Good morning, church. Please turn with me, if you’re not already there, to Revelation 19. Revelation chapter 19. Before we look at the Word together, let’s pray.
Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger; whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus, will you help us to find everything that we need in you today? You turn our eyes upon you. We pray this in your name. Amen.
So, who do you eat with? For all of you grammarians out there who just cringed that I ended a sentence with a preposition … With whom do you eat? My family and I live overseas, and a question that we often get is what do you miss most about your home country, America? And without fail, my answer is Chick-fil-A. But after Chick-fil-A, it truly is Thanksgiving dinner. There’s these emotions, memories, connections, the weather. There’s just something special about that gathering.
As a family, we love to Christmas carol. And usually the Friday after Thanksgiving, we’ll go to seven or eight homes, we’ll sing Christmas carols, we’ll give them some cookies that my wife and my kids have made, wish them Merry Christmas, and then within five minutes, we’ve moved on to the next house.
Our first time in a country in Asia, we go to the first house, we sing some Christmas carols, we gave the cookies, and we tried to leave, but we learned that in a country in Asia, you don’t do that. When you bring food to somebody’s house, you’re going to stay, and you’re going to enjoy it with them. So, three hours later, after lots of tea and an impromptu meal, we finally get to leave and go to the second house.
Every culture has unique traditions, special meanings that surround our tables. And so, think about your meals … not just in your kitchen, not just your dining room, but where you spend these hours of life out at a table somewhere. With whom do you eat? And what do those eating times, what does our eating company demonstrate about our eschatology?
Revelation 19 — John is giving us a glimpse of the final culmination of our salvation. We are the church. We, the bride, we are now being made ready for that wedding day, having been made pure by Christ’s righteousness. Christ is our bridegroom. And at the center of this wedding is a feast, a meal, a marriage supper. And that God chooses to highlight our union with him in a meal is no surprise. You look all throughout Jesus’s life, and those three and a half years is as if he is saying, “The people that I call to eat with me — the variegated; multi-ethnic; socially, politically, financially diverse — this is a foreshadowing of the beautiful diversity of that marriage supper. The extent of my grace knows no limits. And there’s room for more.”
I wonder when was the last time you thought about that marriage supper and what that supper means for you and for how you structure your life. The angel says in Revelation 19,
“Blessed are those who were invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
There are three things we’re going to see from this text today. There’s an invitation, an entrance, and a host. Invitation, entrance, and a host.
So, first there is an invitation. The angel says, “Blessed are those who are invited.” So, who did Jesus invite to eat with him? Who did he spend time with around a table? Maybe for many of us, our first ideas go to the sinners. Luke 15:1, 2,
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”
So, eating was this way to show connection, a relationship. There was no such thing as fast food back then. This was a long, relational process. And so, the Pharisees see what Jesus is doing — he’s eating with these sinners — and they say, “Why are you doing this, this relational process, with people like this?”
That word “sinner” was used as a pejorative label. He’s a friend of tax collectors and sinners. The inference is that those who are using this label did not see themselves as sinners also. Jesus made it a point to eat with people like Zacchaeus the tax collector, or Matthew the tax collector in Matthew 9, … to allow the woman of the city to anoint him while he was eating in Luke 7. And this wasn’t just happenstance. It was a deliberate choice to invite those, who many would have considered outside the reach of God’s goodness.
Our family typically lives in a country in Asia. We have two children with fairly significant health issues, and so because of Covid, we temporarily relocated to another nearby country during Covid. And one day I went to this coworking space to try to get some work done, and I met this guy who is a regular there. His name was I., 25 years old. He was a graphic designer. And very quickly in our conversation, he was very proud and confident in telling me that he was gay. And as I’m standing there talking to him, I thought Jesus would eat with this guy. So, I did on multiple occasions, developed a friendship. Jesus loves guys like I.
