27 December 2012

Jesus Taught Not Everyone Accepts the Invitation

Luke 14:15-24

Jesus sees the back of the room.  The back of the room sees Jesus.  The front of the room?

After Jesus teaches about the folly of popularity and the importance of genuine hospitality, a man responds, "Blessed is the one who eats at the feast in the kingdom of God."  And the expert teacher responds to the correct statement turning the attention from those who invite to the One who sends the ultimate invitation.
Jesus answers the tablemate's declaration by telling the story of an apparently wealthy man who is preparing a great banquet while inviting many people to be his guests.  How wonderful!  I love feasts with many people.  Most people relax as all the needs of companionship, nutrition and enjoyment are being met.  Who wouldn't want to come to such an affair?  In this context, the same people seeking places of honour and inviting the rich and respectable to their own dinners.  Why?

We have always been dissatisfied with our Creator.  We have been convinced that our heavenly Father has been holding out on us and that what we really need can be found elsewhere.  We love Jesus when we think He will provide us with what we want.  When we come to the realisation that following Jesus may not give us what we want, our eyes start to wander and our body soon follows.

This is what happened between the religious leaders and the one sent to save Israel.  Jesus was teaching with authority, healing with authority; showing all kinds of signs that He was indeed sent from God Himself.  But, instead of automatically following Him upon this realisation, they watched the Messiah for what His intent truly was.  It is worldly wise to withhold loyalty until one knows exactly what that loyalty will cost and what the payoff will be. When it became clearer and clearer that this Messiah would not lead Israel the way they thought it should be led, when it became clearer and clearer that Jesus would not provide them with what they wanted, they rejected Him and became increasingly hostile to Him.

For Jesus, it was exceedingly simple.  Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.  In other words, we will spend our time, talents and resources on what we want.

And so, the invitation goes out--There's going to be a great feast!  Please come!!! I want you will be my guest!  It will be a great time had by all!  You will be blessed!

Hi, everything is now prepared.  Are you coming?

Well, boy, this is really a bad time.  I just bought a field and I really need to go see it.  Please step aside because, as you heard, I am really busy...

I always kind of laughed at this excuse because I never really understood it.  I never understood the excitement of someone buying a plot of land and then wanting to just look at it. After all, if I really wanted to go look at land, I wouldn't have to buy some.  I could just go outside.  But, according to Jesus, some say, "Wow!  Look at all this land! And, I really want to go look at this land because it is OUR land!"

But as I get older and I know more people with means, I now get invited to come tour plots of land.  We go out to look at dirt that hasn't yet been moved aside by a shovel.  Whenever we want to become self-aware about our priorities, take stock about what we become excited about. What we want to show others? How we want people to identify us?  What do we pour our lives into?

Is there anything inherently wrong with a field?  No.  Is there anything wrong with five yoke of oxen?  No.  Is there anything inherently wrong with getting married?  No.  This is what is so jarring about this teaching.  Jesus teaches us that what keeps us from tasting the great feast our Father in heaven has prepared for us isn't necessarily drugs, prostitutes, moustache-twirling villains, power-hungry kings, overt worshippers of gods demanding child and virgin sacrifice or any other people we may quickly label as pagans. 

Jesus teaches that what keeps us from tasting the great feast our Father in heaven has prepared for us is when ANYTHING becomes more important than Him.  If we love a field more than Him, it's evil.  If we love oxen more than Him, it's evil.  If we love our marriage more than Him, it's evil.

Jesus furthers his point in the next teaching recorded by Luke, but Jesus increasingly shows Israel and more to the point, the powerful pious of Israel that the greatest commandment is everything. 

Anyone who does not love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul and all our strength is a pagan.  Anyone who places ANYTHING above God is a pagan. As I heard a wise man recently say, "Any god that we decide to worship that isn't the Living God is a lousy god."

"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.’"

Jesus is teaching that the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame will inherit the great feast prepared by our Father in heaven.  Why?  Because the more we have, the more we have gained through our own perceived blood, sweat and tears, the more we have to lose.  The rich and powerful become deceived into thinking that the grace of God can never match the rewards of our own hard work.

The rich and powerful of Israel deceived themselves into thinking that their power and possessions were proof of God's favour.  So, they treated others accordingly.  In this mindset, we treat others based on what they have instead of who they are.  If they have much and especially if we can gain from them, we treat them well.  If they have little and can't be used for proper benefit, it's okay if they are treated poorly since it's obvious God isn't pleased with them either.

Jesus makes it clear to anyone who will listen that we must not mistake earthly gains for heavenly blessings.  Even more alarming, those who become convinced that they have worked for everything they need will become convinced that the kingdom of heaven has nothing to offer them.  They will decline the greatest invitation they will ever receive.

Jesus makes it clear to those who will listen, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."





4 comments:

  1. Lance,

    It's been a while since I've read your blog, but I haven't been reading a lot of blogs. I want to come back to comment more thoroughly on this fine post. I would only disagree with the term pagan--heathen may be a better word--I would even modernize it and say egoist. Pagans may believe they are following the will of the god(s) they worship. A heathen is someone who isn't following God's law and by God's law, I mean natural law which is divine because it comes from our Creator. A heathen is out of sync with the Divine. An egoist has made his will his god instead of God.

    I'll be back. You said that you didn't understand the example of the land. I used to have trouble with Jesus' anger at the fig tree. Why did he get so mad when the fig tree didn't bear fruit? It wasn't the tree's time. But then I thought: wait, this is God talking, the creator of the tree who said to the tree--fruit! And the tree didn't bear fruit. So the tree didn't do what was in its nature. Perhaps we are the same way when God calls and we go tend our plot of land instead.

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  2. Hey Susan,

    I haven't been as regular posting on this blog lately as 2012 has been a busy year so it's okay if you haven't been a regular reader. I like a medium that stays around until a reader is ready to digest it.

    Fair point on pagan/heathen. I may have been a little sloppy using that term. I was writing 'pagan' through the perspective of how I popularly hear the term. The larger point was heathens as defined by Jesus is quite different to what people think of when they use the term heathen.

    Great to converse with you again, friend.

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  3. Even though Jesus used parables, he was very plain about power, perhaps because he figured people wouldn't understand and he wanted them to go on the journey to learn. At first glance, his words are crazy--why would the meek inherit the earth? My thoughts: our own power is an illusion and it is less than that of an ameoba next to God, but we think differently because we thinks in terms of "look at what I have done." The powerless who cede their personal power to God, who gives it back tenfold with us as vessels, are the ones with power as their power belongs to God and visa versa.
    Honestly, I needed the bailout and the world financial system to do their unpleasant dance for me to understand power in a whole new way--this recession has been all about the so-called powerful struggling to keep their power through deception and bullying, while others have to decide if they fear the power of the banks (who will I hurt in order to make sure I don't lose my version of success) and those who will trust that God has their back. That whole mess has been a huge spiritual lesson for me in terms of what the world understands as power and wealth as riches are nothing more than excess. Jesus teaches us about what we need.

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  4. Throughout this study, I am amazed at how plainly Jesus spoke about many important things. I am becoming firmly convinced that those who don't understand Jesus, don't want to understand Jesus.
    Your point about power is one I agree with. That's well said and I will probably quote it one of these days.
    During good times, it's easy for evil to hide. Bad times brings our true heart to the forefront. America is struggling and will continue to struggle economically because there are too many people who are unwilling to look also to the interests of others. Until people repent and start loving their neighbour, there is no hope.

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