One day, I received a message that the Queen of England had invited me to lunch. At first, I thought it was a practical joke. But it wasn’t. I turned up at Buckingham Palace on my bicycle, which an amused policeman looked after for me. I sat next to the Queen as we ate some amazing food. Then she turned and began to talk to me as the ‘Parfait de Rhubarbe et Chocolat Blanc’ arrived.
It looked delicious. But I did not want to talk with my mouth full – nor did I want to seem rude by cutting into it while the Queen was speaking to me. Eventually she asked me whether I did not like the food. ‘No, no, no,’ I said, ‘I love it’ (as I quickly began to eat). I did not say it to her, but the real reason I had not eaten was that I was overwhelmed by the privilege of being invited to lunch with the Queen of England.
Jesus likens the kingdom of God to a great party with the King, one to which we are all invited. It is an even greater privilege than lunch with the Queen of England, and it is extraordinary that anyone would refuse this invitation.
Cry out to God as KingPsalm 44:13-26
Have there been times when you have found yourself ‘a reproach’ to your neighbours because of your faith (v.13a)? Have you faced ‘scorn and derision’ from those around you (v.13b)? I certainly have. Sometimes you may face difficulties in your life, not because you are doing something wrong but because you are doing something right.
This psalm is addressed to God as King (v.4). That God is the King (and real leader) of Israel is a common idea in the psalms. Suffering is not necessarily a result of disobedience to the King. Rather it may be a result of following him.
Opposition is not necessarily a sign of failure on the part of God’s people: ‘All this came down on us, and we’ve done nothing to deserve it. We never betrayed your Covenant: our hearts were never false, our feet never left your path’ (vv.17–18, MSG).
Paul quotes this psalm (v.22) in Romans when he asks if anything can separate us from Christ’s love: ‘“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us’ (Romans 8:35–37).
As I have seen so often in my own life, the King is faithful. He answers our cry for help and his love never fails (Psalm 44:26).
O Lord, my King and my God, ‘Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love’ (v.26).
Accept the invitation of the KingLuke 14:15-35
The kingdom of God is a party. It is a feast. ‘Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God’ (v.15). Jesus is the host of this party. The Son of God invites you to experience the lavish hospitality and love of God. You are not on your own with the host. It is the presence of other guests that turns it into a celebratory party.
The food that Jesus supplies satisfies the hunger in your heart. It fills the spiritual vacuum. It satisfies your hunger for meaning and purpose in life, for forgiveness and for life beyond death. The drink at the banquet satisfies the spiritual thirst in every human heart.
The sad thing is that many people do not see it as a banquet but as a bore. They make excuses as to why they should not come. ‘All alike began to make excuses’ (v.18). One person’s excuse is property: ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me’ (v.18). The second excuse is possessions: ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me’ (v.19). The third is to do with other people: ‘I have just got married, so I can’t come’ (v.20).
When analysed, these are pathetic excuses. Each is utterly irrational and perfectly absurd. There is no urgency about going to see a field that has already been bought or trying out five yoke of oxen. There is no shortage of space at this party and the recently married man could have been accompanied by his wife.
Yet, Jesus’ words ring true today: when people are invited to the great party of the kingdom of God, ‘all alike [begin] to make excuses’ (v.18).
Jesus also talks to the crowds about the cost of following him. He urges them to ‘sit down and estimate the cost’ (v.28) and later to ‘sit down and consider’ the cost (v.31). He says, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even life itself – such a person cannot be my disciple’ (v.26). The word for ‘hate’ is a Semitic idiom that means ‘love less’. It is a relative term meaning not to honour or privilege something above something else. In other words, Jesus must be the number one priority in your life above even family and your own life.
He goes on, ‘And those who do not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciples’ (v.27). The image of the cross clearly suggests that there will be suffering. Finally he says, ‘Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples’ (v.33). You have to open your hands and put everything you have at his disposal.
It is worth remembering the cost of following Jesus is nothing compared to:
- What you receive
God has prepared a party for you, a feast, which nothing else on this earth can match.
- The cost of not following Jesus
Jesus said those who made excuses will not get ‘a taste of my banquet’ (v.24). There could be no higher cost than missing out on all the blessings that God has prepared for you.
- What it cost him to make it possible
Jesus calls you to carry your cross (v.27). But the small cross you carry is nothing in comparison to the cross Jesus carried for you.
Don’t miss out on all that Jesus has made possible for you. Accept his invitation to the party of the kingdom of God. And invite others to it as well as you respond to Jesus’ command to ‘go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame’ (v.21).
Lord, thank you for the privilege of being invited to your party in the kingdom of God. Today, I open my hands and put everything I have at your disposal.
Worship Jesus as your God and KingDeuteronomy 16:21-18:22
Jesus is the only true king. Worship him and him alone. There is a warning in this passage against worshipping ‘other gods’ (16:21–17:7).
There is also a severe warning here for everyone to avoid fortune-tellers, psychics, horoscopes, tarot cards, palm reading, Ouija boards and other such activities (18:10–11).
There is no need to worship the stars when you can worship the one who made them. Don’t waste your time, energy or money on those who purport to tell you about your future. Let God be your guide as far as the future is concerned.
There would come a point in Israel’s history when they would say, ‘Let us set a king over us’ (17:14). Unlike God, of course, the king would not be perfect. He would be subject to the temptations to which so many of the kings of Israel and Judah fell and into which many leaders today still fall. These temptations include immorality (v.17a), greed (vv.16,17b) and pride (v.20).
The passage sets out the ideal king (vv.18–20). This high ideal of the monarchy came closest to fulfilment in David. But it was never fully realised. In later years, it provided a basis for the hope of a coming King who would ‘reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom’ (Isaiah 9:7).
Jesus is not only the ideal King, he is also the ideal prophet. Moses prophesied that there would be a prophet like him who would speak the words of God (Deuteronomy 18:15). Both the apostle Peter and Stephen, the first Christian martyr, quote this passage and see Jesus as the fulfilment of it (Acts 3:21–22; 7:37).
What an amazing privilege it is to live in a time when the kingdom of God has been inaugurated by Jesus. The great prophet has arisen. All the Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled. Jesus is King.
Lord Jesus, you are my God and my King. I love you and I thank you that you love me and invite me to your eternal party.
‘Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.’ Oh help! I am sure I am holding on to lots of things.
Verse of the Day
‘Rise up and help us… because of your unfailing love’ (Psalm 44:26).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group