It wasn’t just the sinners, though, that Jesus connected with at the table. Jesus also connected with the outcasts, and these weren’t the morally outcast because of their lifestyles. These were ones that were socially outcast. They were sick, they were disabled, they were undervalued, infectious people. Jesus ate at the home of Simon the leper, Matthew 26, with disabled people. John 9 — there’s no reference that Jesus ate with the man born blind, but look at how much time he spent with this man, this man who, everybody around him thought that he was blind because of either his sin or somebody else’s sin; the social outcast, the woman at the well.
When my daughter was seven years old, we were here in Greenville for a visit, and one Sunday after church we went to Wendy’s just over here on Wade Hampton Boulevard. And outside of Wendy’s was a lady asking for money, most likely homeless. You know, I had three kids. It’s been a full day at church. Let’s just go in. Let’s get our food, you know, get home before everything falls apart. So, I go in and start ordering food, and the next thing I know, I look back, and that woman is with my daughter Z. At the table eating. It turns out that Z. Had seen her; she runs up to her, gives her this big hug and says, “You have on pink pants. I have on pink pants. We’re friends. Let’s eat together.” And so, we did. We ate together, and we heard her story. She was battling drug addiction. We shared our story, our hope in Jesus. And it just so happens that a few tables over was a man who was the director of an addictions program. He comes over, he hears her story, provides her help.
You know, to my shame, I had to be forced into eating with this lady by the simplicity, the innocence of my daughter. Sometimes we have to be forced into eating with and connecting and engaging those around us who are the sinners, who are the outcasts. But these were the types of people that Jesus sought out. He wanted them at his table.
But it wasn’t just the sinners. It wasn’t just the outcast. It was also the righteous. Maybe we should say the self-righteous. Jesus ate with Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7, another Pharisee in Luke 11, a chief of the Pharisees in Luke 14. And so, we begin to see that Jesus is indiscriminate with his invitations. There’s this beautiful irony in Luke 7 [verses 37-39]. Simon the Pharisee has invited Jesus to eat with him. They’re reclining there, eating together.
“And behold …”
Luke wants to get our attention about who it is that’s coming in.
“Behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner.”
She’s heard that Jesus is eating with this Pharisee. She comes in. She has this special ointment. She pours it on his feet with her tears — tears ostensibly of repentance. She weeps over his feet. She washes his feet. She kisses his feet.
Now the Pharisee doesn’t say anything. He’s too socially adept, too spiritually aware to make this a public confrontation, but he says something inside. Listen.
“Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
And that’s the point. Jesus did know. And that’s precisely why he allowed her to be there. That’s precisely why he connected with her. Because Jesus came not to call those who think that they are righteous, but those who know that they are sinners. He came to seek and to save the lost.
There’s a man in a country in Asia. His name is P., a dear friend of mine. P. Fits in two of these categories. He is an Islamic teacher. He teaches one hundred kids every day how to read the Quran. So, he would be in that self-righteous category. But he’s also deeply animistic. He’s been unfaithful to his wife; so, we could label him a sinner, as it were. And as I sat with him just a few weeks ago, it hit me. Jesus would have sat here. He would not have been overwhelmed by the lostness of this man any more than he would be overwhelmed by my lostness. I’m not more worthy to have been invited to Jesus’s table than this uneducated, animistic Muslim fisherman. Me in my self-righteousness, “B” in his sin, it’s precisely to these types of people like him and like me, that Jesus has come.
If we have slipped into the mindset that the sinners are out there and not in here, that certain types of people shouldn’t be invited (you know, what’s the use? It’s not going to work, but people like us, you know, we’re more likely to respond) … If we’ve slipped into that mindset, we need to revisualize the world through the eyes of Jesus. We are all sinners. We are all lost. And that’s good news because that’s the type of people that Jesus came to save — sinners, outcasts, self-righteous. Jesus was indiscriminate with his invitations. His connections with political party, gender identity, racial background — Jesus found great joy connecting with sinners of every stripe, and He connected with a purpose.
