So this is Christmas – Unending Glory – Luke 14
Here we are-the weekend following Christmas! There’s such a build up to it-and yet all of a sudden it’s here-Christmas Day’s arrived-I trust you had a blessed day with your family. And I hope you got some great gifts. Most likely you’ve opened up all your gifts by now. Maybe there’s that strangler gift that rolls in from an aunt who lives far away-or you’re still planning to get together with a friend for lunch and exchange gifts. But by Dec 29 it’s safe to say that the majority of gifts have been opened. So what was your best gift this year? What was the most exciting or surprising gift you received? Turn to the person next to you and answer that question.
Hopefully everybody got something they enjoyed. I was reading a little Christmas devotion this week that said it quite accurately-Adults always tell children that it’s about the giving, not the receiving, but kids don’t tend to fall for that. Kids get it-the receiving is pretty great! So hopefully you received something great. And of course at its heart Christmas is about receiving the greatest gift imaginable-and that’s the gift of Jesus and a relationship with Him leading to eternal life. And that’s what we’ll talk about this morning.
But let us set the stage by recognizing that there’s such a big build-up to Christmas that probably started weeks ago. All the decorations you’ve gotten up at home, the lights on the tree, maybe lights on the outside of your house. All the baking you’ve done, the Christmas cookies you’ve made, the shopping, the wrapping of presents. Getting Christmas cards mailed out, Christmas dinner prepared and in the oven, all the guests have arrived on time. Everything is finally set and it’s perfect. Christmas is amazing and wonderful-but then in a moment, just like that, it’s over. It’s gone. It’s hard to believe it flies by so quickly! Now I was typing this up on Monday which was Dec 23rd. Two days before Christmas-and I was filled with all that anticipation and excitement of what was to come. All joy and excitement Christmas morning brings. And yet-I was trying to get my head around the fact that by the time today arrived when I would actually be sharing these words-the anticipation of Christmas would be over-and it would basically be a memory. Time to think about Christmas for next year. But I’m sure I’m not alone when I say this-I wish Christmas could last. That in a sense all these preparations and decorations and getting ready wasn’t in vain. That we wouldn’t be thinking about when in January all the Christmas lights would have to be taken down and the dead Christmas tree be tossed out by the curb to meet its destiny with the wood chipper. But instead-that when Dec 25th arrived and Christmas started-it just continued and stayed Christmas. No one went back to work, no one went back to school, Christmas break didn’t finish, the celebrations kept going, the lights stayed up on the tree, decorations didn’t come down and the festivities didn’t stop. How amazing would that be! That you didn’t prepare for Christmas just so it could last a few days and be done, but you prepared for a Christmas that didn’t end, one that kept on going? I think it would be remarkable. I think deep down that’s what we’re all longing for-that Christmas Day isn’t just one day of joy and excitement-but something unending! Wouldn’t that be the greatest Christmas announcement ever? This just in-Christmas Day is no longer just December 25th-but has been extended to include every day of the year! So get back to celebrating! Wouldn’t there be shouts of joy at that news?
As we wrap up our Christmas series this concept of something unending is what we want to explore. Each week we’ve been using the title from John Lennon’s song-So this is Christmas. And the lyrics of the song say-So this is Christmas, and what have you done, another year over, and a new one just begun. And of course we know that is the reality. Christmas comes and goes, another year over, a new one just begun. But what if Christmas pointed us to something that wasn’t over, to something that didn’t end? That’s what we want to examine-and that’s what God’s Word declares to us-So this is Christmas…Unending Glory.
