- February 16th, 2014
Don’t Miss God’s Party!
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Read Luke 14:15-24
Probably everyone here today enjoys and looks forward to celebrations. Celebrations are a significant part of our lives. We celebrate growing another year older with birthday parties. We celebrate pregnancies and new births with baby showers. We celebrate wedding anniversaries, home purchases, New Year’s Day, Super Bowl contest, etc. We even celebrate good friends moving away by having a “going away party.”
Nearly everyone loves to celebrate; we all enjoy a good party. Since that is the case, every one of us should be interested in today’s Bible passage because it is about the greatest celebration or party of all. The banquet being referred to in this parable is figurative for what we would call a celebration or a party. In this story, Jesus gives us some insight into this greatest of all celebrations. We learn things such as the nature of the celebration, who is invited, who will be there and who won’t be there, and why this is the case.
We will look at the parable verse by verse, but in beginning, let’s recognize that the main idea is that …
1. You’re Invited to God’s Party, Don’t Miss it!
Last week in verses 7-11 we saw how Jesus was giving some serious instructions on attitudes that were unacceptable at God’s table. Remember the idea was that one of the characteristics that God desires in his people is humility; what I called the ‘Mop Bucket Attitude’. This is the picture I showed repeatedly in the lesson to hopefully ‘fix’ it in our minds and to make it easier to remember.
In verse 12- 14 Jesus basically taught that in our celebrations, as it were, we need to invite those who are often marginalized by ‘good society’ or those who have the means to ‘repay’ us for our invitation, and said that when we invite the poor, blind, crippled, lame, and so forth, that we will be blessed in the future resurrection. He’s really telling us to reach out to those who are often overlooked or disregarded. Couple that thought with what Jesus said in Matthew 25:21-46…for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in… and you get the idea.
Let this short video remind us that as God’s people, we are to minister to others…
Heaven Can Wait
Now, let’s look at today’s study starting with Luke 14:15
Read Verse 15
What Jesus said in Luke 14:12-14 prompted one of those present to think about and publicly comment on the blessing of those who are invited to what is sometimes called “The Great Supper” or “The Messianic Banquet of God.” He was referring to a God ordained celebration that the Old Testament often spoke of and figuratively describes as of feast or banquet.
One reference is in Isaiah 25:6 which says, “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.”
Jesus takes advantage of this opportunity to enlighten those present then and us today about this celebration. He uses a parable to do this; what we learn is exciting and encouraging, but also sobering and serious. As I use the terms “party,” “celebration,” or “banquet” today I am figuratively referring to the present and future aspects of being one of God’s people. Remember, to be one of God’s people is to be in His kingdom, the church, the household of God….to accept His Lordship. It is to have salvation and the hope of heaven. It is to have accepted God’s invitation to a joyous and holy relationship with Him. Let’s now take a look at Jesus’ words in verse 16.
Read Verses 16-17
The “certain man” in this story represents God. This much is obvious and not usually debated. What is interesting and instructive is that this man, who represents God, is “preparing a great banquet. . .” In other words, God is preparing for a celebration or a party.
This is a rather shocking picture of God for many people today.
God is usually perceived as the Heavenly Sheriff who’s ready to give you a ticket for the slightest infraction, or he is perceived like a miserly boss at work who you hope to please by enough hard work and sacrifice. Rarely is God perceived as one who would throw a party, yet in the Bible this is a regular theme and presentation.
For instance, in the story of the Prodigal Son, the father who represents God in the story throws a party for the son upon his return. In the Book of Revelation the Bible refers to God’s people participating in a great party known as the “Great Wedding Supper or Banquet of the Lamb.” In Isaiah 55 God invites everyone to freely come and share at his table where there is “wine and milk” and you can “eat what is good and delight in the richest of fare.” Even the religious life for the ancient Israelites revolved around seven feasts or celebrations. Considering all these things it is very evident that God isn’t what some people perceive Him to be. He loves to celebrate and prepares for his people to experience his joyous celebrations.
I want us to understand what God is truly like! People constantly think that God wants to take something away from them. Although, by the way, He does want to take away your sin….. but people think that following God means a joyless existence because God is always stern and demanding. This understanding of God is a caricature of religion and not the reality of God’s character. This picture is a distortion from Satan who has from the beginning tried to malign the goodness of God!
You may be wondering to yourself, “Doesn’t being a Christian and following God’s ways mean giving up some of the pleasures of this world? Doesn’t it mean making sacrifices and living by a new standard?” The answer is “yes,” as Jesus said; we must take up our cross to follow him. These necessary sacrifices do not change the fact that God is a good God and that responding to his invitation results in a life of celebration. This does not change the fact or lessen the joy of life in the kingdom of God. He has invited us to a party, not a prison!!!