Now purpose was to call people to himself. Every time that Jesus connected with somebody, they either left more confirmed in their self-righteous lostness, their hold on their sin, or they left completely changed. Remember the story of Zacchaeus, Luke 19. Jesus and Zacchaeus. Jesus says, “I’m going to go to your house today.” Zacchaeus does a 180, complete transformation. So, Jesus was intentional to engage these types of people, the sinners like you and me. He was indiscriminate. He was deliberate in his ultra-inclusive invitation because everyone is a sinner. Everyone is lost.
The problem is not all of us are willing to admit that, and that’s where we see the entrance. Look again at Revelation 19. The angel says,
“Blessed are those who were invited to the marriage of supper of the Lamb.”
Blessed, happy, rejoicing, delighted are those who not only receive the invitation, but actually come. So, if Jesus was indiscriminate with his invitations, the question is who actually gets in?
Luke 15 (we read it just a minute ago, but I want us to read it again),
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to him. The Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”
So, again the context — Jesus is eating with these types of people. The Pharisees see it, and they grumble about it. And so, in response to this situation, Jesus tells three stories — the story of the lost sheep, the story of the lost coin, and the story of the lost sons. And in that third story, there’s two sons — one who seemed to do everything wrong and one who seemed to do everything right. And that younger son, in his sinfulness, in his lostnness, in verse 17, it says, he “comes to his senses.” He realized I really am a sinner. I am lost. And so he says,
“I will arise. I’m going to go to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.’”
So, he goes back to his home, and you remember what the father did? The father, he sees him from a distance; he has compassion on him; he runs out to him; he embraces him; he kisses him; he restores him; he says, “This my son was lost,” and he was willing to admit it. “Now he’s found.”
So, the older son … He hears this celebration, this feast, this foreshadowing of that marriage supper, and he goes out. And it says he’s angry. The father follows him out. The father invites him back in, and it says in verse 28, “he entreats him.” And what does the older son say to the father? It says look at what I’ve done!
“Look these many years I have served you. I have never disobeyed your command.”
I deserve to be in there feasting. This son of yours, this sinner … he doesn’t.
There’s something in the older brother that still lives in many of us. We still believe that our seat at the table is #1 — due in part, at least to our relative goodness. I’m not that type of person. So, that leads us to condescend, to judge, to distance ourselves.
Several years ago, we were at a church in Colorado, and we were just giving an update about the gospel advancing among unreached Muslims, and a man sincerely asked a question. He said, “Can Muslims really be saved?” There’s this underlying belief that I am more worthy, I am less far-gone. God’s love and grace is less effective for a Muslim, an animist, gender-diverse Singaporean, trailer-trash Upstater. See, the Father … he goes out to both.
Now at the end of the story in Luke 15, who is on the inside of the house, and who’s on the outside? It’s the younger son that is on the inside, but the older son … It’s interesting that in Scripture the woe’s, the beware’s that Jesus gives are almost exclusively to the ultra-religious crowd because they think, “It’s what I have done; it’s what I am doing that makes me worthy to get into that feast.”
So, in this story, Jesus leaves us with a cliffhanger. Does he come in, or doesn’t he? It’s not that he can’t come, this older brother. He can. In his pride, he is choosing to stand outside and not come in. But will he? Will he say, “I too am a sinner; I am in need of grace just as much as this, my younger brother”?
Friends, entrance to the table, entrance into the kingdom is not based on what you’ve done. It’s based on how you come. If you come saying, “I’ve never disobeyed; look at my church record; look at how I served; look at my giving; look at all of these things,” the Father’s going to say, “I never knew you.”
But if you, like that younger son, come to your senses. Like the Pharisee in Luke 18, if you say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” then he says, “You’re welcome at my table that I’ve prepared for you.”
