Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Who Will Enter the Kingdom?

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.” Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 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.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 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.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 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. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (Luke 14:15-24 NIV)

There are three stages of invitation to the great supper. The first is the formal invitation to people who are used to great suppers. They are wealthy; they are not hungry. (“I have bought a piece of ground,” “I have bought five yoke of oxen.”) The second is to the people in extreme poverty, or the helpless. There is no danger that they will refuse a great supper. They are hungry. The third is to everyone else. They were not invited; they were compelled to come to the supper. This parable is about the kingdom. How do we know? It is a response to a statement made to Jesus when Jesus was at a formal dinner where He also told a story about lunches, dinners, and banquets.

“Blessed is [he] who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” The first group of people invited thought they had no need and had greater priorities. The second had much need, knew it and had no other priorities. The third may or may not have known they had a need and may have thought they had greater priorities. But it made no difference. The greater priority was that the house be filled. They were forced to come to the dinner. I believe this process is going on in every generation in every nation.

In Jesus’ time on earth, the first group was the Jewish people.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive Him. (John 1:11 NIV)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (Romans 1:16 NIV)

Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46 NIV)

We do not know how those three groups are determined today. It may be that in our time the Jews still should be the first to be invited. They have the right of first reception or first rejection. The other possibility are those who have grown up in Christian families or in Christian churches, in name if not in fact. They may think that they have no need or have greater priorities. The second group should be the Gentiles who are destitute and know it. This group normally will be glad to hear the good news and will respond to the gospel. These are the prisoners, the orphans, the widows, the alcoholics, the aliens in the land and people outside the normal hearing of the gospel, like aborigines in remote parts of the world.

I do not know what to think of the third group. It may be all or some of those not previously invited. It encompasses the majority of the people in the world. How God will coerce them to come in I do not know. That he will is certain.

We, though, are the proclaimers, the inviters.

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:30, 31 NIV)

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20, 21 NIV)

People who refuse the invitation will not make it to the feast in the kingdom.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

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