A Tale of Three Tables
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Subject: Open your heart
Theme: Open your heart to friends and strangers
INTRO: We have just celebrated what is typically called the “Lord’s Supper” or the “Lord’s Table.” It was a meal Jesus shared with his disciples the night before he was crucified. It was around this table that Jesus shared the most intimate conversation we have recorded in the Bible.
Context: This morning we will look at another mealtime conversation, one that took place as Jesus was en route to Jerusalem where he would soon be betrayed, tried and crucified. The Jewish religious leaders, jealous of Jesus’ popularity, have been trying to trap Jesus in his words and find grounds to arrest him for violating God’s law.
Today is Saturday, and Jesus has been invited to a Sabbath meal in the house of a leading Pharisee. Again the religious leaders are watching Jesus closely, hoping he will stumble.
Our text today, Luke 14:12-24, picks up in the middle of this meal. Jesus, never afraid of controversy, uses the mealtime motif as a backdrop to challenge those present. He does this with a series of confrontations, correcting their misunderstandings about God, themselves, and about the kingdom of God.
First, Jesus confronts the scribes and Pharisees on their legalism. He does this by healing a man on the Sabbath. (v.1-6)
Then, He confronts the guests who are trying to look important by taking the seats of honor at the table (v.7-11), warning that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
These first two confrontations help set the scene for the verses we’ll consider. As the meal continues Jesus continues to challenge those present. The confrontations that follow are what I call a Tale of Three Tables.
Let’s pick up the story in verse 12.
12 Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.
13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,
14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
(TRANS) Here we are shown the first of our three tables.
The Pharisee’s Table
When I read this, I thought “Isn’t it rude not to invite your relatives and friends to your banquet?” But when we take this in light of the whole counsel of Scripture we see it is not a strict prohibition. In the book of Acts and Corinthians we consistently see table fellowship among the people of the early church. These meals spanned economic classes. Paul even gives instruction to embrace every person w/o discrimination, whether rich or poor
The question here is one of the heart: Why are you inviting them? Jesus is challenging his host about his motive for generosity. Are you inviting people with the expectation that they will repay you later?
Earlier in Luke’s gospel Jesus shared that there is nothing special or honorable about giving to those who will repay you.
32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them.
33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that.
34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full.
35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Repayment can take many forms. It could be an invitation to a party. It might be something tangible like money or a gift. But it could also be recognition and praise from others. The point is not what form the repayment takes but rather from whom it comes. If it comes from men, it won’t come from God. If men don’t reward you now, God will reward you later. But you don’t get rewarded twice!
How much better to delay your repayment and receive it from God instead of men! You don’t get to choose your reward, but you do get to choose when you and from whom you get it. Be rewarded now by men, or be rewarded later by God.
This reward from God will be given to us at the Bema judgment we discussed a few weeks ago, after Christ returns and we are raised from the dead. We will be part of the new kingdom he will establish here on earth. Part of the Jewish picture of this kingdom included a great banquet where they would dine with Abraham and other great people from the OT.
(TRANS) When Jesus mentioned the resurrection of the righteous, a man at the table, thinking of this banquet, pipes up with some commentary. This is in v.15.
15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God."
I am not sure why he decided to say this. Jesus had just confronted the religious leaders, some guests, and the host of the meal, so maybe it to lighten a socially awkward moment. It seems this man expects he will be one of those eating at the feast. And certainly the religious leaders expect to be there too. Anyone at this feast is certainly a blessed individual.
TRANS: But Jesus replies to the man’s exclamation with a parable about our second table – The Father’s.
The Father’s Table
As we read v.16-24, be looking for how Jesus confronts those present.
16 Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.
17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.'
18 "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.'
19 "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'
20 "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'
21 "The servant came back and reported this to his master. 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.'
22 "'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.'
23 "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.
24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'"
You know how much work and planning it takes to put together a thanksgiving meal now. Imagine it without temperature regulated ovens, refrigerators and microwaves. You have to kill your own meat, grind your own flour, and then cook it all over a fire?
Back in Jesus’ day when planning a party you would invite people ahead of time just as you do today. Then on the day of the party you would have to send out a messenger again to notify people when the meal was ready.
We see in the parable that the man invited MANY guests. We are only told three of the specific excuses, but verse 18 makes it clear that ALL of the invited guests made excuses. And their excuses were very lame.
The man in v.18 asks to be excused because he bought a field and want to go see it? Who would buy a field w/o first looking at it? And if he had inspected it beforehand, why does he need to go now?
The man in v.19 asks to be excused b/c he is going to try out some new oxen he purchased. You wouldn’t buy a used car without first test-driving it. Neither would this man purchase a team of oxen w/o first test-driving them. He’s just cooking up some reason to avoid the party.
The man in v.20 doesn’t even ask to be excused. He just flat out says that he can’t come. Just like the others, he know about the banquet ahead of time. If he knew his wedding or marriage would prevent him from coming, he should have declined the invitation when it first came.
When interpreting a parable it is important to consider the context and occasion on which it is spoken. The parable Jesus tells in verses 16-24 is in direct response to the man’s comment in v.15. Jesus tells this parable to explain who will really be present at that feast.
The Jews had been invited, really called, to be God’s chosen people. We see in the NT that the Jews, and particularly the scribes and Pharisees, were proud of their pedigree. They were the insiders, the ones blessed by God. They were the ultimate “have’s” surrounded by a world of “have nots.”