See three men on this picture. On the far right in red is A. He’s one of our local teammates. On the far left, the guy without a shirt is K. K. Is a RM fisherman, and A. met him a little less than two years ago. And as is custom, they ate together and drank together, and A. was, from the beginning, starting to engage him with truth. And K., from his own admission, very bluntly said, “I’d rather talk about money and about women.” A. still connects with K., still eats with them, still shares with him, but it’s the guy in the middle, A.
A. Is K.’s brother. A. was sitting there with him in some of those initial meetings, listening to everything that A. said about God. And at first, as A. would talk about spiritual topics, A. was reticent. He was nervous. As soon as A. would mention something about truth or about God, he’d become defensive, confrontational. But A. noticed something in him. There was this longing, this desire. And so, A. kept meeting with him, kept eating with him, kept planting seeds of God’s Word into his heart. And over time, something changed. A. began having longer conversations about truth. He began reading one verse with him and then two verses with him, then sharing whole stories of Scripture that connected to events in A.’s life.
So, it’s been about eighteen months since those initial interactions. And since that first meeting, right now, A. and A. are meeting one to two times a week. And every time they meet, they read through a whole chapter of the Gospel of Luke, and they discuss it. Right now they’re up to chapter 16. A couple of weeks ago when they were reading Luke 7, A., in M., said this. He said,
“This is a secret that has been revealed. The roots of history are in this book and have been hidden all this time. We are forbidden to find out the story of the previous prophets. I wonder why we are forbidden to find out. Why is it covered? But I want to know the history more deeply.”
Sometimes we base our invitations on who we think may or may not come. We don’t know who will enter and who will not. We don’t know who’s going to look to their own righteousness, hold onto their sin, or who is going to come to their senses. So, what do we do? We should be indiscriminate with our invitations, indiscriminate with our connections, all the while trusting that the Word of God that we share in conversation, the Word of God will do the work that it was intended to do. And we hear a story like this with A., and we say, “Yes!” We want people from every tribe, every type of people to be at that table. But when it comes home, when it comes to our daily routine choices, what is it that disconnects us from the sinners or from the self-righteous or the outcast? What prevents us from inviting others to our tables so that they have an opportunity one day to sit at The Table?
There are several possible disconnects. The first is fear — fear of a negative influence on our families or our kids. We were in Singapore just recently, and I was riding a bus down the road. And there was this massive billboard there. It was a car advertisement, I think, for Mercedes. And there was this guy dressed to the hilt, and the tagline … all it said was “Your Own Personal Universe.” We fear the things that disrupt our personal universe. If we have somebody like that into our home, you know, what’s going to happen? What’s going be the impact on my children? And I think a more compelling question is, what’s going to be the impact on our kids if we don’t connect with the types of people that Jesus connected with? Will our kids grow up thinking that the gospel is for one particular race, one particular type of person, one political party, one socioeconomic status? … because that’s all they ever see us interacting with.
Another disconnect is rejection. We don’t want people to say no to us. We’re uncertain of certain social, cultural norms that are outside of our frame of reference, and so, rather than being vulnerable, we just avoid.
Another disconnect is disgust, maybe in the sense of their sin that truly could be disgusting, or maybe it’s just in the way they keep themselves — they’re physically, hygienically unkempt. You remember what the older brother … how he said, “this son of yours”? Do you ever wish you could hit a button in your Bible and hear the tone of voice that these people used? There’s this loathing in there, like, “I don’t want to touch it!”
There’s a book called Testament of Devotion by an old Quaker named Thomas Kelly, and he says this —
“Something wholly different from mild, conventional religion….”
And what he is doing is comparing those … you know, we go to church, we know the theology, we generally love each other, and all-out commitment….
“There’s something wholly different from mild, conventional religion, which, with respectable skirts held back by dainty fingers, anxiously tries to fish the world out of the mud-full hole of its own selfishness.”
