[Fires Burning Brightly] The Great Invitation
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.” – Psalm 23.5 NASB
What if we approached the Good News of the Kingdom like it was an invitation to a HUGE BANQUET with all the best things that would satisfy our deepest longings and desires?
What if we realized that it is our mandate to go to the poor, crippled, blind and lame in the city as well as into the highways and along the hedges to the masses participating in the GREAT INVITATION?
The Banquet Is Prepared.
In Luke 14, Jesus tells a parable of a man who planned to give a large banquet and when the time came for the invited guests to arrive, they were all busy and distracted with other things which were more important and declined to attend. Interestingly, this parable came on the heels of another regarding guests choosing seats of honor at the table vs. allowing the host of the feast to exalt them and bring honor in due time. Right after which, one guest proclaimed, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God,” leading into the parable of the banquet.
Now, let’s keep in mind that both of these parables were told at the same party around the same table to the same guests. However, telling stories is not the first thing that we see Jesus do upon arrival at this particular home on the Sabbath. First, we see him healing a man. Just like the time that he healed the man’s withered hand in the Synagogue (Mark 3.1-6), the Pharisees were watching to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, which, in their estimation was unlawful. In fact, they were as legalistic about this as with anything, to the extent which, in the rabbinical writings we find,
“if a man has an ailment in his throat, he might not gargle it with oil (for the purpose of healing), but he might swallow a large quantity of oil and, if he is healed, he is healed”
But I digress…
As I was saying, if we look at these parables together along with the occasion immediately preceding, we find that it all flows toward one common point. The banquet IS NOW, don’t miss it. The Kingdom IS HERE. Put away your preconceived notions and see. Humble yourselves and repent of your stiff-necked religious ways. All of your posturing and religious success will profit you nothing. Cease from your striving. Instead, sit with me and eat. Be satisfied.
The Now and Not-Yet.
The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t something that we’re waiting for or working to be a part of. It’s not something which we will eventually enter into when we roll up our “earthly tent”. Rather, the Kingdom is within us by nature of the fact that we belong to the King. And yet, there is a future fulfillment that we look forward to.
I think the same is true with this banquet that the Lord has prepared. It is now…and it is not yet. Right now, it is laid out. We can come, eat, drink and be satisfied. All of our deepest longings and desires can be met reclining at the table with Jesus. Though, we know that one day we’ll be with Him and see Him face to face.
It is important to point out that when we talk of such things we can never allow the “not-yet” to negate the “now.” What I mean is that we cannot allow the “not-yet” to create a theology around not seeing everything that we are promised in the “now”. That, friends, is foolishness.
Going back to the parable of the dinner in Luke 14, the mandate for you and I is simple. GO THEREFORE…
- proclaim that the feast is prepared and all are invited
- offer a sampling of what is already at the table
- reflect the character and culture of the host