The Banquet

It has been a couple of months since I have been really writing blog articles (just been extremely busy and also needed to cut back on some things).  But this month I’ve already written a few.  This blog article is really from a message I shared with our congregation recently on a parable (story) Jesus told that characterizes a future reality.  It is found (with different nuances contained in each) in Matthew 22 and Luke 14.  I will simply combine the details given in both as I write this.

Jesus began by saying that there was a certain man or king who decided to give a great banquet/feast for his son.  Immediately this would have triggered in the Jewish person’s mind something their prophets of old spoke about that would one day be a reality.  Specifically, Isaiah 25:6-9 would have come to mind with these amazing and precious details:

“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.  On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 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.  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.”

Jesus spoke of this event at other times in other places as well and made clear that even as Isaiah says this feast would be for “all peoples” that this feast was not something for the faithful Jew exclusively. In Matthew 8:11 He said:  “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”  In fact He went on to warn the Jews that they would be excluded from this even though they were Jews if they failed to recognize Him as the Messiah that their forefathers spoke of and looked forward to in faith!

But can you imagine what this feast will be like?  Can you imagine sitting down at a table and taking “your place” a place reserved just for you, with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the other saints?  Can you imagine sitting at this table and enjoying the best of meats and finest of wines in all the world?  Can you imagine this feast that will be prepared for us by God Himself?

One would wonder why anyone would not look forward to this and not want to come to this feast!  Yet, that is precisely what Jesus spoke of happening in the rest of this parable.  He said that when the day of the feast arrived, this king sent his servant out to inform the guests who had been invited that everything was now ready, that the food was all prepared; that it was time to eat and enjoy!  But this is where the surprise and twist comes, because who would be apathetic and refuse to come to a meal like this???  Yet that is preciously what happened.

Matthew 22:3-6 “He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner:  My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready.  Come to the wedding banquet.’  “But they paid no attention and went off — one to his field, another to his business.  The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.”

Bizarre right?

Luke 14:17-20 adds the following details:   “At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  “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.’  “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’  “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.”

On the surface, these may seem like reasonable excuses, but when you dig deeper into the cultural context of this and understand what they are really saying, you find that these are just excuses (and not even good ones!) and more than that, insults!  They were trying to shut down the banquet by boycotting it!

The modern equivalent would be like sending out invitations to a wedding, but the day of the wedding, no one showing up but making excuses for why they couldn’t come.  It would be like one saying: “Well I just bought some property today, so I can’t make it, because I have to go check it out.”  Wouldn’t that sound fishy because who buys property without first checking it out, and who would do that on the very day when you knew in advance there was this wedding?  It would be like another saying, “well, I just bought some tractors for my field, or bought some antique cars, and I have to go test them out today.”  Again, sounds fishy.  It would be like another saying “well I recently got married, so I can’t come.”  You might as well have just been honest and said “I don’t want to come” because that is what is really being said, and by offering lame and fishy excuses, it’s actually more insulting than being honest!

Well, Jesus goes on to describe that the king got very angry over this and he dealt with those who mistreated His servants.  This was a warning to the Jewish people who were rejecting Jesus and all these years continually abused those He sent in His name.  God’s judgment would come on them, if they did not repent.

But then the story takes a second unexpected twist that would have especially been a shocking twist to the Jewish people!

Luke 14:21-24 records Jesus putting it this way: “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.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “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.  I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'”

What is shocking about this, is that rather than this shutting down the banquet, it rather served to open up the banquet to others in place of those who refused to come!  The king’s anger towards one group turned into grace being extended to another group!  And more shocking than that even is that those who the banquet is open to are those who in that culture were deemed the outcasts and unworthy!

And this is the part I really wanted to get to and write about (and you can listen online to the message version of this at www.theallenwoodchurch.org/messages.  It is titled “The Banquet: God’s Grace” on the left hand side of the message page).

God has opened up this future banquet to any and all who will accept the invitation being extended in Jesus Christ!  He is sending His servants forth to tell all the outcasts and unworthy to come to this banquet.  Too good to be true?  Well, it is good, but it is also true!  Although notice the master (the king) tells the servant to “make them come in” or “compel them to come in” so that His house will be full. 

First of all, can I just tell you, there is still room in God’s house!  And secondly, for those who know they are unworthy, it takes some convincing or compelling to communicate to them that this is for real and God really can and is willing to forgive them and give them the gift of eternal life!  Some people think they deserve God’s grace or try to earn God’s grace (and therefore don’t receive or understand God’s grace.  In fact, they like the man the king will later throw out of the banquet because he was not dressed properly, will not be accepted, because you can’t come on your terms, in your “righteousness” but have to come on God’s terms:  faith, receiving and being clothed in Christ’s righteousness!).  But many other people need to be assured of God’s grace to them in Christ.  Be assured!  God’s grace is for those who especially feel like outcasts and feel unworthy!  Come to Christ, He will forgive you!

But let me challenge the rest of us.  Who are those that our culture or the church deems as outcasts and unworthy today?  God says to go to them and invite them to Christ.  Tell them of God’s grace in Christ.

Make this even more personal.  Who are the Ninevites in your life?  The Ninevites were the people God told the prophet Jonah to go and preach to; but Jonah had a prejudice against this group of people and didn’t want to preach to them, because he knew if they repented God would have mercy on them and save them and Jonah didn’t want that; he wanted God’s judgment to fall on them!

There is a lot of prejudice in this world and even in the church towards certain “kinds” of people.  For some it is those of a different culture or race or religion.  For others it is towards those of a different political persuasion.  For others it is those engaged in some type of behavior.  And while there are certain behavior’s and lifestyles that are sinful and while we don’t have to (and shouldn’t) agree with everybody on everything; we do not have to prejudice towards them.

God has no prejudice in Him.  He shows no favoritism towards any group or person.  Romans 2:11 for example says quite clearly:  “For God does not show favoritism.” 

And 2 Peter 3:9 says: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 

1 Timothy 2:4-6 says that God “…wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men.” 

And what did Jesus say?  “For God so loved…who?  The world.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotton Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”

World means everybody.

And whoever means…whoever!

God’s grace is being extended to those who will repent and accept (believe) this awesome invitation to have a place reserved for them at this banquet!

Revelation 19:9 says: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

Don’t reject this invitation but accept it and have a place reserved for you at the wedding supper of the Lamb!  And then tell others the good news, that this invitation is extended to them too.  Compel them to come!

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Advertisements