Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 9 months ago

Unlikely Dinner Guests

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Christian McArthur

What is the ethic of the Kingdom of God? Another way of asking this question, how are people like us who claim to be Christians supposed to live? And once we identify that ethic, that way of life, what is our motivation after reading this text, which seems a little bit disconnected? I will admit perhaps those aren't the first questions that come to mind about ethics and about our motivation for living in ethical life, but hopefully I will convince you, at least all attempt from the text that this is actually exactly what Jesus has on his mind, even if no one is asking this evening is we continue in the parables, we come to a grouping of parables and teaching that do seem a little bit disconnected. We have this really Awkward Dinner Party, we have this awkward teaching. Jesus again seems to be trying to make people mad on purpose, as we have seen before, and we find this strange parable and it does seem a bit disconnected. I think we can see one thing that is common throughout, and that's a party. In fact, as we continue through the next three pair a few parables in Luke, particularly in Chapter Fifteen, we find that these parables and the next three all are about parties. We find the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the productal son and Lord Willing, we will be looking at those parables for the rest of the month of August. We can call it all party August or something like that. I don't know. I have to come up with some branding for that. But in the meantime we have before us a party and we have before us this theme of feasting and partying, but this is an awkward party. Well, this morning I want to consider this Awkward Party by first considering this question of ethics, and particularly a kingdom ethic. And as we look at the beginning, I think we'll find it Jesus is giving us, and certainly these dinner guests, a picture of what it is to live according to a kingdom ethic. Let's let's take a look. The first off that we find in Luke Fourteen for a bit of context, as that Jesus has joined some Pharisees and particularly particularly has gone to the House of one of the chief Pharisees on the Sabbath. And for US careful Gospel readers, we should know that something awkward is about to happen, because whenever Jesus gets together with Pharisees, something awkward happens, especially on the Sabbath and especially when there's a sit guy present. And that's exactly what we find here, isn't it? That Jesus, on this Sabbath, comes and he heals someone with dropsy, and there's much that we could say about that, other than, for our purposes this evening, to know that at the beginning of our text, things all weird, things are awkward. Jesus has questioned the ethic of those sitting in front of him by healing on the Sabbath. There's tension in the air and within this tension, Jesus begins with a parable and the specifically ...

...a parable directed at the guests, the text tells us in verse seven. So what does he say? He says, when you're invited to a wedding feast, do not sit in a place of honor. That says he noticed that that's exactly what people were doing. They were sitting in place of honor. So he says, don't, don't do that. Now I've visited some of your homes for dinner. I appreciate that and and never has anyone directed me, you must sit here or move up to this seat here. That's not something that, at least in your home so far, I've found to be overly common. And our culture we're not super concerned about where you sit at the dinner table, but that would not be the case here. How you knew someone's status in a certain group was their proximity to the host of the party. For those who were most honored at the party, they would sit at the right and the left hand of the host. For those who were least honored at a particular party, they would be sitting the furthest away from the host. You might recall James and John from Mark Ten requesting that Jesus, when you enter into your kingdom, let us sit at your right and left hand. And it wasn't just that they liked Jesus company, though that might be the case. They're asking to be honored, and we know that by Jesus Rebuke, don't we? He says, that's not how my kingdom operates. What are you to do? It's those who humble themselves that will be exalted. Those who even take on the form of a servant, who would be the least honored at a dinner party. Well, that's what's going on here. These guests are wanting to honor themselves by moving up to the front of the dinner table. This whole culture, as we read the New Testament, is really built to develop on an economy of honor and shame, and that's so important to understand as we approach these texts, that honor and shame meant everything in this culture. Now, perhaps we don't quite understand what it's like to have particularly honorable seats at a dinner table, but I think we do understand in our culture status. I mean there seems to be so much that goes on in our economy that speaks of status. Our culture is full of metrics for being able to judge one's status. These usually have to do with money or appearance. Big Houses, Nice cars, education level, expensive clothes, all indicators in our society of how much one is to be respected. Our culture is full of people who are trying to appear more successful than they are. We even have a phrase for it, keeping up with the Joneses, where you do whatever you can to make sure you have an appearance of status that's just a little bit greater than your neighbor. So we understand this culture, even though it might not be around the dinner table. We get it to fail to keep up with the Joneses as to admit some type of inferiority. Even if we don't quite understand what that inferiority is, we still know it to be true. Well, that's what's going on...