Life in the kingdom is like a party, even with the sacrifices. It is a life of joy, peace, purpose, fulfillment, and eternal life. This party is certainly a lot better than many parties of this world, which only end with hangovers, regrets, shameful conduct, and ultimately death.
Now some of the celebrations we have in our society are very lame and hardly worth considering or getting excited about. Do you know anyone who works in a frozen food department in a grocery store? Believe it or not, every March is officially “National Frozen Food Month.” Some stores actually put up streamers, celebration signs, and have sales in “celebration” of this event. For me, it is very difficult to get excited about frozen food – it’s just lame, but the same lack of enthusiasm shouldn’t be true for God’s Party. We should get very excited about it because Jesus describes it as a “great (lit. “mega”) banquet.” Literally he is saying that this is a mega-party. This is not Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix dip, hot dogs and chips type party, but this is a mega-party with all that is the best. This is a party you do not want to miss and that is Jesus’ main point.
1. You’re Invited to God’s Party, Don’t Miss it!
In New Testament times, two invitations were usually given to a party or banquet. The first was given well in advance so that people could RSVP and then when everything was ready for the party to begin a second invitation was sent by servants to tell everybody to “come, for everything is now ready.” You’d think that receiving such a wonderful invitation and news would cause people to stop whatever they were engaged in and go to the party, but that is not what happened as we will see in verses 18-20.
Of course even today people have been invited into a wonderful, joyous relationship with God but they often reject that invitation also.
Read Verses 18-20
“They all alike began to make excuses. . .” The excuses were not completely illegitimate, though they seem so from our cultural perspective. Buying a field or plot of land in that day often required a post purchase inspection of the land before the deal was final, similar to the final inspection homeowners have today before the closing on a mortgage loan. The same was true of the major purchase of five teams of oxen. In ancient times a deal was agreed upon and then the oxen would have been tested or tried out to complete the purchase. The person who just got married also has a seemingly legitimate excuse for not coming to the party since a newly married couple was expected to have their own party and there were marital obligations to meet.
This invitation just came at a bad time. It would interfere with their business, possessions, relationships, and other concerns. They had other priorities. In each case the excuses were legitimate but not sufficient. Each expected to be excused but as we will see shortly they were not.
The point Jesus is making here is not that God will not accept lame excuses for rejecting his offer of celebration and abundant life.
The point is that God will not accept any excuses, no matter how seemingly legitimate, for not accepting his invitation.
He must have the priority in your life. This is a message for those who are not responding to his invitation to enter into a real relationship with him because doing so would interfere with their other interests. A choice must be made between worldly concerns and God’s party. If you miss God’s party it isn’t because you weren’t invited. It’s because you chose to make other things a priority over responding to his invitation.
1. You’re Invited to God’s Party, Don’t Miss it!
Read Verses 21-23
“The owner of the house (who represents God, remember?) became angry. . .” This tells how God feels about our excuses for rejecting his wonderful and costly offer of life. Hebrews 2:3 says “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” God is wonderful, patient, and merciful. He will forgive every sin. He is amazingly patient and kind even when we keep messing up as Christians. But God will be angry with those who reject his offer of the real “good life.” I once saw a bumper sticker which all those who reject Jesus need to remember. The bumper sticker read like this: Jesus is coming back soon (and boy is he mad.)
As a teenager in high school, I didn’t seem to fit in with any group. I wasn’t athletic so I did not fit in with the jocks. I wasn’t rich so I did not fit in with the preppies. I wasn’t popular so I did not fit in with that group. I was too much of a wimp to fit in with the “bad boys” group. I was also an outsider, having moved to a high school in my junior year. Because I did not fit into any of these groups I never was and never expected to be invited to any parties.
A similar feeling or attitude is sometimes held by people concerning God’s Party. They do not feel that they are invited or that they will fit in as far as a real relationship with God is concerned. Usually this is because of their lifestyle which may have been and perhaps still is sinful. The feeling among many is that they are not invited or welcome in a relationship with God because they’re not well-behaved enough, not religious enough, or not spiritually acceptable for one reason or another.
