Sermon Series: Getting to Know God
God's Zero Tolerance Policy
PSBC 8/12/01 AM
In a nutshell: God displays a zero tolerance policy toward excuses people give for not joining Him in His Kingdom work. We see this in the way He dealt with the Jews, and in the way He deals with His expectation of discipleship.
A. Zero Tolerance
A new phrase has come into the vocabulary of everyday Americans in recent years-zero tolerance. There are zero tolerance policies in schools, in government, in the workplace, and just about any other public institution and industry, where either safety or diversity is valued.
-That's why a six-year old boy was expelled from a school, out east, for kissing a female classmate. The girl didn't want to be kissed, and the school had a zero tolerance policy against sexual harassment.
-That's why students at Palm Springs High School have been expelled for bringing the smallest of pocket knives to school. The school has a zero tolerance policy against possessing knives on school grounds and at school events.
-That's why you will be arrested if you joke with security personnel at airport security check points about having a gun or bomb. They have a zero tolerance policy against even joking about being in possession of such things.
So, the idea of zero tolerance should not be a foreign concept to anyone this morning. And because of that, today's parable should be very easy for all of us to grasp and understand. You see, it has to do with God's zero tolerance policy.
B. Parables in general
I told you last week that a common characteristic of the parables and word pictures taught by Jesus was the fact that each one teaches just one thing about God. And if you get that one thing, then you can apply it to a whole host of areas in your life.
Today, we are going to be looking at The Parable of the Great Banquet, that's taught in Luke 14, starting at verse 16. And if you have your Bibles, that's where I'd like you to turn.
If you remember from last week, I gave you a picture to keep in mind for each of these parables and word pictures. It's a picture of a ball of yarn or string. If you try to unravel a ball of yarn or string from the middle, you will wind up with a big mess. But if you can grasp the beginning, and start there, then you can easily unravel the whole thing. Well, the beginning of this ball of yarn that we call, The Parable of the Great Banquet, is this simple idea-God's doesn't tolerate excuses.
Now, let me give you some background…
Jesus has been invited to the home of a very rich and prominent Pharisee, on the Sabbath. When Jesus gets to the home, he observes the behavior of the many other guests who have also been invited to this same banquet. They are pushing, cajoling, and forcing their way to get the best seats at this banquet-the seats closest to the prominent Pharisee who is giving the party.
On top of that, there is a "ringer" on the guest list. Someone invited a man who had a disease called dropsy or edema. This is a disease where the victim has serious fluid accumulations that look like tumors, growing on his body. It is a very visible disease, and one that caused a person to be a social outcast. He didn't go un-noticed by Jesus.
So, not backing away from controversy, Jesus addressed each issue, separately.
1. First, He dealt with the man who was the "ringer". That poor diseased man had been invited there to try to trap Jesus. Since it was the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders at the banquet were waiting to see if Jesus would heal the obviously sick man on the Sabbath. If He did, these leaders would say that Jesus was breaking the Sabbath by working on that day when he performed the healing. You can read the first few verses of this chapter and see that Jesus turned the tables on the Jewish leaders and left them dumbfounded, while He healed the man.
2. The second issue Jesus addressed was the selfish scramble by the guests at the banquet to get to the best seats. And again he turned the tables on the Pharisees, and pointed out how God would much rather see a banquet where the less well-off were invited and fed, then a bunch of people who were selfishly concerned with their social status. That's what the Kingdom of God-the people ruled by God-should be like. Not like a bunch of selfish brutes.
Then, one of the more perceptive guests gives a resounding "Amen" to all that Jesus has just said and done, in verse 15 of your texts…
Luke 14:15 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."
Now folks, this unidentified guy was getting it. You see, the Jews of Jesus' day believed that when the Messiah came, and set up His kingdom, there would be a great banquet, and celebration. And all the true followers of God would be invited to this celebration. And this guy was saying that they would be rewarded for honoring God by how they paid attention to what was important to Him, as Jesus has just described in his two actions.
II. Explanation of the Parable
And this led to Jesus next parable, which is the one I want to look at with you today. I'm going to start reading at verse 16…
Luke 14:16-24 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.'"
Now, whenever someone gave a banquet in Jesus day, there was a lot of preparation to pull the event off. Plus at this time in history, people didn't have watches. So, hosts and guests handled things a little differently than we do today.
Illustration: Sometime before Saturday, January 12, 2002, you all are going to be invited to a wedding and a reception for the marriage of our daughter Jori, to Brian Jacobs. We will invite you, but we are not going to come and get you and bring you here. If we say the wedding will start at 2PM, then we expect you to get here by that time, if you want to witness the ceremony and eat the cake at the reception.
