By Simon ManchesterSunday 8 Aug 2021Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
Let’s bow our heads and pray for a moment. Our loving Father, we remember that your word has many treasures. We pray that you’d help us to see them, to value them. And please help us in these minutes we ask in Jesus name. Amen.
You may not know this, but every year in America, there are some awards for the insurance payments that are considered to be beyond belief. And one year, this is a true story, the winner was a man who had bought a motor home, one of those huge drivable houses. And he was on the freeway. He set the speed for 70 miles an hour, and then he left the driver’s seat and went to the back to make himself a cup of coffee in the kitchen. As you can expect, the vehicle soon left the road and crashed and overturned.
The man sued the company because he said the owner’s manual had not warned him that this might happen. And he was paid, believe it or not, $2 million and received a brand new motor home because the jury agreed with him. Now the moral of that little story, friends, is that sometimes the blame needs to go to the right person. And in Luke 14, Jesus tells a parable and we’re in a little series of parables where he directs the blame for missing out on God’s kingdom to us, not to God. It’s the parable of the Great Feast. And it comes after a man says to Jesus in chapter 14:15, something like this, “Won’t it be wonderful to go to heaven? Won’t it be wonderful to be in heaven one day?”
And Jesus tells this parable as if to say do you realise that the human race is refusing the invitation to God’s kingdom? It’s the human race refusing the invitation that is the problem. So this parable, like many of the parables comes as a great bombshell to the idea that the human race is sailing towards heaven. When Jesus says the human race is sailing away from heaven, and if anybody would blame God for this, Jesus blames us.
So I want to consider this a parable under three quick headings this morning. The first is the master and his mercy. This is a little window into God. Jesus likens God to a man planning a feast, a banquet. This is one of the many ways Jesus describes the kingdom. He describes the kingdom as a phase to banquet, a house, something plentiful, generous, enjoyable. And you can see in the parable that God is obviously generous because many people are invited. And when it’s ready, there’s absolutely nothing to do but turn up. You don’t need to pay anything, you don’t need to dress in any special way, you don’t need to provide anything, you don’t need to bring chocolates, you don’t need to sign in. There is no hand sanitiser, just come along. That’s what Jesus says. As soon as you hear the gospel, come, says, Jesus.
The greatness of this God, however is seen in the Jesus also calls him Lord. Twice, he speaks of this man as the Lord. So this God is not just somebody who you can dismiss easily. He is God, He’s the Lord. And in fact, Jesus also calls Him the master in verse 21. It’s a word which the original meaning is completely in-charge. In fact, the word in the Greek is despot. And this serious side of God comes out because the guests refuse to turn up. And the master says, well, they didn’t enter the feast so they won’t enter the feast. In other words, God brings down His judgment.
Now I’m sure you realise dear friends that I’m part of the price Jesus paid in coming to earth as a man is that he could be despised, he could be humiliated, he could be rejected and underestimated. The price of bringing salvation humbly to the world is that he postpones judgment for the world. And this means that some people will despise him and treat him cheaply, but he is the saviour and he is the judge. People who despise him today will one day have to kneel before him, and then it will be too late for many.
So notice how merciful the God of Luke 14 is, He provides a feast for the undeserving. When the undeserving reject the offer, He opens it up to the undeserving and the unwanted in chapter 14:21. Many of the people who are described now as poor, blind and maimed would not have been allowed into the temple, but Jesus tells that they are wanted in God’s kingdom. And when they seek and the main have come and the place is nearly full, but there is still room, the master begins to invite everybody He can possibly find who will respond.
So this God we are reading about, He’s very generous, very merciful and very kind. I have read to you before, but I’ll just remind you again from a book by Tim Keller that he says that on any Sunday today, there are more Christians attending church in China than in all of Europe. The East Asia church has grown in the last 50 years from 11 million to 171 million. In Africa, the church in the last century has grown from 12 million to 630 million. And he says that more Anglicans are meeting in Nigeria or Kenya or Uganda or Tanzania than are meeting in the UK and the USA combined. And the purpose and the point of these illustrations, these statistics is that God you see is building His church, but some are responding and many are not. So there’s the first thing the master in his mercy.
Now the second thing is, we’re going to look at the reality of our rejection. This is a little window into my heart and into yours as well, the reality of our rejection. You can imagine the average Australian blaming God for many things at the moment. Why doesn’t God fix the COVID-19? Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Why doesn’t God clean the church up? It’s so full of hypocrites. Why is church so boring? Why should they be one way to heaven? Why should I have to be religious when I’m a good person? And Jesus says, no, you need to face up to the problem, which is that way reject His kind invitation. And so he says in chapter 14:16-17, that this man, the master of the feast invites many, then He announces the feast is ready.
