Dinner with Jesus

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Prayer

Our gracious and merciful Father,
The earth has turned another circle and you have given us another day of life, and for that we are thankful.
You have not only given us breath for another day, you have filled our mouths with good things. You have given us food to strengthen our bodies and wine to strengthen our hearts. You have given oil to make the face shine.
You have given beauty to make our hearts rejoice. Even in the most barren places, your wisdom and beauty are seen – in the grains of sand to the flowers of the field.
And on this earth we get tastes of the world to come, where there is no more curse. No more death. No more pain.
As we travel through this valley of tears together, join our hearts together in love. Direct our affections above, where Christ is at your right hand.
Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we praise you for beauty, for your work of creation, for the salvation that we have in Christ. We thank you for the Word made flesh, and the Word proclaimed. We thank you that the mysteries of salvation, hidden for all ages, is now revealed.
Grant that we may be filled with the knowledge of your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that we may walk in a manner worthy of you, to please you in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to your glorious might,
Give us steadfastness and patience; that we might joyously giving thanks to you, Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Direct our eyes, dear father, to a far greater kingdom, a kingdom where there is no more curse or death or pain. And as we wait for that kingdom, grant us patience with one another, kindness to our neighbor, understanding and hope. Grant that we might see the people that the world misses and have the right words to say. Give us the opportunity to do good, to give hope for another day, to bring peace wherever we go.
We pray for provision, Lord. Give us our needs each day, even as we wait for you and for your timing. May we seek our good from your hands alone, for you are our Father who has promised us every good thing in due season.
Deliver us from wickedness – evil in the world, in our own flesh, from the evil one who devours and destroys. Deliver us from wickedness within the without the body of believers. And heal your church from the spiritual cancers that threaten to destroy us.
Bless our witness in the community. Give us wisdom and patience. May our words be fitting and beautiful and uplifting, edifying to the hearer.
And forgive us our sins. Wash us clean by the blood of the lamb and cause us to walk boldly in the knowledge of sins forgiven, with clean consciences – sprinkled, washed, purified
And may we radiate the beauty of our savior in all of our dealings.
Bless the reading and preaching of your word today. Guide my lips and give us hearts to obey,
(and together)
Psalm 19:14 KJV 1900
14 Let the words of my mouth, And the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Scripture

Luke 14:1–24 NKJV
1 Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely. 2 And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” 4 But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go. 5 Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” 6 And they could not answer Him regarding these things. 7 So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: 8 “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; 9 and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” 15 Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ 23 Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ ”

Sermon

To be human is to have the longing for a destiny. What is at the end of the race and how do we get there? In our Bible Study on Wednesday, we spoke of telos - the consummation, the end - the finish. Where are we going?
To a student of the gospels, the telos of the people of God is the kingdom of God. Both Jesus and the Pharisees of his day used the term “Kingdom of God” - but they both had widely different views as to what that meant.
In the first 24 verses of Luke 14, Jesus is invited to supper at a Pharisee’s home. The concept of a great supper - of sitting down together to a meal - was often used in Jesus day as a metaphor for the kingdom of God. Perhaps it was the vision of the elders of Israel eating and drinking with God on Mt. Sinai that fired the imagination.
At any rate, Isaiah describes it as a feast of rich meats and well-aged wine, but it is a metaphor - a place of harmony and peace and fellowship together.
So the supper also became a place of conflict between two widely opposed view of the kingdom.
This is the clash described in our text. Luke describes three events that took place, but the overall message is one - the kingdom of God is not anything like an earthly kingdom. Its citizens are not what we expect; its laws are not what we expect; and the entrance to the kingdom is not what we expect.
But today, I would like to focus on one aspect which is crucial in understanding the kingdom - the Sabbath day. This was the heart of the clash between Jesus and the Jews. And although the outward event might change, it is the same clash that takes place in every age in every church and in every heart. Jesus told his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, so we need to be continually reminded. The greatest danger of the soul is not that we come in contact with the ideas and people who are sinners. The greatest danger of the soul is when we allow the leaven of the Pharisees to drive us from Christ. So we have to understand what it is. And it is not an easy concept.

