Do you ever dream of what heaven will be like? Ever put yourself at the pearly gates, all dressed up in your social best, small gift in hand, reaching to press the doorbell, and then stepping back to wait for someone to answer?
In your daydream, are you by yourself, and hoping you’ll know someone inside? Do you inventory yourself and wonder if you’ve dressed appropriately? Do you check your breath and your pits, and undo the wedgy in your underwear before they answer? Do you worry if anyone there will like you, find you charming or interesting, want to sit beside you, and visit with you while you eat?
Does the thought of it make you excited? Nervous? Scared to death?
I’ve always fancied myself a “reluctant” hostess — the type that wants so much to serve people, cook for people, give and do, but crippled with fear, worrying over every little detail and social interaction. Will I have anything to talk about that’s interesting? Will I be able to shut off my own self-conscious paranoia enough to be a good listener? Will I be charming enough? Courteous enough? Nice enough? Will I smell okay? Will my house be nice and clean enough?
I actually think I’m a much better guest than host, but even that is hard for me. I mean, maybe if I could trust my deodorant a little more I would be braver, but I haven’t found one that doesn’t flat-out betray me when I need it the most. And I wish I wasn’t so tongue-tied all the time. I wish I could just let loose and have fun. I guess that’s why people drink!
And when the evening is all over, I wish I could just shut off my brain. But no… Instead I toss and turn in my bed reliving every single conversation in utter horror, sick to my stomach over what I said to this person, and cringing at how I reacted to that person’s compliment, and if that other person thought I was being snobby when I did such and such. Oh my gosh, I’m such a reject!!!! I sometimes wonder if my craving to be around people is even worth the misery?
I sooooo admire Jesus. He carried Himself with such confidence. He didn’t care what anyone thought. He had a job to do and He just did it!
In Matthew 14 we read about a supper being served in one of the rulers of the Pharisees homes on the Sabbath. As Jesus entered the room He saw that there were several lawyers (vs.3), of course the Pharisee who owned the home, and probably his extended family. The first thing Jesus did was see a man who had dropsy and heal him. Dropsy is a swelling of the body caused by excess fluid in the tissues. The Bible says that everyone in the room watched Jesus heal the man, but nobody said anything. (Awkward)
The tension was soon broken when food was apparently ready to be served, and everyone began scrambling for a seat. Did they bow their heads and pray thanks over the meal? Where, did Jesus sit, and who sat down beside Him? Was He there alone, or did some of His disciples get to come with? What delicious morsels were placed before these guests? The Bible, to my chagrin doesn’t tell us any of that. But out of the clamor of forks and knives clanging against the dishes, goblets being sipped out of and sat back down on the table, and much chewing and swallowing, a conversation erupted. Jesus spoke up with a parable (what I like to call a glimpse of heaven through blindfolded eyes) with these supposed, holy-type guests. As was His protocol, He often used something familiar to His listeners that would help them relate to what He was trying to explain. In this case, the guests had just scrambled for their seats around the table, and so that is where Jesus chose to begin his story. It began though as a sort of lesson on party etiquette.
#1. Don’t assume a place of honor when you attend a dinner party, because the host may ask you to move to a less honorable seat, and if you are the type that cares what other people think this will embarrass you in front of all the guests. Rather, always take a seat in the humblest place in the room, then if the host means for you to have honor he will ask you to move to a place of honor, and you will be honored in front of everyone.
As I read Jesus’ words the scripture,
“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
popped into my head and I began to wonder…
What type of guest am I? What kind of guest will I be in God’s house? Will I be clamoring for a place of honor as James and John were in Mark 10, asking if they could sit on Jesus’ right and left in His kingdom? Jesus replied to their request, “The kingdom of God is different from the kingdoms of the world. In heaven whoever wishes to be great shall be a servant, and whoever desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
To be honest, I shall be extremely grateful just to be invited to God’s banquet, and this might seem a little too humble for belief, but I would honestly rather serve the food than sit and mingle, if that’s an option. I won’t even mind having to wait until the honored guests have eaten before I get to have a nibble. Some of the good stuff might even be gone by then. I’ll probably be jealous of the fancy meal that was served to the most honored guests, but I shall be content even if all I get to eat are the scraps that fall from my Master’s table (Mark 7:28). As long as I get to be there! And that is the truth!
“But he who glories, let him glory in the Lord, for it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but whom the Lord commends.”
2 Corinthians 10:17-18
#2. Jesus then turned His chair around to the host of the party, admonishing that a host is not to invite only his friends, or brothers, or relatives, or rich neighbors — people who can return the act of kindness (which were probably the majority in attendance that day). But rather, to call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, “…for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”
Conviction: what type of host am I? As I said before, a fairly “reluctant” one. My parties are mostly small family suppers, or small get-togethers with another couple who are close friends. They are clicky gatherings of people I am comfortable with. I do, very much enjoy getting to know new people, but I often let trust issues, self-consciousness, laziness, my ADD, and lack of skill at making conversation get in the way.
On the opposite end of the spectrum would be the big, showy, hoity toity wingdings thrown by the rich or famous, the movers and shakers, the pillars of society. You know the kind, the balls and banquets and fundraising parties that are the envy of the uninvited.
When one of those who sat at the table with Jesus heard these things, he said to Him,
“Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.”