Open your Bibles to Luke 2. You may not have noticed it before-but in the biblical account of the Christmas story-glory is an ongoing refrain. What did that giant group of angels announce to the shepherds-Luke 2:13-14. Let God be glorified because today His Son has been born to us. Or what did Simeon say when he got to hold baby Jesus in his arms 8 days after Jesus was born-Luke 2:28-32. He’s saying there’s glory for God’s people, glory that’s in store, glory that awaits, because Jesus has been born. That even 8 days into his life, this godly man Simeon knew that Jesus’ arrival meant glory. Or if we go back to the passage from last week-what did it say about Jesus’ birth-John 1:14. Now last week we spent time talking about His grace-how Jesus is grace itself, the very grace we need to be saved-but where does that grace lead us? Where does being saved by His grace through faith take us? To understand that we have to jump all the way forward to the end of Jesus’ life-to the night before Jesus gave up His life for us and died. Listen to how He prayed to God in heaven-John 17:1-4. And that refers directly to the cross. Jesus is saying saying to the Father that He has been perfectly obedient to the Father’s will by going to the cross, by suffering and letting His blood be spilled as He was nailed there in order to die for us. The great moment of Jesus’ earthly glory was accomplishing the Father’s plan of salvation by giving up His life to save us. And yet-look where that glory continues-John 17:5. That brings us right back to John 1 in which we are reminded that Jesus was The Word who was with God and was God. He existed with God in the beginning and made all things. So there was perfect, incredible, amazing glory that existed for all of eternity past as the Father and Son dwelt together before the world began. We can only imagine what that was like. So after Jesus died on the cross and rose again He was returning back to that state of glory in the Father’s presence. There isn’t a better a place to be in all the universe than that! And yet that’s precisely why Jesus has come to save us-look at the what He says near the very end of His prayer to the Father-v. 22-24. Jesus is saying that He wants all those who’ve believed in Him, all of His followers to be with Him in that place where His glory existed before the world was created. Don’t miss this remarkable statement Jesus is making. This is why He was willing to suffer and die-this is exactly why He’s come, it’s what Christmas celebrates-that we will one day be with Him in that place of unending glory. And it won’t be a single day like Christmas-one 24 hour finite length of time that comes and goes so quickly-but an infinite reality for you and me and all who’ve trusted in Him.
And yet Christmas Day is when we get a taste of it, a little sample, an appetizer of what’s in store for us. I like what author Dan Schaeffer says-Real Spirit, 179-180. Maybe you find it to be the same way at your house. I can still remember as a little kid loving Christmas time, certainly enjoying Christmas break and opening up all my new gifts, playing with my new toys-and I’ll never forget that Christmas when I got the boxed set of all 7 Narnia books and I was far too young to really grasp them-but loved trying to read them all. It was one of my favorite Christmas breaks ever. But those few days of Christmas were like a beacon. They were whetting my appetite for more, there was something about this experience at Christmas that pointed me to that-all the time with family, the laughter with the extended Erwin family, all the good delicious food. And as a little kid-I couldn’t say what it was-what was really tugging at my heart and why the longing was there-but as I’ve grown in my walk with Christ I now realize exactly what it was. Back to John 17:24. So Pt1:Christmas now: glimpse of being with Christ’s unending glory.
It is no accident that this day we celebrate is all about food and festivities-because that’s exactly how Jesus describes the glory of His presence. Flip ahead to Luke 14 because Jesus tells us a very important parable that makes this point. Now when Jesus tells this parable He isn’t having a blessed meal with His closet family and friends. In fact, Jesus tells this parable when He’s been invited to a dinner party with a bunch of people that hate Him and want to trap Him. In this case it was some lawyers and Pharisees. But nothing like going to have dinner with a room full of enemies! Anybody done that lately? Agreed to go to a dinner party where everyone’s out to get you? Don’t raise your hand if you have! But that’s Jesus situation-and look at how the scene sets up-Luke 14:15. And that’s a very true, very accurate statement. Blessed is everybody who enters the kingdom of God-meaning eternal life when we die. And yet notice how eternal life is described as a place of eating bread. Not just grabbing a slice of toast-but a place of breaking bread together-meaning eternity is the place where we’ll have a grand meal together.
