Sunday, May 14, 2023

From the Banquet to the Battle: Luke 14:25-33

Jesus had just finished His parable of the great banquet (explored in my previous post) and ends with these words: “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (Luke 14:23-24)

Makes sense, doesn't it?  If those guests who are at the top of the guest list choose not to attend the king's gracious invitation to join him, he will call others to come and in and dine.  

Jesus keeps going after He finishes this parable and introduces another.  He is driving home the point that every banquet ends, the morning comes and it's a new day.  The world's cry is heard right outside the banqueting hall, and the guests who have basked in the glow of this generous King will be expected to go out and be generous with those around them.

In other words, the guest now becomes a disciple: a dedicated follower of the King.  So here is the next parable: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’"

OK, Jesus.  That is true.  There is nothing more pathetic than unfinished building project.  It stands as a mute testimony to folly: the person ran out of money and didn't plan the project well.  Was the tower too big for his budget?  Could he have scaled back its size to fit his budget or did his ego say that he could build anything?  That no cost was too great for his ambition?  Then, half way though, with the money  and the workers gone, the man has to face reality:  The building now is a monument to his mismanagement.  Earlier on, if he had sat down and meticulously planned out the cost of the building materials and labor versus his resources, he would have known the size of his project.  Then the tower would have been a testimony to his humility and his planning.  Makes sense. 

Jesus uses another example: “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace." 

OK, Jesus, now this goes from the personal (building a tower) to a much bigger enterprise:  waging war.  It is the prerogative of kings to wage war, but throwing away lives on a foolish campaign is reprehensible.  The king has to look beyond his own ambition and consider the lives of his soldiers.  He knows straight up that the opposing side is twice as big.  He has that intel already.  He has to consider how seasoned (or not) his soldiers are and if this is a God-ordained war.  In the Old Testament, many a time the Israelites were out-numbered and face superior armies, but if the Commander of the Lord's army (Joshua 5:13-15) was involved, number and size didn't matter, right?  But he realizes, for whatever reason, this is a conflict best settled by negotiation, not by arms.  So, his delegation is a testimony to his humility and his planning. Makes sense. 

Then Jesus delivers the central answer to these parables: "In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples."

Wait a minute, Jesus?  You have taken us from guests to builders of towers and kings who wage war. Huh?  A guest at a banquet is way more appealing, but being a builder?  Does that mean we have to use our time, our energy, and our resources to build something new?  It will be something everyone will see, and it will be a testimony to our humility and our planning, because we are about the King's business.  It will take work, and it won't be a solo project--we have to gather other guests, and work together for a common cause.  Some people may still ridicule it, but it will stand.

War, really Jesus?  Gathering troops and marching out?  OK, yes, we are surrounded by those disgusting Romans all the time.  Their form of warfare is rape, pillage and plunder.  Yet, You seem to be calling us out to face the enemy, not delighting in his destruction, but offering peace.  The enemy is greater than us numerically, but our King wants peace first.  The delegation He sends wants to talk, settle differences and show that the kingdom of God is not built on conquest and destruction, but on  humility and respect. 

That is discipleship, then Jesus?  It's building a kingdom where nothing was standing, and confronting our enemies with peace and reconciliation. Hmmm. I need to go and think about this--I have to give up my building projects (that which satisfies me) and reconsider wanting to lash out at my enemies.  I have to consider a new way of approaching life.  Wow.  Lots to think about.

Exactly. I heard a man many years ago say that one of the reasons so many fall away from Jesus is evangelists and preachers only share the benefits of conversion (eternal life with Jesus, avoidance of hell, peace and healing) without any of the costs (ridicule, having to turn away from sin and a willingness to lose your life in order to gain it).  That has always stuck with me.  

Following Jesus has never been easy, especially when the world starts to clamp down and marginalize the Kingdom of God.  In Jesus' day, the world told His followers they must either choose to worship the Emperor, and deny Christ, or face the arena.   

Later it would be either following a corrupted institutionalized church, or face the stake. 

Later it would be following an evil leader and government, or face imprisonment, torture and death. 

Later, it would be following an increasingly secularized society, or face ridicule, censure and lawsuits.

The banquet hall has two doors, one in which to enter and fellowship with the King and another to go out into the world, bearing His word, peace and kindness--a delegation of disciples wanting to offer the Prince of Peace to those who are seeking war. 

The cost of following Him must be considered before we leap into calling ourselves disciples of His.  But if and once we do, we need to follow whole-heartedly, for the times, they are a-changin'. 

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