And that’s right where I believe Jesus was steering the conversation! This man, God bless him, got down to the meat of the matter – that God the Father has a feast awaiting for us all in glory?
Feasts with a Heavenly Fulfillment
By this man’s statement he testifies that the Jewish feasts (of which we have studied in my other posts), and Sabbath feasts, all point to heavenly fulfillments. Each one reflects something of God’s kingdom. All are a copy and shadow of things to come (Hebrews 8:5; 9:23,24; 10:1; Colossians 2: 16,17).
Everything in life and the scriptures is part of this great chiastic ring structure of IS and WAS and IS TO COME. The circle of heaven. The circle of earth. The path of rotation around the SON. On earth as it is in heaven! God made it all, He is at the center of it all, and He has a plan.
Jesus, warmed by what He heard, elbowed up to the young man and started into a story,
“A certain man-made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and showed his lord these things…”
Ever planned a get-together and several of your guests stood you up? I have. Ever finally mustered the courage to share your faith with a friend or relative, and it somehow landed wrong and ended the friendship? <sigh> I wish to encourage you (and myself), DO NOT GROW WEARY in doing good, for in due time we shall reap a harvest if we do not give up!!!
Do you struggle, like I do, to witness to people. Are we supposed to force the issue, lead like a salesman, and steer every conversation? Or are we to be patient to let the Spirit open that door for us? Should I have a speech prepared or just love people? We all have our own unique gifts, our own talent for doing things, and our own calling. Some of us (not me) are gregarious and loud and feed off of having an audience, and are fun to be around. Some of us are ambitious and creative at thinking up ideas, but quiet and shy and a bit of a wallflower in the execution. Some of us are not good at putting together a party, but have lots of friends and enjoy the visiting and eating part. Some of us have very little of any of those skills, but are happy to fund the thing. Is there one, rote, cookie-cutter, right way? I don’t think so. I think it really takes all of us and all of our styles (1 Cor.12:4). In this way we are all things to all people (1 Cor.9:22), so that if one person ministers and it falls on rocky soil, another may come along and water, or plant the seed another way, or find another road to walk down.
“…Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the crippled and the lame, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out unto the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.’”
On Earth as it is in Heaven
God’s got a dinner gathering planned to knock our socks off. His guest list is huge! Growing and shrinking and growing all the time. The Bible, the whole of the word of God is about that table at the end . It all points there.
“And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” Revelation 19:6-9
From Genesis God has been telling us this story. His first act of hospitality was extended to Adam and his family. God made him a beautiful garden to sleep in and take care of, and offered him his first meal (Genesis 2:15, 16). Some of his kids however rejected God; they decided they didn’t want to be their brother’s keeper and went their own way.
Along came Noah. In Genesis 9 and God made a covenant with him that included a cleansed planet to live on and a feast of meat and herbs (vs. 3). And Noah planted a vineyard there. Some of the descendents of Noah decided they didn’t care about God anymore either.
So God sent out another invitation to Abraham, and once Abraham and his family were safely moved in beside their new neighbors in the land that God showed him, the priest of God Most High brought over a royal feast of bread and wine and welcomed him to the neighborhood. And Abraham gave gifts in return (Genesis 14:18-20). He also practiced hospitality himself (Genesis 18:1-8) and it became a common thing to do (Genesis 24:31-33).
Then up rolled Moses to bring God’s children back from Egypt to the Promised Land, and there was a covenant made and a Passover Meal (Exodus 12:14) shared. On their journey the Lord provided bread from heaven and water from a rock. He set some ground rules and gave them a building where they could meet with Him. And He established certain feasts to be observed during the year that give little glimpses of heaven.
God’s hospitality to His children was offered by judges and kings and prophets, but time and time again the messengers were rejected. So God plumped up His guest list even more and sent his very own Son Jesus to personally gather in literally the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind of Israel. And still there is room in heaven.
So the Lord has opened the windows of heaven for a time, so that all people everywhere may attend His grand banquet. He revealed his guest list to Peter (Acts 10) and then sent Paul as His invitation bearer to these people of other nations – you and I, to compel us to come. It is His hope that our getting to come will cause His first children (Israel) who have turned Him down to wake up and want to attend, and fill God’s house.
Our heavenly Father has set a table in heaven with places for all of us around it. Our whole lives, our whole existences are about coming to God’s table…having that glass of wine with Him and the broken crust of bread…communing with Him.
“…Thou preparest a table before me…” Psalm 23:5
((( Click here for the Free Printable coloring page: Thou Preparest a Table2 )))
“Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God,”
I’m not a gifted speaker or a great conversationalist. My passion is writing. I don’t think I’m all that good at it, but am motivated to do it all the time. So perhaps this is the avenue the Lord intends for me to use to reach the lost for Him. If so, then in my best writing skill, I want to invite you, dear friend, if you do not know Jesus, please know that you are cordially invited to the banquet my Lord has waiting for us His heaven. And not only am I happy to walk in with you to the party, but am delighted to sit next to you so you aren’t all alone.
Here are the instructions for how to get there. (CLICK HERE) And if you beat me there and see a bench by the those pearly gates, and are too scared to walk in alone, you just sit on that bench until you see me pull up and we’ll walk in together. Actually, something tells me that IF WE GET THERE, neither of us will have any fear. The peace of God will reign in our hearts. Our precious Lord will be there to greet us and walk us in. And no one will be a stranger.
“Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.”
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.