God’s Rest

After God created the heavens and the earth, he ceased from his creative activity. The word of “ceased” is shabbat - the sabbath. God enjoyed his creation, called it very good - and in a way we cannot understand, he rested in that joy - the joy of his creation. Men and women to created to enter that sabbath rest.
God placed a tree in the garden called the “tree of life”. If man ate of that tree he would live forever. But to eat of that tree he needed to submit to God’s command, concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
If man obeyed, he would eat of the tree and enter into God’s rest - but man failed. So in the book of Genesis, this “telos” of man is left mostly undefined - except to say that men and women all have a sense that they were created for something far, far greater.
As revelation progressed, we get more of an understanding of what “entering God’s rest” means. The promised land was a picture of that rest.
The land of Canaan was a picture of God’s rest - it is described as a land flowing with milk and honey, a good land, free from enemies, the glory of all lands.
So when Joshua brought Israel into the land, God says, “I gave them rest all around, like I swore to their fathers.”
But Israel still was sinful. They could not rest in the land for they continued to rebel against God. On the one hand, God was gracious and forgave their sins, since he was providing a redeemer for them. On the other hand, God is just and cannot abide with sin.
So there was warning after warning. If you do not obey, you will not enter into my rest - even AFTER Israel was already in the land.
Psalm 95 refers to that rest when he warns Israel that if they harden their hearts and test God, they won’t enter that rest.
Psalm 95:10–11 NKJV
10 For forty years I was grieved with that generation, And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways.’ 11 So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”
The land of Canaan pictured the restoration of God’s kingdom, where God rests and delights in his New Creation, his people - and his people each sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree and (in a picture) eat and drink with God.
But if there is wickedness - lying, murder, slander, adultery, idolatry - then it really isn’t rest, is it?
So God’s sabbath promise also included sanctification.
Exodus 31:13 NKJV
13 “Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.
The sabbath of Israel was a sign - pointing to the kingdom of God. Men and women would one day enter into God’s rest, where God is finished sanctifying his people, and he rests from his new creation - And the promise of the sabbath, pictured in the land of Canaan, would be fulfilled.
Men and women at rest, at peace, delivered from their sins and given eternal life, which was signified by the tree of life, fellowshipping with God forever.
Our telos - that which we seek - is the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost. The New Creation is finished and we all sit down together at the table with Jesus.
It is a work that only God can do. The curse is from God. The sword is from God. Death was pronounced, and only God can lift it.
And the proof? No matter how hard we try to overcome it, the day will come when we will die.
The leaven of the Pharisees is that this goal is attainable if we just do a little bit more. Drive out one more sinner. Pass one more law. Change one more mind. Be a little wiser and a little more righteous. But what will we do about death.
And even if we could live forever, who would want to? With these bodies? with our lusts and our sins and our unmet longings, and our baggage and our tears?
Can you imagine the sheer boredom of living forever under these cursed conditions? That isn’t the kingdom of God. That is hell.
Here is the problem - under these current conditions, God is not walking with us in the way that we long for. How often do we feel his silence? How often do we cry out and feel the loss of fellowship and long for something else?
Our life on this earth is a life of faith, and hope, and promise - and signs and symbols. But we long for a greater kingdom, a greater king, a greater supper.
We long for a sabbath that is far, far more than a sabbath on this earth. We long for the heavenly sabbath where we dine with Jesus himself in the marriage supper of the lamb, in a reality that nothing on this earth even begins to approach.
Revelation 22:1–5 NKJV
1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. 4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
These words are given to fuel the imagination, to throw fire on our longings - to strip away our lust for the things of this world and direct our affections to a different kingdom, a different king. Face to face! Eating and drinking with God himself, free from sin, clothed in his righteousness. No more of those things that disturb the night - the anxieties and fears and dangers that lurk. The evils that take place in the dark are all taken away. And the curse is taken away.
Everything about the curse is taken away - pain, sickness, cancer, heart disease, blindness, legs that don’t work. Feet that hurt. Backs that leave one crippled. Hunger. Thirst. Famine. War. Crime. corruption, lies, abuse, degradation, hatred, scorn, contempt, bitterness, envy.
Thorns, futility, endless, mindless repetition of things that don’t matter. blindness.
All gone in the kingdom of God. And one more thing that will be taken away.
Dropsy. We aren’t quite sure what this is, perhaps edema - a swelling of the joints and organs. It could be serious. It could be inconvenient. But here is what we know.
This man was a plant. He was placed here for the sole purpose of catching Jesus.

