Today’s Invitation: Matthew 22:1-14

Focus Passage: Matthew 22:1-14 (NIV)

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Read Matthew 22:1-14 in context and/or in other translations on!

When reading this entry’s passage, I often wonder about the people who were originally invited. In each case, those who received an original invitation – which almost sound like an exclusive invitation, give an excuse and ask to be excused from attending the celebration. These original invitees were offered everything almost exclusively, but chose to reject the invitation, which was really also rejecting the king, in favor of doing their own thing.

Verses 5 and 6 tell us their response when receiving the king’s invitation: “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.

The two possible responses from the king’s invitation are indifference and hostility.

Many of the original invitees were too interested in what they were currently doing to pay attention when the king called. When the call came in, they were not finished building their business, taking care of a client, saving enough to weather retirement, or with their goals-checklist – and they placed these things as more important than the king’s wedding banquet for his son. These original invitees lived like they were their own boss and like their personal priorities were their highest priorities.

Other original invitees hated the king, and so when the call came to them, they refused it simply because of who the king was. The passage also says that these haters mistreated the king’s servants, and some even went so far as to kill the servants who were sent to them. These original invitees picked themselves to be kings of their own life because they didn’t want to submit to the actual king.

In every case an invitation is given in this passage, there does not appear to be a cost involved. No one has paid to purchase a seat/plate at the king’s table, and this truth reveals something else that is interesting about human nature: We discount the value of free gifts we have received, regardless of their true, often priceless, value.

If the king in this parable represents God, then some of the elements in this parable become clear.

The first thing to become clear is that if God exists, then regardless of what we think, say, feel, or do, He is in control. There is nothing we can say/do that will remove Him from His position of authority. If God exists, then no amount of thinking He doesn’t exist will change this reality. Our belief is not stronger than God’s reality.

The next thing is that we can really have one of three responses to God’s invitation: We can reject the invitation like those who were hostile towards the king; we can ignore the invitation like those who had chosen other things to be higher priorities; or we can accept the invitation, leaving what we were doing for the higher priority of being with God.

Lastly, there are two ways we could understand the context of this parable: as a future invitation into heaven, or as an immediate invitation into a relationship with God today.

When Jesus returns, He will take us to heaven to be with Him, and I imagine there will be a huge welcome celebration and feast. It will be like the wedding between Jesus and “His bride” (a metaphor for His people). When Christ returns and calls His people to Him, there should be nothing that takes precedence over this call.

When we first learn about Jesus and about the sacrifice He made on our behalf, we also are given an invitation: We can choose to distrust God’s motives and hate Him because of something else that happened; we can choose to ignore or delay accepting the invitation because something else is more important to us; or we can accept the invitation and enter into a new life with Him. Other parts of the gospels tell us there is a celebration in heaven every time someone accepts Jesus’ invitation.

In either case, we have God’s invitation now, and what matters most is choosing to accept this invitation into our lives today.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Approaching God Like a Pharisee: Luke 18:9-14

Focus Passage: Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Read Luke 18:9-14 in context and/or in other translations on!

Part way through Jesus’ ministry, He tells His disciples and those who were present a short illustration about how God accepts (or in this case does not accept) our prayers based on how we approach Him in prayer. In this illustration, the gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus directed it towards those in the crowd who “were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else.” (v. 9)

To this group of people, Jesus begins His parable by sharing someone who they can relate with: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’” (v. 10-12)

While nothing is mentioned in this parable that this self-righteous group of people prayed this type of prayer, chances are high in my mind that this sample prayer from the Pharisee in Jesus’ illustration was similar to what this group prayed. While nothing is technically wrong with anything described in the prayer itself, the tone of what the Pharisee shares is what God does not approve of. Giving thanks to God, fasting regularly, tithing, and living obediently are all noble things, but this Pharisee seems to think God doesn’t recognize these accomplishments – so he intentionally decides to share them with God in His prayer.

The Pharisee’s prayer is two relatively short sentences, and it includes four uses of pronoun “I”. Each of these four uses in this prayer asks God to look at how good, noble, and righteous he is. But God doesn’t need help seeing the good in our lives or the bad. God knows our triumphs and trials better than we know them ourselves, and nothing is a surprise to Him.