Way too often we visualize eternity in heaven as wearing robes and floating on clouds and playing harps and talking to Moses-and it all sounds rather dull and boring. But have you ever thought of heaven as the perfect holiday? As a celebration and feast? That’s how Jesus is going to tell us to visualize it. We think life is all about work-where holidays and celebrations are just something we do on day’s off or a few days of the year. But in heaven-joy and celebration is the work, the whole point of heaven is the love and laughter of the family of God. It’s not about being burdened by time and schedules but joyfully celebrating God’s blessings.
So instantly our minds should go right to the festivities of Christmas. Because sure-we all love the gifts and opening up presents, we all love singing Christmas carols-but Christmas isn’t Christmas without Christmas dinner. Most people aren’t serving PB&J or grilled cheese sandwiches on Christmas. Christmas is the time for an elaborate feast of delicious food. Did you have a good Christmas dinner? Monica and I went to Uncle Guiseppe’s on Monday before Christmas to do some shopping for our Christmas dinner. Everything looked amazing. I wanted to buy the store! Or the other week the Harry and David catalog came in the mail. They’re the company famous for their box of Christmas pears. So good!! But as I was flipping through the catalog my mouth was watering at the pre-made Christmas dinners you could order-and the best was the Gourmet Prime Rib Feast. Along with the meat it had black truffle and almond green beans, creamy Brussel sprouts with bacon, garlic and gruyere cheese potatoes, and blueberry crisp. But that’s exactly the kind of feast you can picture as Jesus tells this parable. Listen to what He says-Luke 14:16-17. Not just a simple meal like this-but this times a hundred. A giant piece of meat had been cooking, racks of ribs had been on the smoker grilling all day, all sorts of side dishes set out on the tables. Baked breads and fresh fruits. Cakes and deserts piled high. If it’s not Christmas dinner, you can picture a giant wedding feast. Think back to the last one you attended where all this good food was set out. Just like a wedding feast or Christmas dinner, this meal would have been an event prepared for long in advance. And if there’s one thing you don’t want to do at a great banquet is miss it! Just like you don’t want to miss Christmas! Anybody miss Christmas this year? Anybody’s schedule get too busy to show up for Christmas dinner-or it sort of slipped your mind? Of course not! That’s why this parable takes such an unexpected twist. Look at v. 18-21a. And rightly so! Everybody’s a no-show!
What if all your guests for Christmas called about 11:00AM right as you had everything on the stove and cooking in the oven-Sorry, can’t make it for Christmas, we’re busy raking leaves. Want to get it tidied up for January. We can’t make it either-we bought a new puppy we want to play with, or my wife and I decided to go out to eat at Applebee’s instead-won’t make it this year. You’d be furious! I’ve got all this food here for Christmas, I’ve been working away in the kitchen for hours-you’ll be eating here whether you want to or not! Because if there’s one thing that’s truly angering, it’s insincere excuses! Which is exactly what these are. Nobody buys land or a field without first examining it-plus the field will be there to inspect tomorrow. Enjoy the banquet. Likewise, no one would ever buy livestock without checking them over. What if you got stuck with bad cows-it’s just a total lie, pathetic excuse. And the last guy doesn’t even give a reason. I’m married clearly I can’t come-as if his excuse is assumed. You know how it is, wife doesn’t let me out of the house. No parties for me anymore. But in reality, the newlyweds would have been welcome, especially in such a strong family culture back then. So these are ridiculous excuses-especially when the host has gone to such effort and expense to prepare everything. Remember how Jesus introduced this as a man giving a great banquet. This wasn’t just throwing some burgers on the grill or ordering up pizzas, this was a banquet for the ages, one to be remembered, the very banquet you wouldn’t want to miss. Just like you don’t miss Christmas dinner. So Pt2:Excuses now: dangerous road keeping us from Christ’s unending glory.