But back then, if we had this same event taking place, Diane and I would first of all have to formally invite you, and you would block out the day. On the days leading up to the festivities, Diane and I would be involved in preparing the food, the banquet hall, and the entertainment for your arrival. Then when everything was ready, we'd send out our servants to your home and tell you, "Now is the time, come on over."
Then, since you had blocked out that day in your calendars, and were anticipating the event…, you were already dressed, your makeup was on, and your hair was combed. So, when the servant came to our house and told you, "Now", you immediately left your house, and headed to the banquet hall, as soon as you were given the word.
B. Unexpected response
However, in Jesus' story, something unusual happened. The guests started to make some very lame excuses for why they weren't ready, and why they would not be coming. Even though when the initial invitations had gone out, they had agreed to come.
1. One person said that he had just purchased a field, and decided that on the day of the banquet, he was going to look at his purchase-for the first time.
2. Another person said that he had just made a major purchase of some farm machinery-10 new oxen. And he had to go out to the field to try them out.
3. Then a third person said that he had just gotten married, between the time of the original invitation and this "the time is now" invitation, so he was not going to be coming.
C. Reaction of the "Man"
Now, if your haven't guessed it already, this man throwing the banquet in Jesus' story, represents God. And the people making the excuses are the good upstanding and respectable Jews who are sitting at this banquet, listening to the parable. These are the people who are supposed to be closest to God and know how to obey God, because they are the most religious of all the people represented in Palestine at this time. They are the ones reading the Prophets, and the Psalms, and Proverbs, and the books of Moses. They know all about God's past dealings with Israel, and they know all about the Messiah.
But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me get back to the parable.
After the servants returned with the news about the excuses, the "man" throwing the banquet got very angry-in fact, He was furious. So, He sent his servants out into the streets and alley-ways of the city to find the outcasts of Jewish society. He told them to bring in the blind, the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the people with diseases, just like Jesus had healed a few minutes before at this banquet. And the servants did, and there was still enough food and place settings for more.
So, the "man" throwing the banquet party said, now go out of town. Go all around the area and get the people who live in other parts of the county and the suburbs, and bring them in. And the servants did, and they came.
And Jesus ends the parable with these chilling words…
Luke 14:24 24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'"
Friends, don't miss the beginning of this theological ball of yarn. Jesus has just told the religious elite that God has a zero tolerance policy for excuses. Now, as we're going to see, this parable has at least 2 points of application.
III. Two points of application
A. 1st Century Jewish point of view
First of all let me apply the parable from the perspective of it being told to the Jews of Jesus' day.
The Jews were right in anticipating a great celebration at the end of time, when God would gather all His followers and celebrate with them His vanquishing of Satan and eradication of evil, and the restoration of God's rule in the lives of human beings, because of the work of Jesus Christ. The Bible calls this the "wedding supper of the lamb". (Or if my wife had her way, "The wedding DINNER of the Lamb!" smile)
Revelation 19:6-7, 9 6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 9 Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."
Since the time of Adam and Eve, God has announced that He would send His Messiah, to take care of human beings' sin condition. This promise of the Messiah is the initial invitation we read about in this parable of the Great Banquet. And so His chosen people wouldn't miss it…, God didn't invite people once, He did it over and over again: -To Adam and Eve, right after they ate the forbidden fruit -To Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their families. -To Moses and -To the Kings and Prophets God promised He would send His lamb, to be the sacrifice for people's sin.
Then time after time, Jesus said, "Now is the time. You should be ready. Come to the banquet. The Kingdom of God is ready to take off and rule in your heart when you believe in Me."
But the Jews came up with all kinds of excuses. And lame ones at that, just like in the parable. -He isn't strong enough -He isn't overthrowing Roman rule, like we want Him to -He's not my idea of the Messiah -He's asking me to abandon my traditions -He's criticizing the way I was brought up to do things -He demands too much of me
And these Jews and their excuses made God furious. So much so that He turned His back on them and focused his attention on people who were receptive to His Son's message of truth, salvation and grace.
After Jesus was rejected by the religious Jews, as a whole, God went to the poor, the diseased and the outcasts of Jewish society. They embraced Jesus and His message with enthusiasm. Just look at how many misfits and outcasts were part of the first churches that are described throughout the book of Acts.
But God wasn't done. After that, He went "out of town" and His Good News of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ was brought to the Gentiles through people like Peter and Paul, and their disciples.
This parable is a capsule of the next 60 years in the history of the church. It's because God has a zero tolerance policy for excuses, that you and I-gentiles-have come to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, and have been given the opportunity to follow Him as our Savior and Lord. That's the first point of application. We received the gospel because God didn't tolerate the Jews' excuses.