...here in this text. Whether rushing for the best seat of the table or maxing out a spending limit, it may see's status and the appearance of honor are common to all human societies. We understand it the rat race, climbing the corporate ladder, keeping up with the Jones is all phrases that encapsulate this idea of seeking status. Well, this is the common mindset to these dinner guests. But contrary to this, Jesus presents them with an ethic that's completely opposite than what they have in their minds. He says everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, everyone who humbles himself will be exalted. So he says, instead of going to the best seat, find the worst seat. So when? When? You won't be embarrassed. No one can tell you to sit further away. Heck, it might turn out that you get to see even closer, but the point is that you would walk and humbled, considering yourself last, and that is the ethic of this kingdom that Jesus presents. Well, Jesus continues to not only show this ethic for those who are invited to the party, but to the host himself. It says in verse twelve that Jesus turns his attention to the man who had invited him, and he explains a very similar principle, doesn't he? He says, when you give a banquet, do not invite your friends or your family or rich neighbors. Then, other words, don't invite people that can reciprocate the invitation. Now, for many of you, these are exactly the people that you invite it to lunch today. So if that's offensive, I'm sorry. This is just what Jesus says. So my apologies, but Jesus isn't just getting it hanging out with people, is he? Again? This is this thought of honor and shame. These guests, just like this host, are seeking a position of honor and society and this case inviting people who could invite them to invite him to a similar banquet. You would get reciprocal invitations and and together you would be rising the social ladder a first century Palestine. And then that's what's going on here, isn't it? We have a similar concept in the business world. You you take someone out to you really want to purchase something from you or that you want to partner with in business, and you whine and dine them, we say, you show them the nicest dry aged beef at the nicest to restaurant with the best wine list, so that maybe they will partner with you. He get them to owe you something so that they might repay. We understand this concept well. Jesus says, no, that's that's not how it works in my kingdom. Instead, invite the poor, invite the crippled, invite the lame, invite the blind, all people with no social status, all people with no honor to return, people who could never repay you for your invitation. There's nothing of profit for you to invite this type of people. And yet Jesus says, this is how my economy works,...

...this is how the ethic of my kingdom plays out, and he says this to both guest and host at this dinner party. Everyone at this point should be equally offended here. He's highlighted everyone. He who humbles himself will be exalted and he who exalts himself will be humbled. Well, first we see this ethic and then it moves to another parable and in exclusion, if you will, and unlikely exclusion. Let's let's see what we mean by that again. The situation is tense. I keep saying that, but, but I want you to understand. This is a weird, tense situation, so tense that that the guests are kind of feeling some condemnation, that that some guy wants to announce something that will ease the tension. Right, and we see it here in Verse Fifteen. He kind of says, you know, Jesus, that's a great teaching we appreciate that. That's that's a lot of fun. Thanks for being here. But Hey, I want to propose a toast. Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God. You know, it seems as guy really wants to break the tension the well, his statement gives away two assumptions that the text highlights. One, this listener is very aware that there is more at stake than dinner etiquette. He gets that Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God. He's talking about something much greater than the dinner that's placed right in front of him. The other thing that he seems to understand, and perhaps wrongfully so, is that, despite Jesus Teaching, this guy is pretty certain that he and all the other guests will be included in this great banquet to come, so much so that he raises a toast. He says thanks Jesus for that teaching. It's a little awkward, but hey, here's something we can all agree on. Blessed is he who, at that feast, will eat bread and the Kingdom of God, and it's likely that he has in mind the great feast that Isaiah himself prophesied. Issaiah says in and twenty five that on this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all people's a feast of rich food, a feast of well aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine, well refined. The sounds like a good meal, doesn't it? and He, the Lord, will swallow up on this mountain the covering that has cast over all people's the veil that has spread over all nations. Here Isaiah prophesies of this great day when the Lord will bring about the consummation of the eternal kingdom and it will be marked by a feast. But this feast will not just be for the people of Israel, will it? He says it will be for all nations, all people's. Isaiah uses the Hebrew word that as used for to refer to the gentiles, the go yem, all of the people. The veil will be lifted from their eyes and all will be invited to this great banquet. The problem is is that, at this point in history, is Jesus is telling this story, the Jews of the especially upper class have assumed that that's actually not what's going on. The banquet is for them, that's for those who have shown themselves worthy to be there,...