I want to love you, but not too much, lest I, you know, soil myself. Friends, aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t “hold back his skirts with dainty fingers”? He dove in to you and to me.
Another disconnect is distraction. In Luke 14, there’s another parable of the invitation to a banquet. And people say, “Oh, I’ve bought a field; I cannot come. I have these yoke of oxen. I’ve married a wife. I have this miniseries I’m watching.” Fill in the blank. We’re very creative with our distractions.
Another disconnect is misunderstanding. Misunderstanding specifically of where value comes from. Value does not come from what you can contribute to society. Value comes from who made you. My son, my youngest son, has Down Syndrome, and God has used him to teach me so much about how I have wrongly viewed others. To interact with my son, I have to slow down, not be in a hurry. I have to wade through a lot of confusing and at times alarming behavioral patterns. To spend time with those who are differently abled, it takes time. It takes patience. It takes belief that value is not connected to affluence or competency, but from the image of God that’s placed in our lives. It’s why Jesus says in Luke 14 [verse 13] … He says,
“When you have the banquet, invite the poor, invite the crippled, the lame, and the blind.”
I don’t know about you, but my wife and I have talked about this so many times. We’ve read that, and there’s this natural assumption. Jesus goes on. He says when you do those things, somebody’s going to be blessed. I don’t know about you, but we’ve always thought, well, they will be blessed. You know, we’re going to be a blessing to them. But Jesus says no, when you invite these types of people, you will be blessed. Why? Because there’s something that they have that we may not have. They can see God in a way that maybe we can’t. I look at my six-year old son with Down Syndrome, and I hear him just sweetly pray, “God, man, sin, died, rose again. Thank you, Jesus.” And I think he has a faith that sometimes I struggle with. What we can learn from those who are differently abled because they have the same image of God in them that we do!
Another disconnect is judgment. Yes, what they are doing is wrong. And be clear, friends, Jesus did not wink at the sins of the sinners or explain it away culturally. He was very clear about what they needed to do about their sin. But if we sit on this judge’s bench and just even visualize that. These other people are down here, we’re up on the judge’s bench. We’re distancing ourselves. We’re preventing this life-on-life interaction where they can taste and see and feel the love of Jesus through you. And so, rather than sit up on this judge’s bench, what if we came down and sat beside them on a mourner’s bench? And prayer and concern being the hands and the feet of Jesus?
One final disconnect is indifference. And I feel like this could be the most frightening one. In Bahasa, the word that we use for unreached people group (a people group that does not have ready access to the gospel; less than 1% are Christians), the word for unreached people group is “suku terabaikan,” and that literally means “a people ignored.” There’s a difference between forgetting and ignoring. If you ignore it, you know it’s there, but you choose not to engage. We know they’re there, but there’s this deliberate choice. I’m going to go in. I’m going to move away. I’m going to avoid.
Now, I think all of us know that The Table is open for all, that there should be this ultra-inclusive invitation to all types of people. We know that there is more room, and we know, more or less, that these disconnects are immature; they’re frail. I mean, listen, I get it. Sometimes it’s just stressful. I have four young kids, one of which has significant developmental needs, and having conversations with others, having people over into our homes and lives is stressful. It is exhausting! I know my kid’s going to scream; we’re going to be misunderstood; my parenting is going to be judged, all while trying to have a conversation with somebody. But rather than avoid, we need to be okay to invite people into the Jesus-filled chaos of our lives.
So, what do we do? What’s going to change you so that you are indiscriminate with your invitations that you joyfully, creatively, deliberately invite others into the fabric of your life and your meals, your connections with the hope, the prayer that they will respond to that invitation. in humble faith and repentance? Friends, if you make adjustments out of guilt, you’re going to be crushed. You’re going to make minimal progress, but ultimately, it’s still about you and your own status — you know, where do I fit on the welcoming scale? Am I more welcoming than this other person? The only way that you’re going to experience lasting change is when you think long and hard about Who invited you. And this is where we see the host.