Even if you made some silly excuses and missed Christmas there’s always Christmas next year. Theoretically you’ll get a second chance to show and be a part of the festivities. Likewise in the context of this great banquet the excuses are bad-but Jesus is talking about something far more important than one single banquet or Christmas dinner. When it comes to the grand, infinite banquet of heaven, these excuses are truly inexcusable. Think about it. What sort of valid excuse can a person give for their eternal destiny? “I have to look after my fields.” “My job’s calling me.” “I need to get some work done on the house.” “Lord, I’m having too much fun in life right now to think about you or worry about my spiritual life.” “I just got married, we just started having kids-Lord, you know there’s no time to focus on you right now.” “Life is too busy-there’s too many other things to worry about.” It’s those momentary things that we put in place of heaven. We so easily trade away the eternal for the temporary. we live for the now, for what feels good in life, who cares about the future, who can bother with eternity-it’s too out there. So we make excuses, something mankind’s been good at for a long time. We reject God, we reject the gospel, we reject spiritual truth-why? It doesn’t make any sense, it’s foolish, but we make excuses to fool ourselves and protect us from facing the absurdity of our own decisions. We tell God we’re too busy, not interested right now, come back later. We just can’t be bothered, life is too much fun, why should we stop all this and live for God? That’s how we think which is why this parable is so challenging. Jesus wants us to see an amazing banquet, a grand celebration side-by-side with our insincere excuses and ask-why would I do that? These invited guests are doing the very same thing the world does today. Living for the moment and losing eternity-and it’s so tragic. Again-we would consider anyone foolish who made excuses for missing Christmas. Like when you returned back to work or school and your co-workers or classmates asked-How was your Christmas? You respond-Missed it this year-got busy around the house. I just sort of forgot and by Christmas night it was too late. They would wonder what in the world did you do that for? But what about missing what matters most?
Are you doing that? Are you making excuses to God? Do you give God lots of reasons why you’re not trusting Him, or walking with Him or living like He’s called you to live? Do you hide behind your excuses? That’s really what excuses do. They create a shield, a smokescreen, where you can safely hide yourself from God and not really face reality. Lord, you know how it is-my plate is so full right now. I don’t even have a chance to think about spiritual things. My family really needs me, it’s all I can do to spend time with them, much less seek You. Or Lord, I’m up to my ears at work. The deadlines are staring me in the face. When things slow down at work, when the sports season wraps up, when the kids graduate, when we get the house paid off, when I get that promotion and the budget isn’t so tight, then I’ll have a chance to start following you, then I’ll read my Bible, then I’ll have time to serve you, then I’ll be the godly man or woman you want Lord. But then has a funny way of never happening because excuses become comfortable, excuses become easy, excuses multiply like fruit flies. If you make one excuse to God, it’s easy to make another and another and another-until you’ve drifted so far that the truth of the gospel is like a hazy spot on the horizon. And that’s when it’s too late. Here’s the point that Jesus is earnestly telling us. The excuses made by these guests to not respond will prevent them from ever having a future place at the banquet table.
Listen to how the parable ends-v.24. Because of their excuses they missed the opportunity, these people lost their place at the table. The great feast happened without them. They missed the party. But again, this parable isn’t about just missing a great wedding or holiday celebration-Too bad I missed it, sounded so fun, wish I could have been there, I’ll catch it next year. But that’s not an option. This is about missing eternity. These people in their excuses didn’t lose out on merely a great meal, they lost out on being in the place of Christ’s unending glory. Why? Because their fields-meaning their house or property, their oxen-meaning their work, even their spouse was more important than the destination of their soul. It reminds me of what Jesus later said-What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his soul? These people made excuses that cost their very soul. How dangerous is that road?