No doubt, Jesus is teaching the people that the Old Testament prophets foretold, that there would be the coming of the kingdom. And now Jesus arrives and says, it’s ready. You can step right in by joining the king, who is Jesus? And this is wonderfully true because Jesus has come, opened the door of the kingdom by dying on the cross. And now we merely have to walk in and surrender ourselves to him to have a place. But it says here in chapter 14:18, they all began to make excuses.
Now, when I read this during the week, I thought to myself, I want to say some made excuses, but Jesus says all made excuses. And he just gives us some examples of the excuses. And the excuses that Jesus mentions are typical of how terrible the excuses are. I don’t know if you know this, but the New Testament says that we humans are natural hiders from God. We always think, don’t we? That we are wonderful seekers and God is somehow hiding off in the universe somewhere. The Bible tells us that God is the seeker and we are the hiders.
And so Paul says in Romans, “There’s no one who seeks God, nobody.” And we want to say at that point, all there must be some people who are seeking God. But what Paul means by this is that there are many people who will seek the God they want, but not the God who sent Jesus. And there are many people who want a God who will serve them or a made-up God, but they don’t easily naturally seek the God of the Bible. That’s why these excuses are so shameful. The first guy says I’ve just bought a farm, but I haven’t looked at it. I bought a farm, but I haven’t looked at it. And then the second guy says, I bought some oxen, but I haven’t checked whether they can walk or pull a yoke properly. And the third guy says, oh, I’ve just got married, so I couldn’t possibly come to a feast, could I?
And you begin to realise that these are just dreadful excuses. Somebody said to me this week, asked me seriously if it was a sin to be single? They said, “It says in the Bible, it’s not good for the person to be alone, so is it a sin to be single?” I said, of course it’s not a sin to be single, Jesus was single, the Apostle Paul was probably single. The only sin that is unforgivable is when you turn your back on the saviour. If you refuse his invitation, it’s unforgivable. If you refuse to RSVP, it’s unforgivable, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Turn your back on the saviour and walk away, you cannot be saved.
John Chapman used to say that he imagined a man landing in the courtroom of God having turned his back on Jesus all his days, and God’s saying to him, “What are you doing here, unforgiven?” And the man says, “Gee, I didn’t think about it much, I didn’t really get round to it.” And God says to him, “You must think I’m a fool. I sent my son to die for you, what are you doing here, unforgiven?” And you will know that if you ask people, ask your neighbours, ask your friends, ask members of your family, if they would like to take up the invitation of Jesus Christ to have the past forgiven, the present wonderfully looked after, and the future guaranteed, they will come up with all sorts of excuses.
You’ll find yourself suddenly face-to-face with possibly terrible excuses because behind the façade of people who live what they think is a good life, behind the religious life of many people is a deep, deep resistance to Jesus Christ. One preacher I know was asked on Good Friday as he was about to preach in a foreign country, in a foreign language with an interpreter. And the interpreter said, “Well, it’s Good Friday, what’s your message going to be?” Expecting, the preacher would say, “Oh, it’s all about how God loves us.” And the preacher said, my message today is that given half a chance, the human race will do away with its maker. So there you see, we must face that not only is the master full of mercy, but that we may, you, the human race are natural rejectors of Christ until God turns us around and we come to our senses.
Well, the third and the last thing this morning is the gospel that we’ve been given, the message, which should be on our lips is actually one simple word, it’s the little word to come. That’s what we are able to say to people, what do you need to do to enter the kingdom of God? You need to come, you need to enter. You need to walk in. That’s what we’re to say to people. The feast is ready, the door is open. Jesus has died, you can come.
Some of you will remember that old hymn, there is a green hill far away, which has a verse in it. There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin. He only could unlock the door of heaven and let us in. Now how do we dare to tell people that they should come? Well, the answer is because behind us is the little word go. You notice how the master said to the servant, “Go and tell people to come.” And so I walk into this world with the word go behind me. God has said to his people go and tell people to come. And, of course, we do our best to pass on the good news and people are not very receptive and it’s not very easy, but let’s not forget that behind us is the God who says the way to go. And in our mouth is this beautiful word, come, everything is ready. There’ll be many who refuse, but there’ll be some who receive. The humble will receive, the people who God has brought to their senses will receive and come.
And the reason that these blind and poor and maimed people took up the invitation to come to the feast is not because they were worse than other people or even that they were better, but that they were receptive. When Jesus says compel them to come in, he doesn’t mean that we’re to use force as many people in church history have wrongly assumed, but we’re to present the reasons for coming in a compelling way so that a person will say, well, that’s a wonderful reason for coming to Christ. My sins can be forgiven, my present life can be governed by heavenly Father and I can one day be with Him in heaven.
Thank you our gracious God for showing yourself to be a God of great mercy, generosity, wonder. We thank you that you revealed to us that we are natural rejectors, but that you can make us into a receiver. Please bring us to our senses and help us to enter, to come, to live, to rejoice, to be ready. And as we live in the world, we pray that with your word to go behind us and your word to come in front of us, we might be your representatives helping others come to Christ. Please bless and use us in your service. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.