Three Great Feasts In The New Testament
Notes of an address
There are four great meals, or feasts, in the New Testament, the meal of grace (Luke 14:15-24), the Lord's supper (1 Cor.11:23-26), the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev.19:7-9) and the supper of the Great God (Rev.19:17-21). Tonight I want to speak on the first three of these meals.
The Feast of Grace
"And when one of them that sat at meat with [Jesus] heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Then said [Jesus] unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and he sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and showed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper." (Luke 14:15-24)
In verse 15 we find a man who makes an emotional statement, and it is in response to this that the Lord speaks this parable about a feast. What he had in mind was the conversion of men, and he makes it quite clear that conversion and taking part in this meal of grace is not a matter of emotions, but that it is a very solemn matter. The "certain man who made a great supper" is a picture of God the Father, and this action is characteristic for the whole period of grace in which we live. We often say that we live in difficult times and there is a lot of discipline, and that is true, but we do not want to forget that the time in which we live is a wonderful time, it is the time of grace when God has prepared a great super and still invites every person to come. The servant speaks of God the Holy Spirit. He has come to earth and He brings this message to every man, "Come". The Holy Spirit uses men for the purpose of bringing this invitation, and it is the task of all those who belong to the Lord to spread the gospel. I am very happy that on every single day of the conference here this has been done. It is the activity of the Spirit of God to make this offer to every man during this period of grace. The servant then says a very important sentence, "All is ready". This is Calvary, there everything has been made ready in order for sinners to come to God and so we say tonight, 'All things have been made ready, come to the Lord Jesus with your sins'. Then in verses 18 to 20 we find the sad fact that this invitation is rejected. We experience this if we are zealous in spreading the gospel, men reject this offer of grace, but the Lord Jesus has predicted it. I do not want to comment on the prophetic aspect of this passage, I want to speak in a very practical way. In the answers of those bidden to the great supper we are given three reasons why men reject the gospel. The reason the first man gave for refusing was that he had bought a field; this is earthly possessions. A lot of people are held back because of earthly possessions. There is a good example in Luke 18 where the rich young ruler who came to the Lord went away sad because he had many possessions which he valued more than God. The second person had bought five yoke of oxen; his work or occupation hindered him. My father used to do his work with one ox and I can tell you this is quite difficult enough but here we have a man who could use ten oxen. Today we would perhaps say this is a highly qualified professional man, a computer specialist for example, he is too occupied to come to this meal of grace of the Lord Jesus. There is an example of this kind of man in the book of Acts in Felix who, when the apostle Paul had been speaking to his conscience in a very solemn way replied, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call thee" (Acts 24:25), he was too occupied to accept this invitation. The reason the third man gave for refusing the invitation was that he had married a wife. Marriage is a picture of earthly joy, this is another thing that can prevent people coming to the Lord Jesus, and we have an example of this in the Old Testament in Esau who, in Genesis 25:27-34, sold his birthright for the sake of a meal of lentils (this also speaks of earthly joy). These three things are not evil in themselves. I possess fields myself, I have quite a lot of oxen and I have married a wife, but these things did not prevent me coming to the Lord Jesus. I would like to draw our attention to the fact that the first two declined in a very friendly way, this is something we experience today. We bring the gospel to people and they say, "I pray thee have me excused", but the third man was not that friendly and I have been asking myself why this is, and I have not found an answer.