But friends, this parable doesn't just teach us about Church History and how salvation made the jump from Jew to Gentile. It also speaks directly to every follower of Jesus Christ today, on the area of discipleship, as well.
B. Present Day Application
If you read the next section of verses (vss. 25-35), you see Jesus turning to the large crowd of people who are standing listening at the doors and windows at this Pharisee's home. After the parable on the Great Banquet, He segues into a related issue this parable also addresses. The issue is the cost of being His disciple. I'm not going to go into an exposition of that section this morning, because I preached a message on these verses some time ago. If you want to read it you can go on our church web page and find it there. Or order the tape. The message is called, No Price Too High.
But toward the end of this next section on discipleship, Jesus says some really tough words…
Luke 14:33 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Do you get the idea that following Jesus Christ is serious business to God? It is a relationship that demands something significant from us. In fact, it demands -all of who we are, and -everything we have, …totally committed to the one who gave His life for our salvation. We call this concept, Lordship, or Having Jesus be the Leader of Your Life.
And friends it's at this point that many Christians today are failing. On the front of your WIG's this morning is a quote from an article I clipped several years ago from Christianity Today magazine…
I believe I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether. (Neil Postman in Amusing Ourselves to Death. Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 10.)
Let me share a story with you that Stuart Briscoe, a pastor in Milwaukee, told in one of his sermons. I listened to that tape this week. He had shared this concept of costly discipleship with a young woman who had questions about a relationship with Jesus Christ. One of the passages he shared with her was Luke 14:33. This is how he told the story..
I met with a young business-lady last week. I pointed out this Scripture to her, and she said, "You mean to say that Jesus Christ wants me to confront the possibility that I might be wasting my life?" I said, "Right!" "And you are trying to tell me that if I hold onto my life, I will waste my life?" I said, "No, I'm not trying to tell you. He said it. And not only that, he said the only way to make sure you really invest your life for eternity in the divine economy is to hand it over to him." She said, "No way." That was last Tuesday morning.
Sunday night she came to me literally trembling and said, "I've not been able to get that thought out of my mind all week: I might be wasting my life." I asked, "Are you the same Pat?" She said, "I'm the same one who rides her motorcycle at ninety-five miles an hour without a helmet and has never been afraid of anything, but now I'm utterly petrified.'' Why? Because she was daring to do what disciples of Jesus Christ do: confront the issues. She quietly submitted her life to the Master last Sunday night. Do you call yourself a disciple of Jesus Christ? Disciples of Jesus Christ confront the issues he raises. (Stuart Briscoe, "Ordinary Folks Make Great Disciples," Preaching Today, Tape No. 47.)
A. Issue of Lordship
Now, I say all this because this parable of the Great Banquet not only illustrates how God has a zero tolerance for the Jews' excuses for rejecting His Messiah, but it also teaches God's zero tolerance policy for excuses we give for not following Him fully.
A verse that we tend to forget is this…
Romans 10:9 9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Don't ever forget that there are two parts to a relationship with Jesus Christ- -Initial acceptance of salvation in Jesus Christ through the power of His resurrection and -Following Him as the leader or lord of your life.
And too many Christians in America, and by saying that, I mean too many of us, have opted to accept the first part, and blow off the second part-or at least become selective in the area of Lordship. And friends, we can't do that. The ramifications are too big. The implications involve our invitation to this Great Banquet at the end of time. And whether or not you will share in the Kingdom of God.
B. Next Week
So, next week, we are going to take a look at this parable through the lens of discipleship. Specifically we'll be looking at three areas of your life and mine: 1. Our possessions, 2. Our careers or jobs or retirement, and 3. Our families
Now, saying all that, I don't want to scare you off. Yes being a disciple is hard. Yes, being a disciple is demanding. And yes, being a disciple means doing what Jesus wants, not what you selfishly want. But those aren't negatives. Let me close with these words from a pastor I used to listen to on the radio, growing up in Chicago…
I find that discipleship means, first, truly living. It does not mean a joy ride to heaven; it does not mean that there are no trials and no burdens. But it does mean peace in your soul and joy in your heart, and a sense, a supreme sense, of the smile of the Lord upon you. It is living. And discipleship means that you are using your time on earth to the best possible advantage. The Lord Jesus says so. (William Culbertson in Listening to the Giants. Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 8.)
So, next week we'll show you what truly living means in the areas of : possessions, careers and retirement, and our families.
This page was last updated on Sunday, October 31, 2004 03:37 PM