...and this guy who speaks up seems to believe that he will be there as well as the rest of the guests. Here's something we can all agree on. It will be a great day when we are all eating bread and the Kingdom of God. Well, Jesus responds very indirectly. He says, Oh, that reminds me of a story. He says there was once this guy who threw a big banquet and he sent out a ton of invitations. Now, this would be kind of standard protocol at this time in history. You would send out invitations and people would our SVP and then when the feast was ready, you would send your servant to ring the dinner Bell to say hey, it's time. So this is a common practice at this day and age. People would respond whether or not they could come, and then they would wait for the servant to come and let the people know that the feast was ready. And that's what we find here. But in this case the servant goes out to announce that dinner is ready and people start coming up with excuses, not necessarily bad excuses, but excuses nonetheless. I bought a field, I need to take a look. I bought five yoke of Oxen, I need to examine them. I've married a wife, I can't make it all the people that were invited. The text tells us those that originally responded to this RSVP are now bowing out for other options. Then this problem is likely compounding. I mean, no one wants to go to a party that no one is going too. So as the guest list begins to fall apart, the guest list begins to fall apart. This would be a great shame to any host. The Barbecue is going to meet is almost ready and now no one wants to attend. The host's answer to the problem is interesting. He says, fill the banquet hall, forget them, fill it up, go and invite everyone, so that there will be no room for those original guests. and to make matters more awkward, Jesus, it would seem, has those sitting around him as the aim of what he's talking about, those people and his parable that were originally invited, all those that he is dining with, and we know this in verse twenty four Jesus Terms, to the guests at the Pharisees House, those who assume that they will eat bread in the Kingdom of God, and he says, for I tell you that you, as plural we would say where I'm from, for I tell Y'all, none of those men who are invited shall taste my banquet. That's his response to the guy who says is want to be great when we're eating, and the King of God, he says all those folks who have been invited who didn't show up, they won't be eating in my kingdom. I mean, this is an unlikely exclusion, isn't it? All those who were once our SVP to common, and I think we can see here that he's speaking of the Jews, at least these Jews who are rejecting Jesus, those who are invited from generations past, called to be part of the Covenant Community, called...