Look again at our text in Revelation 19.
“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
Of all the titles that he could have used — “marriage supper of the King,” “marriage supper of the Creator,” “the Deliverer,” “Most High God” — what led him to choose “marriage supper of the Lamb”?
Spurgeon says this.
“I gather just this, that Christ anywhere, even in his highest glory, still wishes us to regard Him as a sacrifice for sin.”
There are many people that view Jesus as a great teacher, a prophet, an exemplar. They sift through his teachings. They try to adapt them to fit their worldview. But when you view Jesus as the Lamb … John, when he saw Jesus, he says,
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
My sin. I am a sinner. I am the lost. Whether it’s the sin of the harlot and the adulterer, the sin of the rule keeper, I need what this Lamb has to offer. And this Lamb does not have just to offer a better life through his teachings. This Lamb has to offer life out of death, through his blood. That’s what we need.
How does he do that? How does he take away the sin? Jesus, the Lamb of God. He becomes a man. He comes to you. He invites you to his table. And he looks across at you, across that table, and in your sin, he says to you, “Repent. Believe the gospel.” In your helpless despair, he says to you, “Live!” In your self-righteousness, he says, “Will you allow yourself to be found, to know that you’re lost?” In your defiant rejection, he says, “Your sin is on me; my blood is on you; you are welcome at my table; only believe.”
And so we, we the lost, we the sinners, we the self-righteous, we the outcast … In response to this invitation, what do we do? If you are the sinner, you arise and you go to your Father, and you say, “Father, I’ve sinned against heaven. I have sinned against you.” And you feel his embrace.
If you’re the self-righteous, you lay down all of your I’ve-always-obeyed-you. You say, “Nothing in my hands I bring in,” and you too feel the embrace of the Father. If you’re the outcast, you pour out your tears of hurt onto his feet, and he looks at you and he says, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” And you feel his embrace.
It’s this Lamb, this host that has said to you, “Come eat with me, whoever you are; believe in me; find your home, your safety, your forgiveness, your restoration, your rest in me.” And to the degree that we understand what qualifies us to be at The Table, that we are the lost, that we are the sinners … to the degree we understand what this host did to welcome us in, we will actively, joyfully, deliberately, inconveniently, creatively, riskily invite all others to fill in every single seat. If you’re looking to the Lamb, then our tables, our homes, our lives, our connections are going to be filled with people of various skin colors, various abilities, idiosyncrasies, mental capacities, social statuses because that’s who Jesus invited.
Friends, there is a direct connection between what is happening at our meals, our homes, and our connections, and who will be at the marriage supper of the Lamb. And what would happen if every person at North Hills was dubbed a friend of _______ or _______. I’ll leave that blank. [I thought I left it blank. It’s not blank there.] Because for every one of us, it’s a different challenge. Are you okay with feeling uncomfortable with what you see and what you hear? Are you okay with being vulnerable as you make a social faux pas and have to humbly acknowledge your insufficiency? Are you okay to be judged even by others within the Christian community? When your eyes are fixed on the Lamb, you’re going to have no problem.
We’re going to end our worship time today with five minutes of interactive reflection. It’s a little bit different than what we normally do here. There are two questions that are either on the screen or in your sermon notes. And in groups of three to four people … Don’t get up and move around. Just right where you are, connect with three to four people. Turn and take this time to discuss what God has spoken to you through his Word. And then how are you going to respond? Resist the temptation to small talk the time away or to just talk about other things. Jump right in. Discuss these questions, and allow the Word of God to speak to you. In about three to four minutes, I’ll come back up, and I’ll close us in prayer.
Father, we thank you that in your fathomless love, you invited us — sinners, self-righteous, outcast. You said “come.” Would you strengthen us right now to know a little bit more of how loved we are? Would that empower us to go out and joyfully share your love with those around us? We pray this in Jesus’s name. Amen.