Differing kingdoms

The Pharisees had a concept of the kingdom of God. It would be like David’s kingdom of old - but, of course, idealized. They, like many of us, conveniently forgot that David also was a sinner, and not a “I gossip once in a while” kind of sinner. Not the kind of sinner that you would feel comfortable with talking about at a ladies tea. But a real rape and murder sinner.
They forgot that thousands of sacrifices daily at the temple stank like a slaughterhouse. That death by stoning wasn’t a pretty way to go. That constant vigilance against Philistines isn’t exactly fun. As soon as David establishes his kingdom, we read about Bathsheba, Tamar, Absalom...
With the idealized view of David’s kingdom, they forgot that because of sin, earthly kingdoms are just like earthly treasure - they corrupt, rot and fade away.
But this was their concept of the ideal kingdom. Sinners would be punished. The sabbath would be kept. The acceptable people would be acceptable people and the riffraff would be kept out.
It was a kingdom enforced by laws, made up of my sort of people, where my kinds of sins are acceptable but your kinds of sins are not.
In fact, here they are giving a grand and public feast on the Sabbath day - who worked so that they could feast?
But those sins were acceptable. Jesus healing a sick man wasn’t acceptable.
I thought a lot about why the gospel writers keep telling us that Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Couldn't’ he have avoided a lot of fuss if he had simply healed on other days? It’s almost like he did it on purpose....
He did. He is pointing us to the kingdom of No More Curse, where dropsy is taken away because death is conquered and the power of the devil is destroyed. He is pointing us to an everlasting Sabbath - that is actually the whole point of all of it!
It is very fitting and actually required that the king coming for his kingdom heal on the Sabbath day. It is what he came to do, to fulfill the law and break the power of the curse - which is what the sabbath was all about. The Sabbath pointed to the telos - the consummation, the kingdom, the communion of the Holy Spirit
But this brought him into conflict with the ruling class of the Jews. If the sabbath is about Jesus and the everlasting kingdom, then they lose their power.
Because if the bible’s view of history and the bible’s view of sin and the bible’s view of salvation are correct, then the kingdom we long for isn’t going to come from the right laws enforced the right way by the right people.
That kingdom has been tried and it failed. Over and over and over again.
There is no Christian nation. Never has been.
Because nations are built on power and advancement and authority and submission. Nations are built on who is invited to the table and who has the power to sit where and be listened to. Nations are always built by gathering together the right sort and keeping the riffraff to a minimum.
Nations are built with crosses and scaffolds and prisons and armies and they last until the next nation comes along with bigger crosses and scarier scaffolds and more secure prisons and larger armies. And it continues over and over and over again -
No kingdom has ever existed where each man sat under his own vine and his own fig tree. Nations have been build where SOME men sit under their own vine and their own fig tree, but the rest are working the fields, fixing the meals, sewing the clothes, battling dropsy and standing around the table watching the important people eat.
That isn’t the kingdom of God. It is just another Babylon. We work in Babylon. We pray for the peace of Babylon. We give respect and honor where it is due in Babylon. We strive for justice, works of mercy, giving cold water in Jesus’ name...
But don’t ever mistake Babylon for the kingdom of God. I am using Babylon as the bible uses Babylon - it is every kingdom of this earth, characterized by Babel - let us make a name for ourselves with our unity under strong leadership with the right policies
In this chapter, Luke is pointing us to this dinner with Jesus. There are three things that happen that illustrate the profound difference between the kingdom of God and Babylon the Great. The man with dropsy, the fight for position, and the parable of the invitations.
First, right when Jesus enters, there is a man there with some kind of visible illness - perhaps a form of edema. He is there as a test, not as a human. He isn’t invited to the supper. As I said before, Sabbath Suppers at the houses of the Pharisees were open for any spectators to see what was going on. The prominent people were displayed in front of everyone as an incentive to work harder, keep the law better, and perhaps you can one day earn a seat at the table. The higher up the seat, the more honor you had.
Whatever one’s politics, the dynamics are the same.
The man with dropsy would not have been invited to the table. It was maneuvered so that he would be there and Jesus would be tested.
Because in Babylon, there are two kinds of people. Our kind of people. And the other kind of people. Babylon is always a hierarchy of various statuses. You have to know who the movers and shakers are and who the riffraff are. The Pharisees needed to know which side Jesus was on.
But what good is a side when everyone ends up in the grave?
But the kingdom of God is about one thing. Jesus. He is the only one who is righteous. He is the only strength. He is the only wisdom. He is the only power. Luke’s gospel is about how he is recreating the new creation by his word and his spirit. His kingdom isn’t about John the Baptist. Or Herod. Or James and John. Or leftist policies or right wing policies or about us and them. It is about HIM. When Jesus comes again, your favorite pastor isn’t going to be a go-between. There isn’t a chain of command. There is Jesus.
He alone heals the sick, raises the dead, overcomes the curse - for he alone is true and righteous man and also true and eternal God, so he alone is qualified to take the curse upon himself and take it away.
And so he does. Saying to the Pharisees - what do you think the Sabbath is about? Keeping rules? Enforcing proper policy? Or is it the kingdom that we seek breaking through in this age? Mercy and goodness and healing and new creation? And Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
And then he points out their own inconsistency. You can’t even be consistent with those rules. If you consistently followed your idiotic rules, you would let your donkey or your ox die rather than pull him out.
But you know you wouldn’t. Because this isn’t really about this. This is about worship and power. You would rather die in the kingdom of your own making than live in the kingdom of God, because living in the kingdom of God requires that you bend the knee, take the lower place, and worship someone who isn’t you.
You think that the kingdom of God is about money and power and status and who sits where at the table. It can’t be about healing the sick and raising the dead and doing away with the curse, because if it is, then you aren’t the one in charge. And that is what you cannot stomach. If he doesn’t wash your feet, you have no place at the table at all. If he doesn’t take away YOUR sin, you have no place at the table, no matter what position you have on the earth. And he heals whoever he chooses to heal. It is free grace, or it is nothing at all. And free grace hits right at the heart of who we think we are.
The Pharisees set the table and invite the right sort of people, while the wrong sort stand around and watch. But this table isn’t the kingdom of God. Eventually, everyone there will die. We seek a far, far greater kingdom.
So the king, before he sits down, illustrates exactly what he is talking about. What good is a kingdom if the curse isn’t taken away? And which one of you will break the bondage of the curse? No one? What law will you pass or policy will you enact that will overcome death and sin and misery?
And he heals the man.
As soon as he heals the man, he notices everyone jockeying for position - trying to figure out how high they can get away with sitting.
But that will be next week’s sermon.
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