Seasons – the word comes to me as I have finished listening to a bright worship song, to the tune of Irish dancing music – “Lift high the name of Jesus” – and my mind has moved to the thought that so little of my life at the moment is characterized by this bright and joyful sense of dancing and singing.
“Seasons – your life is made up of seasons” is what I sense the Lord is saying to me, “and you have now come to the winter season of your life. A time of less light, a time of cold, a time of loss and loneliness – a time of retreat – of sickness and incapacity – But know this – I have not changed. I am the same yesterday, today and to-morrow – My faithfulness is new every morning – I am the same God you worshiped, danced and had great joy with for many years. Now I have given you maturity so that you can understand My word better as you go through this season – but I remain the same and want you to have the same joy and freedom you had when you were younger – your joy is seated in Me, it is in Me that you can dance and sing – and I have set you free from so much that was holding you back when you were younger – so come now, I lift you up – come and fly with Me, mount up like an eagle and soar in your heart with Me”.
So as we come to Luke we see that most of Ch 13 is set at various banquets or feasts. Why don’t you read from vs 7 to the end, but focusing mainly on 15-35. Let’s stand back and take a broad look at this passage, and leave the detail up to each of you. Firstly a couple of questions to meditate on: On a purely worldly level what do feasts and banquets represent? What happens at these events and why do we have them? Then what makes biblical feasts and table fellowship different to this? Thirdly, as we look at these 4 parable stories, what do you think is the key vs which sets the tone for the message Luke wants us to get?
So here is how I see these: a worldly feast or banquet is so much more than just sitting down to eat. It is a time to celebrate, to remember or look forward to something special. It is usually stretched out to give everyone a chance to have fellowship with each other. Now a biblical feast encompasses those ideas but with a spiritual dimension, many Old Testament feasts and festivals were set up to remember God’s interaction with His people. It was also a time to look forward to special events and special fellowship with the Lord. I found Isaiah 25:6 most illuminating as are many other similar ones. That looks forward to the great wedding feast which will end history, of course. By the way, the communion meal we have is similar in that it reminds us of the death and resurrection of Jesus and His final meal with the disciples, as well as celebrating the fellowship of being part of His kingdom now and also looking forwards to the final feast in the fulfilled kingdom.
So against that background we should perhaps see the teaching in this chapter at various banquets, as a picture of the fellowship we have with Jesus as His disciples, which has been given to us as a result of the entry into the kingdom stories of the previous chapter and highlighted by the statement in v 15b – “blessed be the man who will eat at the feast in he kingdom of God” . So now what is the key verse? It seems to me to be vs 27: “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple”.
The message of the first parable (16-24)? It is not necessarily the obvious people who will be part of His kingdom. The people who find excuses probably points initially to the Pharisees, but those excuses are universal, aren’t they? So what are your and my excuses for today which prevent our total commitment? And what am I doing to invite the outsiders, the ‘ugly’ people to the banquet, instead of the obvious one’s?
The message of the second story? (vv 25 -30). There is no room for people who are half committed to His discipleship. What do you understand by “carrying your cross daily”? The cross represents nothing less than death, so we are to die to our own agendas our own desires and plans and listen to where Jesus is leading us so that we can truly follow Him. This is a question of priorities. What is your priority to day? What is mine? I must continually examine myself.
And so the third story, (vv 28-33)? While becoming a disciple is free, it is going to cost you your whole life from now on. The message of these two stories is clear and unambiguous, there can be no half-measures if you want to be a disciple of Jesus. While the benefits of true fellowship with Him which we receive in return, (reflected by the table fellowship in the background) are priceless!
Finally the salt: what do you take these last two vv mean? I think many commentators get it wrong. To me salt gives flavour, taste to a dish. It can only do that if it retains its distinct qualities. We as Jesus’ disciples are to be different to the rest of society. We are to bring the true flavour of close fellowship with God into society. We can only do this if we remain different and can only do that if we are truly committed to Jesus and follow Him daily. This is not a legalistic expounding of rules but carrying out the true flavour of the fruits of the Spirit, collected together as the great fruit of love.
Plenty, plenty to think about if you bring all these things to rest in your heart. “He who has ears let him hear”. Heard that before?