The Great Banquet Invitation

15When 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.” 16Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17At 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. 24I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet’ ” (Luke 14:15-24).

How lovely to us is the thought that eternity with Christ is pictured as a great banquet where all are invited. You are not left out! All are invited to the feast in the Kingdom of God. No matter what you have done, or where you have been, God offers a free pardon to you on account of the substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross for you and as you. Of all the fun things that we get to do in this world, is there anything better than eating with friends, conversing, laughing and enjoying one another’s company? It certainly is my favorite thing to do, and no doubt yours too. In another place in the scriptures, Christ is pictured as standing at the door of your house, the house of your inner being, asking to come in and enjoy eating with you, suggesting deep intimacy with Him:

20Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20).

The above passages suggest eternal bliss and satisfaction. Parties and banquets are all about fun, laughter and joy. To be around Jesus, to gaze upon His loveliness and laugh with him, seeing His glory and grace, and enjoying heaven with others that also love Him, what joy that will be! How humbling to realize that the God of the Universe wants to enjoy our presence over a meal that He has prepared. Jesus had been teaching concerning humility and reaching out to the poor and disabled by inviting them to a banquet. A man responds to Him by saying, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God” (Verse 15).

It seems that the words come from one of the Pharisees reclining at the table where Jesus had been invited and was eating. It is difficult to judge the man’s motivation for saying such a thing. Was it a request to find out what makes a person worthy of being invited to share in the Kingdom of God? It’s even possible that he was saying, “I can’t wait for us to recline at God’s table together.” The Pharisees considered themselves as righteous; after all, they were meticulous about keeping God’s commandments. They could not conceive that there would be Gentiles or even Jews that did not keep the law at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9). Jesus shared a parable with them that shook their thinking on just who would be in attendance at the feast in the Kingdom of God. He said that God invites the poor, the lame, the blind and the crippled into His kingdom, but those who made excuses would be shut out. Christ makes it clear that there is a free invitation to this banquet. Nothing can be done to deserve a seat at all.

There were no fixed price tickets to the best seats. It was by free invitation only. If you are a Christian, you have come to Christ at His invitation. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44). If you are not yet a Christian, today you have heard of the invite! You have been called and invited. The very fact that you are reading this study is proof that the Spirit of God has been drawing you to Christ. Some people are upset by the fact that the entrance to God’s Kingdom is by a free invitation only. They find it hard to receive grace or undeserved favor. Part of the reason is pride. They feel that they must accomplish something in order to earn their entrance fee, but no one gets into eternity by what they have done. It is only by God’s grace and mercy. Now that is something to receive and party about! Trust Him today, and if I don’t see you this side of heaven, I will see you inside the Eastern Gate when He comes (Ezekiel 44:1-3). Keith Thomas

No Other Plan to Reach the World

There is an old legend that takes us back in time and recounts the time when Jesus slips back into heaven after He had died on the cross and rose from the dead. According to the legend, the angel Gabriel met him. Gabriel frowned when he saw the marks of Jesus’ scars of His tortuous years on earth, especially the scars of His crucifixion. Gabriel said: “Master, you suffered terribly for those down on earth.” “Yes, I did,” was Jesus’ reply. Gabriel continued: “Do they all know now about your life and your forgiveness? Have they all heard about your death and resurrection?” “No, not yet.” Said Jesus. “Right now only a handful knows. Only a handful of people in Palestine know about my death and resurrection.

“Gabriel looked perplexed. “Then,” he asked, “Well… How will everyone find out about your wonderful life and your sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection?” “I have asked Peter, James, John and a handful of friends and followers to tell other people about it. And when other people hear and believe, they in turn will tell others. And Gabriel, by and by, the planet earth will hear the message.” Still frowning, the angel responded: “But, hmmm, you know how people are on earth. What if they… What if Peter, James and John get tired? What if they tell the story and then the next generation gets all involved in other pursuits? What if way down in the 18th or 21st century, people aren’t committed any longer to your commission? Have you made other plans?” The Lamb of God looked directly at the angel of God and said: “I have no other plan. I am counting on them.” (Author Unknown).

God At Work Through Rejection

10Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? The stone rejected by the builders has now become the cornerstone (Mark 12:10).

Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to go through experiences like betrayal and rejection? When God planned out how He would woo his bride to Himself, way back before the foundation of the world, don’t you think He could have planned not to have Judas betray Him?  Was it so necessary to have His Son experience the cold shoulder of the Jews when they shouted at Pilate, “we have no king but Caesar?” Why would God allow His Son to be rejected of men?

Isaiah the prophet wrote about Christ more that 600 years previous to His coming saying “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). God has a way of using rejection in the process of refining our character, not that Jesus needed His character refined. I believe it was allowed so that He could comfort us when we went through rejection. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). A.W. Tozer said, “God cannot use a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” This gives me hope in the midst of rejection.  Perhaps you have asked for God to use you for His purposes. In some way I do not understand, God takes a person who has experienced rejection, sometimes at the hands of well meaning people, and uses it as a tool to shape his or her life to become more like Christ.

We could go through a list of people that were greatly used of God that went through terrible rejection. Moses was rejected by his own people (Exodus 2:14). Joseph was rejected by his own brothers and sold into slavery (Genesis 37:26). When Samuel the prophet was sent to the house of Jesse to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be a King, David was not even invited; he was left out in the fields (1 Samuel 16:11). God powerfully used each of these and many more that we do not have room to name.