You and I-all of us-need to examine the excuses we’re making to God. What’s your rationale for not trusting in Jesus? What things are keeping you too busy or too distracted from thinking about God and your soul? Maybe you’re a Christian, maybe you’ve trusted the Lord and but you’re still full of excuses for not following Him. You’re still trading the here and now for the ways that God wants to shape you for eternity. Or what excuses are keeping you from reading your Bible? What excuses are keeping from growing in the Lord or from coming to a small group where you get to connect with other believers around God’s Word? Let me say this. A lot of us make excuses because we’re afraid that God wants to take away all our fun. I think a lot of us fear that if we give God access to our hearts He’s going to turn us into some kind of strange Christian weirdo who sticks out like a sore thumb, never has any fun and sells everything to the poor. So afraid of what God might do, we hold back and don’t do anything but make excuses. Look at Luke 12:28-32. Does that sound like a God who wants to take away your fun? That’s eternity-the kingdom, the great banquet of Christ’s unending glory. God says I’ll give you what truly matters. It’s my good pleasure to give you what you truly need-which is a place in my kingdom, a seat at my grand banquet. This is a passage that reminds you of how much God cares for you. How God isn’t just after your temporary happiness-but your eternal joy-and when you see that there’s only one response. Pt3:Faith now: guarantee of sharing in Christ’s unending glory
Look at vv. 21b-23. Let’s be honest, there is nothing better than a full house at Christmas. Where family and friends are gathered-almost packed in-laughing together, catching up, sharing stories, munching on appetizers, the house is warm, the fire’s going, there’s a glow to it all. God wants His house filled! And who fills it? Unworthy people who’ve received His invitation and come! Remember how we said Jesus was telling this parable at a dinner party with Pharisees and lawyer who hated Him and were trying to trap Him. They were the sort of people who thought they deserved eternity by the mere fact of who they were. They didn’t think they needed a Savior. As upstanding, morally righteous people with the right background-they believed God owed them a grand celebration and ought to richly reward them because of all their good deeds and efforts. We’re the people who should be at the feast, not the poor and the crippled, not the sinners. We deserve the place of honor because of our moral superiority. And yet Jesus says they’re wrong, it’s completely the opposite. As we’ve said over and over-it’s not good people who go to heaven when they die, it’s forgiven people who go to heaven. By faith, we receive the Lord’s invitation to eternal life, to a place at His grand banquet table-not because we’ve done it all right-but because in His grace He’s saved us and forgiven us because Jesus has done it all right. Going to heaven is not a right but a gift-and it’s not received by being very, very good and clinging to your own moral efforts but instead by humbly recognizing your sinfulness and clinging to God’s grace. The do-gooders refused the invitation of grace, they made excuses, they figured they’d be fine just as they are-Sorry, can’t come to the celebration-too busy doing my own thing. But the poor, crippled sinners were stunned by the invitation. You would have me come to your celebration! Do you know the mistakes I’ve made? You do? And you still would have me? Can you imagine how glad and amazed they would have been. You can imagine one down-and-outer talking to the other as they savored the rich food-I’ve never been invited to such a fancy meal like this! I can’t believe we’re dining in the palace of the King-just yesterday, I was begging for food on the street and today He’s overwhelmed me with His kindness and blessing. The joy and gratitude and thankfulness of this feast would have been remarkable! And that’s because it wasn’t something earned-our place at the Lord’s banquet is never earned-it’s only because of His grace that we receive by faith. I love how the great English preacher says it-Spurgeon.
What have you done with the King’s invitation to the feast? Are you in or are you out? Your rsvp isn’t just a verbal response, it’s not lip service, it’s a heart change expressed by faith in Jesus. Yes, Lord, I’m yours-change me by your grace so that I can one day dwell in the place of your unending glory because nothing else compares! Are you making excuses or being honest? Maybe you’ve been fooling yourself and trying to fool God for a long time. Don’t! Give up the façade and be honest. He’s after humble, broken, authentic hearts-for those are the people who’ll be sitting at the chairs of the most glorious, amazing, blessed banquet of eternity that you could ever imagine-the place of Christ’s unending glory! Will that include you? Real Spirit, 184-86. Encourage you to keep the light on and decorations up a little longer this year!