The good news is that you are on the guest list! No matter what you have done, where you have done it or how many times you have failed. You are invited to God’s party even though you may not consider yourself acceptable. This is the message of verses 21-23. The “poor, crippled, blind, and lame” were metaphors for those who were totally spiritually unworthy to come to God’s table but are invited and welcome anyways. The reference in verse 23 to those people in the “roads and country lanes. . .” could have been a reference to the Gentiles or to those who were so wicked they were even unwelcome in town. In either case the point is the same; everybody is welcome, everybody is invited to God’s Party! As was pointed out in the parable- “there is still room for more!” (vs. 22)
Before moving on to verse 24, I want to point out two characteristics of the servant’s mission of bringing others in to the party, since we are now the servants of God who are inviting others to God’s Party. First, they are told to go “quickly into the street” (vs. 21) and invite others, which reminds us of the urgency of getting the message of the gospel out.
Second, they’re also told to “make them come in. . .” (vs. 23) which does not mean to use physical force or threats but rather to an attitude that will not take “no” for answer. Keep asking, keep pleading, and keep encouraging people to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not a party God wants anyone to miss, but as verse 24 points out, some will.
Read Verse 24
The message is clear; if you reject God’s invitation, you will be rejected. If you refuse it, you will lose it. Don’t miss the limited opportunities you have in this life to respond to God’s invitation.
You’re invited to receive salvation by trusting Jesus. You are invited into God’s kingdom. You have an invitation to eternal life through belief in Jesus. Don’t miss it!
Tony Campolla is a well-educated theologian, and has developed some controversial ideas. I don’t understand or agree with all of his teachings, but I read a story of a trip which he took to Hawaii that resonates with me. You see, jet lag kept him awake late into his first night there and he went for a walk on the streets of Honolulu. At 2 in the morning, he found himself in a doughnut shop. Sitting at the counter, he overheard several prostitutes who were sharing a booth. One of the girls whose name was Agnes mentioned that it was her birthday.
After she had left, Tony turned to the cook and the other prostitutes and said, “Let’s throw a party for Agnes.” The other girls agreed to bring decorations and the cook said that he would bake a cake.
The next night, they all gathered at the shop and when Agnes walked in, they brought out the cake and began to sing, “Happy Birthday.” Tears streamed down Agnes’s face and, when it came time to cut the cake, she just stood there. Finally, she said, “Could I buy another cake and we eat that one? I want to take this one home and show it to my mother.”
With that, she took the cake and left. In the sudden silence that filled the shop after she left, Tony bowed his head and began to pray. “Lord, we thank you for Agnes and for your love for her. You loved her enough to send Your Son to die for her on the cross. We thank you for the best present of all – the present of your own Son. Amen.” When he raised his head, he saw that all of the prostitutes had their heads bowed and had been praying with him.
The cook looked at him and said, “You’re a preacher!” When Tony admitted that he was, the cook asked, “What kind of church do you have?” In a sudden flash of insight, Tony replied, “The kind that throws parties for prostitutes and gives invitations to sinners.”
Some of us have been running from God. We have been hiding from His reign; making excuses to not join the party; perhaps even refusing His invitation. At any moment, even right now, the kingdom of God is open to you; Jesus is calling; will you answer the invitation? Will you come to the party? Will you come home?
The Parable of the Great Supper
The Parable of the Great Supper was taught in the same setting as the Parable of Taking the Lowest Place. Jesus was a guest at the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees. He had gone there to enjoy a meal on the Sabbath, but was being watched closely by the scribes (lawyers) and Pharisees who were present as He healed a man with dropsy on that Sabbath. After silencing their objections, Jesus revealed the pride and hypocrisy of the Pharisees by illustrating how they all sought the best seats. He immediately launched into a second parable known as the Parable of the Great Supper. Although this parable is similar to the Parable of the Wedding Feast, there are marked differences. The Parable of the Wedding Feast, which was spoken much later during the ministry of Jesus, seems to focus more on the nation of Israel as a whole, while the Parable of the Great Supper seems to be more limited.
Questions to Consider:
1. Describe the events preceding the parable (Luke 14:12-15).
2. These verses contain a classic “not – but” statement. A “not – but” statement is often used in Scripture to mean “not so much this, but more this.” It places a greater emphasis on the latter over the former. With this in mind, what is Jesus saying in these verses (Luke 14:12-15)?
3. Describe the events of the Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:16-24).
4. What period of time would the “Great Supper” in this parable represent? Explain.
5. What kind of people are being described in verses 18-20? (Compare: Matthew 6:33 and Luke 10:38-42).
6. Who would best represent those who accepted the invitation to the “Great Supper?” (See: Matthew 21:31-32 and Matthew 21:43).
What personal applications can we make from this parable?