Our passage of scripture at the top of the page speaks of Jesus, He may have been rejected by men, but consider the outcome of His life laid down for you and me, life for evermore if you have placed your trust in Him. God is still able to make useful living stones out of those that have been rejected of men.  Maybe you are one…

Prayer: Rejection is painful, Father, but please use it to make me more like Jesus. Amen

Keith Thomas

The Great Faith of the Centurion

Only two times in all four Gospels did Jesus ever compliment people on their faith, and both times it was Gentiles (Non-Jews) who received His praise. The first is found in Matthew 15:28, when a Canaanite woman came to Jesus on behalf of her daughter who was afflicted by a demon. Her words to Jesus expressed persevering faith. The second person recorded in the Gospels is found in the passage we are studying today, i.e. a gentile centurion.

1When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum. 2And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. 3When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. 4When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, “He is worthy for You to grant this to him; 5for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.” 6Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; 7for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8“For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 9Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” 10When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health (Luke 7:1-10).

This servant had endeared himself to his master so much that, when the centurion saw his servant slipping away into death, he became desperate enough to spend his relational capital with the Jewish elders by asking them if they would mediate with Jesus to heal his servant. When he heard that the Jewish elders had succeeded in their intercession with Jesus and that Christ was on His way to the house of the centurion, he sent another person to Jesus to stop Him before He gets to the house. His faith was expressed by his actions.

Faith Expressed by Action: We hear of Christ marveling or being amazed at the centurion’s faith in taking a risk by asking Jesus to just speak the Word of Healing. This man recognizes that Jesus has authority on earth to heal sicknesses without coming under a Gentile’s roof. The centurion felt unworthy to be in His presence, let alone have Jesus under his roof. He knew that it was forbidden for a strict Jew to enter the house of a Gentile and that to do so would make a Jew ceremonially unclean. Yes, it was risky for the centurion to stop Jesus on the way, but this tells us something of the faith that pleased the Lord. To the Jewish elders of the town, this man seems worthy to have Jesus heal his servant, but the centurion proclaims his unworthiness. In his mind, his servant is worthy of being healed, but the centurion feels his own unworthiness as a sinner in the presence of the Son of God. Often, though, God calls us to action to express our faith.

It hadn’t rained in a long time, and things were getting desperate. The ministers decided that they were going to call a prayer meeting. They said, “Look, we want the whole town to come to the prayer meeting and bring their religious symbols.” So the whole town showed up for the prayer meeting and people brought crosses, they brought their Bibles, the Catholics brought their rosaries, and they all cried out to God. They finished the prayer meeting. No rain was in sight. They all went home. The next day, though, in the town square where they had the meeting, there was a little boy. “Oh, God, we need rain.” God, show your power, and give us rain.” The day before, with all the preachers and all the religious symbols, calling on God, no rain. The little boy shows up the next day by himself in the town square, and as he was praying, rumbling occurred. As he was praying, the shower hit, and it was pouring with rain. What was it about this little boy? He said the same things that all the people said the day before, but the day the young boy came, when the clouds got dark, he lifted up his symbol that he brought: an umbrella. He expected it to rain. When the weather man tells you on the news that it will rain the next day, we believe his word and most of us take our umbrellas. Why is it, when it comes to God, who is never wrong, we hesitate to believe His Word and act on it.[1]

Keith Thomas

[1] Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book of Illustrations, Printed by Moody Publishers, 2009, Page 98.

If You Are Willing, You Can Make Me Clean.

12While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 13Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 15Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:12-16).

There were two kinds of leprosy in Jesus’ day. One that was rather like a very bad skin disease, while the other was a disease that started from a small spot and ate away the flesh until the wretched sufferer was left with only the stump of a hand or a leg. It was literally a living death.

The man in our passage was covered with leprosy (verse 12). The Book of Leviticus gave very specific instructions about various skin diseases, leprosy being one of them.  Lepers could not live inside the town, obviously that meant that they could not go to synagogue or the Temple. They were outcasts of society. The leper was to cry “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever he went: he was to dwell alone in a habitation outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:45-46). They had to carry a bell everywhere they went and if anyone should come within 50 yards of them they had to ring a warning to them. Leprosy was a contagious disease.

Dr A. B. Macdonald, in an article on the leper colony in Itu, of which he was in charge, wrote, “The leper is sick in mind as well as body. For some reason there is an attitude to leprosy different from the attitude to any other disfiguring disease. It is associated with shame and horror, and carries, in some mysterious way, a sense of guilt, although innocently acquired like most contagious skin diseases. Shunned and despised, frequently lepers consider taking their own lives and some do.” Often the leper came to hate himself. That is the kind of man who came to Jesus; he was unclean and Jesus touched him. It doesn’t seem as if this man came with anyone else if he was part of a leper colony.  Somehow he heard of Jesus and sought Him out.

We are told that without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). The leper had the faith to go in search of Jesus. He risked being stoned for being in the town. It was evident to all he was a leper because he “was covered with leprosy.”  There’s a courage born of desperation that brings him to Jesus proclaiming his words of faith, “if you are willing, you can make me clean.” There is no doubt in his heart that Jesus can do this.  If there is any doubt at all it seems to be about the willingness of a Rabbi to even associate with him. He knew Jesus to be a holy man and was afraid to cause him to be unclean by being near Him, but his was a courage born of desperation. To come into contact with a leper would demand that anyone wash his clothes and be ceremonially unclean for the rest of the day. There was no hesitation in Jesus. He is willing to heal. We would all have wept if we had seen this untouchable being touched with the love of God.

Compassion is a quality sorely in need today. If we want to be like Jesus, we have to reach out beyond ourselves to those He loves and wants to touch. Jesus told him to go and show himself to the priest so that he would be inspected and having been found clean, would be able to be brought into the community of the faithful. Love the unlovely, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ!

Keith Thomas