While a prayer of thanks is not bad in itself. However, in order for it to be productive, we must thank God for something He has blessed us with, and not simply thank Him for something we’ve done ourselves. A prayer of thanks should be a reminder of how God has helped us, and remind us of our place in God’s bigger plan; Our prayers are worthless if we simply thank God for something we are claiming responsibility for.

Praying like a Pharisee is trying to get God to acknowledge how good of a person we are – especially in comparison with someone else, and this type of prayer is never answered. Instead, when we give thanks to God, we should thank Him for the things He has blessed us with in a way that helps us remember our small part in His big plans related to saving people for eternity and in a way that genuinely is thankful for His help.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Flashback Episode — Breadless Yeast: Matthew 16:5-12

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While reading the gospels, I occasionally wonder about the disciples, and how it seems as though they routinely miss the message or truth that Jesus wanted to share with them. Our passage for this episode covers one such time, and the truth Jesus shares is powerful, but also completely different from the overly literal way the disciples seem to understand it.

We learn about this truth during one of the times Jesus and the disciples are crossing the lake and Jesus decides it would be a good time to emphasize a big idea while they are away from the crowds of people. For this episode, we will be reading about this event from Matthew’s gospel, chapter 16, using the New Century Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 5:

Jesus’ followers went across the lake, but they had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus said to them, “Be careful! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”

His followers discussed the meaning of this, saying, “He said this because we forgot to bring bread.”

Knowing what they were talking about, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about not having bread? Your faith is small. Do you still not understand? Remember the five loaves of bread that fed the five thousand? And remember that you filled many baskets with the leftovers? 10 Or the seven loaves of bread that fed the four thousand and the many baskets you filled then also? 11 I was not talking to you about bread. Why don’t you understand that? I am telling you to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” 12 Then the followers understood that Jesus was not telling them to beware of the yeast used in bread but to beware of the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Something about this event sounds funny in my mind. I don’t think the truth Jesus shares is funny, but I do chuckle a little about how the disciples completely miss the metaphor Jesus used to emphasize His warning.

While the disciples rightly connect yeast with bread, and forgetting bread was fresh on their minds, Jesus never once hints at His statement being about bread. Perhaps Jesus planned this metaphor just for this purpose. I wonder if Jesus used this angle not only to share the truth about being wary of the Pharisee and Sadducee teachings, but also to reemphasize the importance of trusting God.

In the simple statement about yeast, we get two truths out of this event. Jesus could have simply said to beware of the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but then there would be no visual element to it. By paralleling this truth with the visual of yeast, we can see a picture of how just a little bit of error can slowly affect an entire movement.

It doesn’t take much yeast to cause dough to rise, and with the negative spin Jesus places on this yeast, we can rightfully conclude that it doesn’t take much error or deception to wreck the truth.

Interestingly enough, we could also apply this truth in our own lives. We could say that one sin, regardless of how insignificant it is or was in our past, is enough to separate us forever from God. Even though the sin in question might have lasted only a split second of time, it results in us being condemned. Because of this, the Bible rightfully concludes that everyone who has ever lived has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, or God’s ideal for each of us.

In the case of our own lives, Jesus came to make a way for us to be reconnected to God even after we have sinned. Jesus accomplished this by living a perfect life within God’s will, and living a life without sin, before ultimately dying on a cross when He didn’t deserve death. Jesus took our punishment so that we can accept His reward.

This leads us back to looking at the other truth that we are reminded of in this passage: the truth about bread.

While Jesus challenges the disciples for understanding His statement to be about faith and bread, He reminds the disciples that a lack of food is nothing to be concerned about. While it might weigh on our minds and our empty stomachs, when you are with Someone who could multiply a crumb in the back of the boat into a three-course meal, a lack of food is not that big of a concern.

The truth for each of us in this case is to be intentional about trusting God to supply our needs. When we are living with and for God, He will supply our needs and He knows we need food, clothing, and shelter. While His idea of what each might look like is probably different from our thoughts, He knows what is best in the big picture and long-term view. God’s focus is on saving us for eternity, and that perspective will filter everything He brings into our lives.

