The Journey: John 19:1-16
March 18, 2018
This morning we’re taking a bit of a detour…
On our journey through Lent from the Crowds to the Cross…we’re pulling oﬀ the freeway for a Sunday. To get oﬀ the path and take a minute to refuel…to make sure our mindset matches our footsteps.
The detour takes us into one of the most difficult stories of scripture. It comes from Matthew 22:1-14…
22 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.
3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.
7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so 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 a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
So here’s the real reason we’re detouring…
Because this passage is the best deal in town…and I simply cannot pass up a bargain…
Yes, that’s right…its buy one get one free at Fellowship Church today. Buy one incredibly diﬃcult and convicting parable…and get one more free of charge.
They’re both included for only one low price…
Never mind those other Lenten passages about raising people or washing feet… none of them pack the 1-2 punch this one does. After all, we’re smart people… we can handle two parables in one…even if it does have more death and destruction than most of us are used to on a Sunday morning…
No, bring on the hard passage.
And this is all because…I love a bargain…and I know you do too…I’ve seen you around those Russ’ coupons…
So when I saw a BOGO just oﬀ the exit today…I knew it had to be preached. But there were times when I wanted my money back.
We’ve been on a journey from the Crowds to the Cross since Lent began…but as I mentioned…this passage stops the journey for a moment. Or perhaps its better to say that it comes up alongside the journey…
Because we can place them next to each other. On our Lenten Journey, Jesus is about to be sentenced to death. Jesus, standing before Pilate and the crowds, is stepping readily into his own fate.
And right next to it, we place this parable…
Defying all flannel gram fuzziness, Jesus speaks directly to the Pharisees but in his classic indirect way. After all, that’s what parables are—stories with meaning. And at times, that meaning is up for grabs…or at least we want it to be.
So the typical sermon on passages like this begin with cute antidotes or perhaps a story from your cousins wedding…a few remarks about how tricky this passage is…and after a few homiletical cartwheels that place us well out of the line of fire…we arrive at the end of the sermon…unscathed and unmoved.
But the truth is none of us can excuse ourselves from this passage. As soon as we’ve securely located ourselves with either the uninvited or the invited…Jesus’ words find us.
-Those who are invited took the invitation for granted…never imagining that THOSE people would EVER be invited.
-And those who were eventually invited (or at least the one that we hear about ) wanted the invitation on his terms, and failed to fully appreciate what sitting at the table meant.
The totality of this parable means that whatever side of the guest list we find ourselves on…Jesus has a word for us. And as much as we would like to focus on Jesus words for the ‘other’…they land solely at our feet.
Those who were initially invited should have come…the King had gone to great trouble to invite them. The food was prepared, the table was set. And to not attend was an incredible aﬀront to the King…
And although he is initially very patient…giving them three separate opportunities to come. When his slaves are killed…all bets are oﬀ. Mayhem ensues…cities are burned. (And yet its interesting that the food stays hot somehow…)
And so the ‘everyone else’ is invited…the good and the bad.
The unlikely walk past the likely into the banquet hall…and you get the feeling that both groups are shocked.
Jesus once again turns the entitlement of invitation on its head. Because he knew that it is in our nature to be way too concerned about the WHO and WHO ELSE of the invitation…Who’s in and who’s out?
I received an Evite a few weeks ago…and after quickly perusing the details of the party I tapped on the guest list to see who else was coming. I don’t think I would have noted my action except that the host had blocked the guest list. I was disappointed. I wanted to know who else was invited.
We so easily place the emPHAsis on the invitation and not what the invitation means…
And so the invited become the uninvited and vice versa…and thus commences the bonus parable…involving a newly invited guest…he’s at the banquet even though he is not wearing the right clothes…
And in a move that seems a little extreme to say the least, he is thrown out into the darkness…where the weeping and gnashing of teeth happen.
He had the opportunity to wear the right clothes, or so say bible scholars who’d know better than me…he simply choses not to.
He failed to understand that being invited brings with it responsibility…even if it was only making sure you had the right attire. He did not consider the host and how it would appear to him if he did not put forth the eﬀort to show respect.
There is remarkable humanness in each parable…and I find myself standing in both of them.
We know the invitation is before us…standing on this side of history we know that all are invited, not just a select few. But there are many times that my flurry of activity stops me from entering into God’s presence.
But even once I’m aware of God’s presence…I want those moments to be on my terms, not God’s.
I want a convenient faith…one that I can squeeze into my ‘busy’ day. I want to set the terms…the boundaries…the limits.
Because here’s the truth…I like a bargain…even when it comes to my faith. I want a good deal: to pay the lowest for the greatest gain.
But cutting corners on discipleship has consequences.
The Kingdom is costly. And we simply cannot have it on our own terms…
In a beautiful essay on this passage, Karoline Lewis says, “It is not enough anymore to call yourself a follower of Christ and then act as if you were sound asleep during the Sermon on the Mount.”
Jesus’ vision of the journey requires more than just ‘I guess I’ll come…’
There is a cost…something required of us. And this is where it gets tricky. Because often in our attempt to make faith more palatable and attractive…we emphasize convenience over accountability.
The essay I read was a direct word to us pastors, ‘We are preachers afraid -- afraid of oﬀense. Afraid to ruﬄe feathers. Afraid that people will leave, especially when the pews are emptier than they ever have been. Afraid to lose donors.
Afraid to speak out of our own theological convictions. Afraid to take risks. Afraid of the very thing that got the ill-dressed guest thrown out in the first place.”
And so the disturbing trend is to ask less and less of our congregations…to oﬀer you a discounted faith. With very little time and eﬀort needed.
As a pastor, my first instinct with invitation is often pointing out how easy it will be…the one hour Bible study, the brief discussion, the short worship service…
We are so delighted that people would even show up for worship that we take enormous steps not to oﬀend, or disturb, or rattle.
Buy one act of semi-obedience, get salvation free.
We have cheapened what is priceless. Matthew 22 is a costly parable.
And so perhaps it is time to name what is true in its meaning:
That faith will cost us our very lives.
And so what happens,…when we consider this passage in light of the passage that was assigned for today?
A passage that begins…
19 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and
went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.
12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”
13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.
“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.
15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.
16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
Pilate settles for what is easy, the immediacy of the pressure around him…he is cheap and shallow.
But Jesus sets his eyes on the costly path before him.
He doesn’t try to cut corners. He doesn’t work out a deal or sidestep Pilate. He is fully in control of his destiny.
The cross is not defeat for him…his entire ministry has been leading up to this moment. The cross is his hour of grace and glorification…
This is the costly love of Christ.
Friends, both passages are a call away from the cheap grace of immediacy, and a call to the costly grace of the Kingdom.
The bargain is alluring. The deal is often too good to pass up. But cheap faith is never worth it.
So we must be willing to walk with Christ all the way to the cross… And into the costly grace of the Kingdom…
Come. Feast on the lavish, abundant, and priceless love of God.