...to be part of this grace great feast, but now that the king is here, they're not interested in this kind of King. The dinner announcement is going out and they're coming up with excuses because Jesus doesn't seem to be the kind of dinner host that they're interested in. Jesus says, none of those men who were invited. It shall taste my banquet. Stark words. So my question that I put before us at the beginning, how is this all connected? How do all of these stories, this dinner party, this parable, how does it all come together? This teaching of a kingdom ethic, now this parable about this exclusion of the Jews. Where's the link? Well, I think if we look closely together, that Luke himself gives it to us. Let's let's consider and where I think we find this link is not in the exclusion but in the inclusion, the unlikely inclusion, and that's where we will end our time together for the next few moments. If we look back at the parable after the excuses begin pouring in, what do we find? Verse Twenty One. So the servant came and reported these things to his master, that that folks were coming up with excuses. Then the master of the house became angry and said to the servant go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city and bring in who? The poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. This dinner hosts, and the parable invites all the same people using all the exact words that that Jesus told us to invite. That Jesus told the dinner host and the previous narrative to invite uses all the same language. That should be a clue whenever we're reading the scripture, when we see repetition like that, it should cause us to stop and think. The poor, crippled, blind and lame dinner host invites all these same people, not the rich but the poor, using these exact same words. And I think here it is that we find the link to what seems to be a bit of a disjointed passage. What we find here is that Jesus is exactly the kind of dinner host who invites all the wrong people. He's the kind of guy who doesn't consider what his guests can give him in return, but invites people who could never reciprocate, and not only the poor and the crippled and the blind in the lane. But it goes on, doesn't at the servant comes back after inviting all these people and says there are still seats left. And what does the master say? Go out to the highways, go out to the hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be full. Most commentators agree that this is a reference to the inclusion of the gentiles. Not only are the Jewish rejects invited, but he's going to all nations and he's saying, fill my banquet with people from all tongues and from all tribes and from all nations. This host wants a huge party. The seemingly disconnected passage tells us that Jesus himself follows the ethic...

...that he teaches. We know this to be true. He's consistent. Right when he invites people to his end times feast, he does not invite those that can repay. He goes out to the highways and the hedges, to the poor houses, to the prisons, to the prostitutes through the Publicans. Those are the kind of people we found when we've read the parables, isn't it? To the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lane who have no way of returning the favor of his invitation, and he compels them to come and enjoy the feast. But but this is not the only thing that this parable tells us. If this is all true, if this unlikely invitation is true, if this is how Jesus Works, then it tells us something about ourselves, doesn't it? It tells us that those who are included in his kingdom, those who call themselves Christians, are the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lane. We are the social and ethnic outcasts. We all those from the highways, in the hedges, from the poor houses, from the prisons, the prostitutes, in the Publicans. That's who makes up this party. We are the sinners that Christ invites to his feast and to make this whole thing finally connect, I hope it is only when we understand that that's who we are the poor, the crippled, the lay and the blind, that we have any ability to then follow the ethic that Christ gives us. Would we understand who we are, that we are those of no social standing, that we could never repay Jesus for his invitation? It is much easier to walk into the banquet and sit in the back row, isn't it? We don't need to put up ourselves in a place of honor. We're just glad to have gotten in because we're not worried about that economy anymore. We know where the outcasts will take, whatever sea you'll give us. The power to be able to fulfill that ethic is and knowing who Jesus invites, sinners like us and at the same time, when we understand that we are in not by our own merit or social standing or ability to repay, we are free to invite others who are poor, crippled, blind and lame, those with no social standing, those ethnic outcast, those from the highways, the hedges, the poor houses, the prisons, the prostitutes and the Publicans, people just like us, and is much easier to invite those people when we know that that's just who we are. No longer do we have to attempt it climbing our way up some social ladder in the Kingdom of God by holding this reputation, by associating with the right people. We can associate with the kind of people that Jesus associated with, because that's who we are, sinners redeemed. We have no need to maintain or increase our position in his kingdom, because our position and our invitation is sure not based...

...on all credentials, but on those of Christ Jesus, who purchase us with his own blood, who signed our invitation with. It is finished. You're in, and because of that we no longer have to maintain a reputation and order to get in. This is the motivation for a Christian ethic, for a kingdom ethic of self giving for the sake of others, because we have no need any more to make something of ourselves. Christ does that for us. We are freed from the slavery of salvation by status. You are free to love, to live and to give our lives for the sake of others, because he first loved and lived and gave his life for our sake. If you are here today and you believe that Christ died for your sins. You are in and you are free, and this banquet is for you. You are one who, Jesus himself says, don't sit in the back, comes in on my table because you're an honored guest at my feast. That is who we are, and because of that we can be free to honor others by giving of ourselves. Oh the death of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are his judgments, how inscrutable his ways, that his son would die and rise again for you, for me, that we might be invited to his feast. Amen. Amen, let's pray together.

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