it was all a set up. Let’s read Luke 14:1 and you’ll see why.
1 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. (Luke 14:1 NIVO)
“He was being carefully watched.” Not because the Pharisees around the table were starstruck, but because it was the Sabbath and they had invited a guest they would have never invited unless they were setting Jesus up. Luke tells us, in verse 2, that sitting right in front of Jesus was a man suffering from “dropsy.” I learned this past week that dropsy was a term used for the swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water. Today, doctors might say the man had edema due to congestive heart failure. They were watching Jesus to see if He would heal the man. Let’s see what happened. Read vss. 3-6 with me.
3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away. 5 Then he asked them, “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” 6 And they had nothing to say. (Luke 14:3-6 NIVO)
Jesus healed the man, excused him from the party, and then asked the Pharisees if they’d rescue their son or ox, if they were in trouble, on the Sabbath? Crickets. Not a word. Utter silence. For the Pharisees no work was to be done on the Sabbath and even helping someone was considered work. Boy, had they missed the point. The Sabbath was for rest and worship. With all of their prohibitions and regulations they had turned the Sabbath into work.
Let’s jump down to verse 12 where we find Jesus giving His host, the Pharisee, Kingdom etiquette on inviting guests to the party. Jesus said, “Don’t invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors. They’ll just reciprocate, invite you to their parties, and everyone will be even. Instead, invite those who would never expect an invitation: the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you’ll be blessed. Those folks can’t repay you, but God will.” Jesus let everyone know the wrong people had been invited to the party.
It was the most awkward dinner party any of them had ever been to in their life. Nobody knew what to say after Jesus had shared who should have been invited to the dinner so one of the men, no doubt another Pharisee, blurted out,
15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 14:15 NIVO)
In an awkward moment the man turned everyone’s attention to the day when all of God’s people will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God. What the man said is absolutely true, but he was totally wrong about the guest list. After the man spoke Jesus shared a parable. He said,
16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. (Luke 14:16 NIVO)
It’s important to understand the social customs of Jesus’ day. When someone held a great party or social function there would be two invitations. The first, a general invitation, is much like the “Save the Date,” notice I got last week for the upcoming wedding of a friend of mine. The second invitation didn’t come through the mail, a text, Facebook Event, or email: all tools we use to remind folks in our day. The second invitation came the day of the event as a servant showed up at the houses of those invited to remind them, “Today is the day! The food is being prepared, the decorations are being put in place even now. We’ll see you this evening!”
Jesus said the invitation had been sent out by the host and everyone had been excited to get the news, nobody declined. Then, when the second invitation came, when the servant showed up at their house, they all began to make excuses. One man said, “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.” Another man said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.” Still another man said, “I just got married, so I can’t come.”
You’ve probably had the experience in the past. You invite someone to a party or some event you are having and they get that deer-in-the-headlights look, their eyes glaze over, and they say, “Well, I’d love to come, but let me check before I commit.” They don’t want to come, but they don’t want to hurt your feelings so they dodge the commitment and you know an excuse will eventually come.
The truth of the matter is nobody would buy a field without first seeing it. Nobody would buy five yoke of oxen without trying them out to see if they worked together. The person with the best excuse was the man who said, “I’ve just gotten married and I can’t come.” Why can’t you come? “Well, my wife won’t let me.” That would be understandable, but it wasn’t true. He just didn’t want to go.
Jesus is not just telling a parable, He’s not just creating a story to entertain the guests, He’s driving home a truth that was taking place right before His eyes. The invitation had been sent out: God was going to throw a party. It would be a feast unlike any other ever experienced. He had hinted at it, announced it in times past. In Isaiah 25:6-9 we read,
6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine– the best of meats and the finest of wines. 7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. 9 In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:6-9 NIVO)
All of Israel looked forward to the day when the Lord would announce the time had come. They had said to God’s invitations in the past. “Yes!” to the covenant God made with Abraham. “Yes!” to the covenant He made on Mount Sinai. “We will do everything you say,” they gladly confessed. Paul announced, in Romans 9, that God had adopted them as His sons and daughters, “theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.” Theirs are the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They had said “Yes!” to them all. These were all “Save the Date” reminders of the coming feast.
Then the second invitation went out. God sent His Servant, Jesus, into the world to announce, “Today is the day! Come!” Luke tells us, in Luke 4, that when Jesus began His ministry, He went to the synagogue in Nazareth. He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and He read,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18-21 NIVO)
A prophecy that only the Messiah could fulfill and Jesus said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” The religious bigshots, the Scribes and Pharisees, those who knew they were good with God because they checked all of the boxes every day on their holiness checklist, they didn’t like it one bit. They rejected everything He said. They wanted to kill Him. They wouldn’t stop until His name was forgotten by society. When Jesus invited them to the banquet they said, “No, we will not come!” They made excuses. They said, “He eats with tax collectors and sinners. Isn’t He Joseph’s Son? He’s nothing more than a carpenter’s boy. He’s from Nazareth. Everybody knows nothing good can come from Nazareth! He heals people on the Sabbath. Neither He nor His followers wash their hands before they eat.” Excuses, excuses, empty excuses! They refused the invitation.
