A Full House (Luke 14:16-24)
I did jail ministry as part of Christian service at International Bible College, and I started studying with a man who was really interested. We went through the Open Bible Study, and this gentleman wanted to be baptized. So, I made arrangements to take him to the Florence Boulevard church building.
When he and the deputy arrive, the inmate is given absolutely no freedom. The handcuffs and leg shackles are not removed. The inmate is able to get changed and I take him down into the baptistery and baptize him. The deputy never takes his eyes off this fella. We go back into the changing room, and the inmate is permitted to step into a cubicle draw the curtain and change. However, the deputy stands right in front of that curtain. While the inmate is changing, the deputy jailer looks at me and says, “Young man, I don’t trust this guy. You do know that you were in that water with a man who tried to kill several people.”
No, I did not know that-But, such is the power of the Gospel! 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. What is your experience with the power of the Gospel? Maybe you have witnessed a great transformation. Maybe you have needed a great transformation yourself. Maybe you’ve seen the Word of God penetrate a heart you thought was beyond reach.
This morning’s text isn’t really about the power of the Gospel-how it changes people. Instead, this morning’s text states that God wants a full house! God wants in his house that man convicted of attempted murder; that soon-to-be unwed mother worried about how she’ll finish school with a new baby; that preteen who stole the shiny new bicycle from the house down the street.
Do NOT hear me saying that one can remain in his/her sin. You know that no child of God can remain in sin. But, God does want people who have been castigated by society to come to his table. That is the point of this text: God wants a full house. God wants people full of sin to come to his table and find forgiveness and a new purpose/mission in life. God wants people of every ethnic group, of every socio-economic group, of every political persuasion, etc. to find forgiveness in his house.
This morning, we wish to hear clearly this parable and see what lessons we can learn.
Scripture (Luke 14:16-24)
Let’s remember the context:
Jesus has been invited to supper at the house of a chief Pharisee on the Sabbath; Jesus heals a man. Jesus then notices that people choose places of honor at supper; he then gives a parable to teach that one should not exalt himself. Jesus then urges the Pharisee who prepared the supper not to invite his wealthy friends to banquets, but to invite those who cannot repay him. The Pharisee with whom Jesus is eating starts to catch on that Jesus is teaching some important spiritual truths. The Pharisee says, “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” (v 15). Jesus, sensing a very real “teachable moment,” begins the parable that is our text.
This is a “great supper.” A great deal of time and money has gone into this. It wasn’t like he asked a couple guys to go to McDonald’s with him.
There is a “guest list” that’s been prepared beforehand. It was a common practice in ancient Palestine for send a servant with an invitation and then send that servant again to summon the attendees once the food was prepared. The implication is that these folks have accepted the invitation to come to the banquet. To refuse attendance once an invitation had been accepted was a major insult and financial burden for the host.
The people who had been invited begin to make crazily stupid excuses.
- Two men want to examine recent purchases-land and 5 yoke of oxen. Are we really to believe that they need to go and inspect their new purchases? You’re not going to buy land or oxen without first knowing that they’re acceptable. Who among us would buy a new house or a new car without first seeing it, making sure it’s acceptable? The idea is likely that these men are so materialistic they want to sit and just look at their “stuff.”
- The other man says that he has married a wife and cannot come-The idea is likely that this man is putting his family over attending this banquet.
We can easily imagine that many other excuses were given to this servant.
The servant is to go into the streets and lanes of the city. “Street” carried all sorts of people going to and fro. “Lanes” should be understood as “alleys.” They are where the outcasts from society would have been more comfortable. That’s exactly who lives in the alleys-the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind.
Even after folks had been brought in from the streets and alleys, there is still room.
The servant is to go into the highways and hedges and compel people to come in. Those who were especially destitute and needy would try to find shelter in hedges. Jews normally didn’t put hedges around their fields; therefore, the picture is the servant going to a foreign country. “Compel” doesn’t mean to force, but it does mean to urge strongly.
“None of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” Here is where the context and the meaning of the Parable in Jesus’ day come together. Remember that Jesus is in the home of a Pharisee, a group which rejected him. The idea is clearly that the Gospel is going to the Gentiles because the Jews have rejected it. The Gospel is now for all people.>
We cannot look at any group of people as unworthy of the kingdom of God.
God wants a full house and that includes even those whom society counts as unworthy. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). James 2:1-9.We may need to examine our attitudes. Are there people we consider “more worthy” of the gospel than others? Are we willing to leave our comfort zone to share the gospel with whomever we can?
We need to go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in.
In the parable, Jesus is the servant sent to bid people to come to supper. But, his mission is now our mission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col 1:28).Our meeting next week is a wonderful opportunity to compel people to come in. So many of you have been wonderful about giving flyers. Let me give you a challenge: Invite three people this week—Neighbor, friend, family, coworker. Great things can happen if we’ll take the gospel to the lost!
We need to think seriously about how we’ll greet visitors. This church does very well with that! Not every church does! My family recently visited a church in Alabama because a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in years was going to be speaking. We were sitting in a pew and a couple came in and sat in front of us. They looked at us, then at each other, he whispered in her ear, she shrugged, and they sat down. Out of 300 or so people, about 4 people spoke and we knew them all before we got there! Let us allow no one to leave this place without being welcomed, feeling loved and wanted!
The church is to be a place of love! 1 John 4:7-12. Yes, context is “one another,” not visitors. But, if people see our love for one another and for them, they’ll want to be a part of this group! Let us continue to be a loving people.
May this church become “A Full House!” Do you need to come and enter God’s house this morning?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.