The master in our parable invited all the “have’s.” They had accepted his invitation. Understandably, he is angry when he finds out each person on his guest list wormed their way out when it was time to attend the banquet.
So, how does he respond? He tells his servant to 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'
The Pharisee’s considered themselves top-notch Jews, and there were plenty of ranks below them. There were Jews who were ceremonially unclean, like the crippled, blind, and diseased. The master of the banquet tells his servant to bring them in!
When he learns there is still room, he commands his servant to go OUTSIDE the town and get more people. Why? Because he wants his house to be full.
Beyond the ceremonially unclean Jews there were those who were ethnically unclean. Their dirtiness was in their blood. These would be Samaritans – half breeds who had been Jews at one time but had intermingled their bloodline with non-Jews. And, of course, there were the full-blooded Gentiles – eewwww! (shake hands as if trying to fling off gunk).
The master of the banquet says to go outside the town and not just extend and invitation, but compel and convince them to come in.
The Father’s table is a visible depiction of his heart. All through the Bible you see that God had a heart for the nations. The Jewish people were chosen not just to be his own possession, but to be his ambassadors to spread His name to all peoples. They were to draw all the other nations to God.
But the Jews not only failed to reach out to the have-nots, they totally missed Jesus when he came to tell them it was time to come to the banquet. So now God is going directly to the have-nots, the outcasts, and calling them to be at his table.
A few years ago there was a living example of this story. Phillip Yancey shares it in his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace?
In 1990 the Boston Globe told the story of a most unusual wedding banquet. A woman and her fiancé went to the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Boston and ordered the banquet. They both had very expensive tastes, and the bill came to $13,000. They left a check for half that amount as a down payment. But the day the announcements were supposed to hit the mailbox, the groom got cold feet. He backed out.
When the expected-bride-to-be went back to the Hyatt to cancel the banquet, the hotel people said, well, you can cancel the banquet. But the contract is binding. You only get $1300 back. You have two options: you can forfeit the rest of the down payment. Or you can go ahead with the banquet.
And so it was that in June 1990 the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Boston hosted a party such as it has never seen before. The hostess changed the menu to boneless chicken— “in honor of the groom,” she said—and sent invitations to rescue missions and homeless shelters.
That warm summer night, people who were used to peeling half-gnawed pizza off the cardboard dined instead on chicken cordon bleu. Hyatt waiters in tuxedos served hors d’oeuvres to senior citizens propped up by crutches and aluminum walkers.
Bag ladies, vagrants, and addicts took one night off from the hard life on the sidewalks outside and instead sipped champagne, ate chocolate wedding cake, and danced to big-band melodies late into the night.
We have peered through the windows of two very different homes, and we have seen two very different tables. One is that of the well-to-do have-it-togethers, fellowshipping together in around the Pharisee’s table. The other is of a misfit group, poor & handicapped, gratefully feasting around our Father’s table.
(TRANS) But this is a tale of three tables, not just two. The third is a table with which you are very familiar. Chances are you had breakfast around it this morning. It is your Family’s Table.
The Family Table
Represents intimacy and fellowship. It’s something special to be invited into someone’s home for are meal. There are many people w/whom I interact. I would even call them friends. But how many of them do I invite into my home?
So we have a few decisions before us.
What does family’s table look like? Who’s table does it resemble? Will it look like the Pharisee’s table, surrounded by folks who will soon be giving you gifts, folks at who’s house you may soon dine? Or will your table look like the Father’s, surrounded by people who can in no way pay you back for your kindness?
- Picnic table / backyard BBQ
- Cafeteria table at school
- Breakroom table at work
- Other places where you can open your lives
I’m hesitant to push too hard on this point, only because I don’t yet know how I’m going to make our Family’s table look like our Father’s table. I know we need to, but I’m not sure how. But I know we need to. Hopefully I will be able to share a story with you someday of how our table resembles the Father’s. I hope you will have some stories to share too.
But there is another, even more important decision, one not about your Family’s table, but about our Father’s Table. It is clear from our passage today that there are some who think they will be celebrating around that table, but will in fact not be able to come. When you get home today, read the rest of chapter 14. Jesus had large crowds of people following him. They followed but they were not committed.
After this parable he turns to them and explains that there is a very high cost to following him. You have to give up everything. EVERYTHING. But it is certainly worth it if it will allow you entrance into the banquet. Consider what all you have – relationships, money, possessions, position. You will have to give it all up. However, consider how much God possesses. He is able to return to you those things and much more, but he must first have your heart. You have to surrender everything you currently control in order to follow him. Is it worth it? It certainly is, but that is a decision you have to make for yourself.
So let us decide: will we give up repayment we could receive now in order to gain what God has waiting for us later? Are you willing to open your table, your home, your heart to those who can never repay you? And are you willing to accept Jesus’ invitation to give up everything and follow him, all through this life until we reach the banquet hall when we feast with him in his kingdom.
Call to Worship: Mighty To Save
Announcements and Honoring Mothers
Worship in Joyous Song:
Let Us Break Bread Together (The one on your desk, Teri)
Communion (The Third Day Song) (Ch, V, Ch, V, Bridge, Ch, Ch, tag)
Communion, partaking of
Worship in Song: Come And See (V1, V1, V2, Ch, V2, Ch)
Closing Song: Praise The Name Of Jesus (2 times thru)
1 "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.
6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.