Jesus’ Upside-Down Kingdom

In preparation for our fall preaching series at Calvary, I’ve recently been on a deep dive into the gospel of Luke. Luke’s gospel is filled with Jesus’ teachings that come to us in the form of parables. While we sometimes refer to parables as “earthly stories with a heavenly meaning,” Jesus was doing something deeper than offering an illustration or teaching a moral lesson. Through the parables, Jesus was announcing the arrival of the counter-cultural, upside down kingdom of God and correcting false assumptions about what it looks like and who’s invited.

One such example happened in Luke 14 at a Sabbath party at the home of a Pharisee. Jesus got the invite, along with many other popular, prestigious people. As one of the dinner guests surveyed the room, he said, “Blessed is the one who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:15) In other words, he thinks this party is a pretty good picture of what the kingdom of God will look like.

But Jesus also surveyed the room, and he had a different opinion. He noticed how everyone stepped over the disabled man lying outside the door. He noticed how everyone silently maneuvered to get a seat of honor at the table. He noticed how the host only invited guests who could do something for him in return. In essence, Jesus thinks this party stinks.

But rather than flat out saying, “Your party stinks,” he does something more Jesusy. He launches into a story about a man who planned a big party and sent out invitations to his honored guests. But rather than responding with excitement, the guests of honor made excuses for why they couldn’t come: “I just purchased some land I need to go look at...I just bought some oxen and need to test them out...I just got married...” One by one, they turn down the host’s gracious invitation.

When his servant came back to report all these excuses, the host was angry. He told the servant to invite the poor, maimed, blind, and lame to the party. You can almost feel the Pharisees thinking, “Not in my house.” This fictional feast was going to look nothing like the one Jesus was at right now. 

Then, when the host realized there was more room at the party, he told the servant to invite anyone and everyone he could find. And that’s how Jesus’ parable ends.

What in the world is the point of telling that story? Jesus is showing us that the kingdom of God is like a party. It’s a feast! But the Pharisees and religious leaders had excuses for why they were rejecting his invitation into the kingdom. They weren’t entering, and they were keeping other people from entering as well (Luke 11:52). So Jesus in his grace invites anyone and everyone to eat at the table with him. He came not to call the (self) righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). 

The kingdom of God is a party, but it’s not like the parties these people were used to. His kingdom, the kingdom community that Jesus began to form during his earthly life and continues to form today, isn’t just made up of high-status, powerful, wealthy, religious people. It’s made up of people from every rung of the social ladder who respond to the gracious invitation of King Jesus. 

Have you responded to his invitation? It’s an invitation to relationship with Jesus. It’s an invitation to his table, where you stop looking to other things to bring you the satisfaction that only the Bread of Life can give.

If your answer to that question is yes, does your life reflect the reality of the kingdom? Do you have people around your dining room table regularly who likely wouldn’t be there if not for the gospel? Do you have people in your home without expectation of something in return? What if instead of focusing on our living rooms looking like an advertisement for Chip and Joanna, we focused more on our living rooms looking like an advertisement for the counter-cultural, upside-down kingdom of God? This type of hospitality could be what sparks a movement of God in our day as we look forward to the day when we are gathered around the table of Jesus with people from every tribe, tongue, and nation at the marriage feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9).

 

Ryan

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