Just because folks refuse the invitation doesn’t mean God’s going to cancel the party. I noticed something this past week. Do you realize the very first miracle Jesus ever did was at a party? It was at a wedding, in Cana, when the host ran out of wine which would have really put a damper on the celebration. Jesus turned water into wine and the celebration continued. And then, in the last book of the New Testament, we read about the most glorious celebration that will ever take place. It will be the celebration to make us forget every other celebration that has ever taken place. It will make Harry and Meghan’s wedding look like a beggar’s ball. Turn with me to Revelation 19 and let’s read together.
6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:6-9 NIVO)
“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” But, those who first found their names on the guest list refused so what do you do? You can’t have a celebration if nobody comes, can you? Let’s turn back to Jesus’ parable and we’ll find out. In Luke 14:21 we read,
21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ (Luke 14:21 NIVO)
Why the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame? What’s so special about those folks that they should come? The answer is quite simple, “Nothing!” That’s just it, they would have never expected an invitation to the banquet. They were the ones who were looked down upon by those who always saw their pictures on the Society page of The Jerusalem Post. It was a common belief in Jesus’ day that those who were poor or afflicted with some disability were being punished by God for their sins. We spoke last week about the Essenes, a Jewish group who saw themselves as the true Chosen People of God. Their group flourished at Qumran from about 150 B.C. until about 68 A.D. when they abandoned Qumran because of the war with Rome. The Essenes wrote extensively about the Messianic Banquet. In one of their writings they listed those who would not be present. Listen to this.
No man with a physical handicap-crippled in both legs or hands, lame, blind, deaf, dumb or possessed of a visible blemish in his flesh- or a doddering old man unable to do his share in the congregation-may en[ter] to take a place in the [messianic banquet]. (1QSa 2:5-8 QUMENG, substitution mine)
What a contrast to Jesus’ parable! The very people the Essenes said couldn’t ever be invited to the Messianic banquet, those are the ones Jesus went out to bring in. Jesus not only told a parable to teach the truth about those who would find themselves at the table of the King at the great Messianic Banquet–He lived out the parable by inviting the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman at the well, who had been married five times and was living with a man when she met Jesus. After Jesus invited Matthew the tax collector to be His follower, Matthew invited Jesus to a dinner party at his house. We read that Jesus went and was eating with tax collectors and sinners. A woman caught in adultery saw the men before her, ready to stone her to death, but then Jesus spoke, “He who is without sin, let him throw the first stone.” The woman watched them all walk away and only Jesus was left standing over her. Jesus said, “Woman, where are your accusers?” She said, “There aren’t any.” Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go and leave your life of sin.” These were Jesus’ people. Those who never checked their mailbox for an invitation to the banquet. Those who never dreamed they would be invited. Those who knew they didn’t deserve to be invited to the Messianic feast. Spurgeon once said, “When you feel yourself to be utterly unworthy, you have hit the truth.”
What’s the difference between the two groups? What’s the difference between those who were invited and refused and those who never dreamed they would be invited, those that had to be coaxed into coming because they felt so unworthy? Tim Keller writes,
The educated and the influential and the powerful people in every society find every other religion except Christianity more palatable because Christianity, unlike the other religions, is the only one that says, “You’re a wicked sinner. You can do nothing to save yourself. Jesus Christ had to die a bloody death to pay the penalty of your sins so God the Father could adopt you freely by his grace.” Every other religion says, “Here’s what you have to do: Live a good life. Live a decent life. Live a life of compassion. That’s what’s important.” (Keller, Tim. Prodigal God.)
The Jewish religious leaders believed their seat at the table was secure because they lived a good life, they had kept the law, or so they believed, and therefore they had secured their ticket. Many share the same opinion today. They don’t mind telling you that they are “spiritual,” but not Christians. They believe in doing good to all people, loving all people, and praying for all people. If you ask them about what will happen to them when they die they will tell you, “I hope I’m going to heaven.” If you ask, “Why should God allow you into heaven?” They’ll tell you, “I’ve tried to live a good life.” Wrong answer. Peter tells us,
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (1 Peter 3:18 NIVO)
I love that phrase, “to bring you to God.” Oh what a thought! To think that Jesus, God who came down to earth, born of a virgin, suffered at the hands of those He came to save, came looking for me, and for you, to bring us to God. I can hardly believe it, but it is true. That is why He has brought you here this morning to this sanctuary. Some of you who are here have refused the invitation over and over again. You’ve made up your excuses time and time again. You were too busy. You were too young and wanted to have your fun. You wanted to get your act together and then you’ve give your life to Jesus. Excuses, excuses, all empty excuses.
Jesus is inviting you this very morning. The invitation is going out right now. Jesus says, “Come, open the door of your heart and I will come in. I’ve reserved a place at the table for you, won’t you come?” He’s prepared everything, but you must come.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
January 13, 2019