God is not going to bless us in such a way that we would lose our salvation, but He also will not curse us when we could have been saved under different circumstances. While I don’t claim to know why certain bad things happen, or why tragedy seems to strike people indiscriminately, I know that I can trust God with my own future and that eternity lasts longer than today’s trials.

God is in the business of saving people forever, and saving the greatest number of people forever that He can!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Be sure to seek God first and trust Him with your future. While we don’t always know why things happen the way they do in our lives today, we can trust God is working through the ups and the downs for our ultimate salvation. I firmly believe that God wants each of us in heaven more than each of us wants to be in heaven!

Also, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself. I don’t want you to take my word, or any pastor or podcaster’s word for this. Instead, I want you to study God’s love out for yourself, because only you can grow your personal relationship with God into a saving relationship with Him.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 20: When Jesus uses yeast in a metaphor with the disciples, the disciples miss the truth He was trying to share while thinking about bread instead. Discover what we can learn from both what Jesus was trying to teach the disciples, and the subtle truth about faith that they also get challenged by in Jesus’ response.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Tell the World: John 14:15-31

Focus Passage: John 14:15-31 (GW)

15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper who will be with you forever. 17 That helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it doesn’t see or know him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you all alone. I will come back to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. You will live because I live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father and that you are in me and that I am in you. 21 Whoever knows and obeys my commandments is the person who loves me. Those who love me will have my Father’s love, and I, too, will love them and show myself to them.”

22 Judas (not Iscariot) asked Jesus, “Lord, what has happened that you are going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”

23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will go to them and make our home with them. 24 A person who doesn’t love me doesn’t do what I say. I don’t make up what you hear me say. What I say comes from the Father who sent me.

25 “I have told you this while I’m still with you. 26 However, the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything. He will remind you of everything that I have ever told you.

27 “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you my peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly. 28 You heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away, but I’m coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I’m going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am.

29 “I’m telling you this now before it happens. When it does happen, you will believe. 30 The ruler of this world has no power over me. But he’s coming, so I won’t talk with you much longer. 31 However, I want the world to know that I love the Father and that I am doing exactly what the Father has commanded me to do. Get up! We have to leave.”

Read John 14:15-31 in context and/or in other translations on!

During the conversation Jesus has with His disciples on the night He was betrayed, we find a statement that does not make sense to those who don’t understand Jesus’ mission to earth. While there probably are many statements like this in the broader context of this conversation, one statement stands out as unique.

Possibly right as the disciples were about to leave the upper room on their way to the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus tells them, “However, I want the world to know that I love the Father and that I am doing exactly what the Father has commanded me to do. Get up! We have to leave.” (v. 31)

This statement is powerful in my mind because Jesus tells His disciples that He wants the world to know two things:

  1. Jesus loves the Father (i.e. God the Father); and

  2. Jesus did exactly what the Father wanted Him to do.

These things are easy for Christians and followers of Jesus to understand, but the world doesn’t see spiritual truth accurately.

While many living today believe that Jesus was a good person and that His life was cut short because He was betrayed, they cannot grasp someone choosing death and saying it was part of God’s plan. Many living today also cannot comprehend a person choosing to die in the place of someone who is ungrateful, and for people who hated Him and God.

This can extend forward to include us today. As believers and followers of Jesus, what would our lives look like if we chose to see everyone else (regardless of their beliefs, their religion, their skin color, their piercings, their tattoos, their country of origin, their background, their position, their view of God, and/or anything else that would separate us from them) as someone who Jesus died for?

Jesus died to save humanity, and the only thing stopping the world from accepting Jesus is that they don’t understand or don’t believe that they are included in those Jesus died for. Some people are hostile towards Jesus and God while others are simply skeptical and unbelieving. However, regardless of whether we were worthy of His death or not (hint: we weren’t), Jesus came and died for us.

Regardless of what anyone else says, no one living at any point in history (other than Jesus) was worthy to receive Jesus’ death for themselves. The big truth that unites all Christianity together is: We are unworthy while Jesus is worthy, God sent Jesus to take our place, and Jesus’ death on the cross makes a way for us to have a new life with God!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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