Missing The Great Banquet
29-30 AUGUST 2020 | PRAYER & PRAISE SERVICES
Rev David Ho
Scripture Passage: Luke 14:15-24 (NIV)
WATCH | SERMON (Video)
(Click on video below)
READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary | The abuse and discrimination experienced by the poor, the lame and the sick in Jewish society during Jesus’ days was because of the Jewish mindset that perceived this disparity as being sanctioned by God. The Bible promises blessings for the obedient and curses for those who are not. Hence, if you are rich and healthy, you must be pious. If you are poor, disabled or sick, you must be a sinner. Jesus confronts this toxic theology in Luke 14:15-24 where He was having a meal in the house of a prominent Pharisee. Jesus shares this parable in Luke’s gospel.
1. The Great Banquet
The Kingdom is prepared for all! Typically, those invited to a banquet are of a higher or equivalent social status. Breaching the social norms would be scandalous and could jeopardise one’s standing in society. Yet, the master of the great banquet broke social norms in the following ways:
A. The invitations were wide - The first group of invited guests were the Jewish elite. Astonishingly, the master then expanded the invitations to the “outcasts” of Israel who were marginalised and ostracised. No good standing Jew would have invited them. Further, in v23, the master then told his servants to invite those out in the “roads and country lanes” which would refer to the abject poor and could also be interpreted to include Gentiles (non-Jews), who were regarded unclean by Jewish standards. This Messianic banquet is a great celebratory feast mentioned in Old Testament scriptures. With the coming of Jesus, preparation has started for this great feast. It will be completed when Jesus comes again. The invitations demonstrate that God has broken and transcended unjust social norms and prepared a great banquet for all, regardless of race, nationality or status.
B. The invitations were free - There is no expectation for the guests to repay the host. The invitation was free and based on the goodness, generosity and grace of the host. God calls us to feast at His table, to enjoy His presence. Our worth is not defined by status or circumstances, but by the greatness of God's love. We may feel not good enough, nor successful or talented. We may experience rejection or failure from broken relationships, but God declares from the cross - I love you. Jesus went to the cross so that everyone can receive this invitation to God’s banquet.
2. The Great Blunder
The Kingdom's invitation must be embraced wholeheartedly. The first group of invitees accepted their invitations but changed their minds last-minute. They made lame excuses, hence insulting the dignity of the master. The acceptance of the invitation was superficial and half-hearted. This is the same manner that the religious elite rejected God's son. They rejected Jesus and the message of the Kingdom. This was a great blunder that led to their eventual exclusion from the banquet.
Jesus warned about these dangers:
i) Superficial Discipleship - Practicing the form but rejecting the substance: The Jewish elite were so fixated on prestige and honour that religion ends up being a showcase of one's status, ability and performance. Instead of a posture of surrender and repentance before God, the Jewish leaders assume they were entitled to a place in the Kingdom. God's banquet is to be attended humbly in a posture of surrender. They were sinners and unable to recognize their spiritual poverty. They could not accept that a message of Grace was available to all.
ii) Half-hearted Discipleship - Pursuing good but neglecting God: The parable reveals three broad reasons why the guests refused to turn up i.e. Property, Career, Family. The good things in life and the blessings can shipwreck our faith if we allow them to take the place of God in our hearts. Jesus' primary message was that God’s invitations to His Kingdom must be embraced wholeheartedly, and not half-heartedly, superficially or simply seen as a ticket to get to heaven.
3. The Great Blessing
The Kingdom inspires a radical hospitality. Luke 14 reminds us that we are sinners who have been extended God's gracious invitation. We are called to extend radical hospitality to others. Building personal relationships, beyond just giving material help, is the key for God's love and grace to flow and bring restoration to lives. There are many needs amongst the poor and vulnerable, even in Singapore. These needs will increase as the full impact of Covid-19 is felt in the months ahead.
This parable reminds us that God’s invitations are free, but costly. Let us usher people into the Kingdom out of gratitude for God and what He has done. Let us extend a radical hospitality that the world does not know because we have the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Let us be the faithful presence of God in a broken world.
(Sermon Notes by Honey Vreugdewater )
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
1. To what extent have you experienced/witnessed discrimination, conflict or rejection in your life based on reasons of race, nationality, or status? What reflections might you have regarding the message that God has graciously prepared a heavenly banquet for all, amidst a divided world?
2. Consider the excuses given by those who did not attend the banquet. Write down contemporary versions of such excuses. Why are such excuses full of spiritual danger?
3. To what extent do you feel that that superficial discipleship (i.e. practicing the form, rejecting the substance) and half-hearted discipleship (i.e. pursuing the good, but neglecting God) are relevant today? If so, in what ways have you observed them in your own life?
4. God’s kingdom invitation must be embraced wholeheartedly, not superficially or half-heartedly. How have you been responding to God’s invitations to Himself and His kingdom work? What might the Lord be saying to you, whether to surrender more of yourself to Him, or to serve?
5. How can you be a servant of the Lord, through whom God extends His invitations to those around you? How might you extend radical hospitality to them? Write down the names of people and prayerfully get to action.
6. How might you extend radical hospitality through serving in a Wesley ministry such as COSC or through an external VWO? Might the Lord be leading you to extend invitations to the poor and vulnerable in society?