When the servant went back to his master and reported these sad facts to him the master of the house was angry. This is a very solemn fact. Whoever declines salvation in the Lord Jesus will have to face the wrath of God. We want to stress this tonight as a warning, but what is so wondrous to see is that God does not withdraw His offer. He, as this man, sends His Servant further in order to spread the invitation, "Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city" (v.21) and later, "Go out into the highways and hedges" (v.23). This demonstrates to us that God's offer of grace is still available to man. These men who are now bidden are characterised by four things, the first of which is that they are poor, they have realised that they have not got anything that God can accept. Isaiah says, "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isa.64:6). For thousands of years there has been the view that you can earn your place in heaven by your good works, this started in Cain and is still prevalent today, but this ladder to heaven is too short, man has to realise that he cannot earn his place in heaven. Secondly we find that they are maimed, this means that we cannot stand before God in our natural condition, we have been born in sin and we have ourselves sinned, and therefore we are maimed or crippled before God. You do not physically see this so often in the West but two weeks ago I was in Romania and there you can see such men, over here these things are normally corrected in a medical way but in those countries you can see people who are crippled, the natural man cannot stand before God. Thirdly it says they are lame, they cannot walk; it is our ways also that cannot please God. Finally, they are blind, we do not have any light in our natural state and we must come to the Lord Jesus in order to get light from Him. It is people, characterised by these four things, that come to the Lord Jesus. We see this is a picture in connection with David, everyone who had a problem went to David at the cave of Adullum (1 Sam.22:1-2). The servant is further told to "Go out into the highways and hedges". On the Continent there are some believing gypsies, I know some of them and they apply this verse to themselves. I was very happy when I heard this from them.
Now I want to comment on two phrases. The first one is at the end of verse 22, "yet there is room". This is still true today, there is room in heaven, but it is possible that there is only one place left. When the church is complete the Lord Jesus will come and therefore we ask you tonight if you have not yet confessed your sins to God, if you have not believed in the Lord Jesus, do it today. I do not know if there will still be room tomorrow.
The second phrase is at the end of verse 23, "that my house might be filled". God "is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet.3:9), this will of God is not His counsel, but it is His wish because there is also the responsibility of men, "whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev.22:17). So if somebody has accepted this offer of grace, if he has followed this invitation to this meal he will be invited to another meal. This is what we read in 1 Corinthians 11.
The Lord's Supper
"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me." (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
For us as Christians there are two important material signs, or ordinances, one is baptism and the other is the Lord's supper. These two signs speak of two spheres of being a Christian. Being a true Christian means that you walk with and follow the Lord Jesus, this is what baptism stands for. Christianity also means to walk a way together with others, this is related to the Lord's supper, the breaking of bread is a thing we do together in a fellowship. Everything God has given us has two sides, there is the side of privilege and there is the side of responsibility, this is true also of the Lord's supper. There are many believers who only want one side, the side of privilege, and do not want to accept any responsibility. I hope that you are not like that here.
The breaking of bread has two important aspects, one of which is the Lord's table (1 Cor.10), the common privileges and responsibilities of a common thing. What is in view with the Lord's supper in 1 Cor.11 is the personal privileges and responsibilities of this common matter. Keeping this in mind will help us to understand the two sides of the breaking of bread. For me it is a great joy that with every common matter on our common way there is always a personal aspect, a very personal joy. When we are together for the breaking of bread this is a common thing, but I can attend with a very personal joy if I also take on the personal responsibility. This is my wish for you. If somebody wants to take part in the breaking of bread then there is a joint responsibility of the local meeting (1 Cor.10 teaches this), but then in 1 Cor.11 we are told how we participate personally, there it is not a question of breaking bread or not, but it is a question of how we do it. Once we understand this we will receive a lot of blessing from this chapter.
The apostle Paul had received from the Lord what he communicated now. The Lord communicated this twice, once when He was together with His disciples on the earth, when Paul was not present, and then again He communicated it directly to Paul from heaven, this is what we find here. The purpose of these verses is to bind us to the Lord Jesus and His work, and the Scriptures remind us here of the night in which the Lord Jesus was betrayed into the hands of unrighteous men, this terrible hour of man and the power of darkness (Luke 22:53). It was on this very night that He drew his disciples to Him and they broke bread together, the Lord Jesus giving thanks.
We have two very simple things before us, the bread and the cup. With God all great things are simple, and we see this with these two signs which can be found in all countries. They stand before us separated from each other and this speaks of the death of the Lord. We do this in remembrance of the Lord Jesus. It is not a reminder of our conversion, although sometimes one might have this impression when we are together for the breaking of bread because, of course, on this occasion we are allowed to give thanks that we have been converted, but we have not come together to think of ourselves but of the Lord Jesus. This word remembrance in the German language is a little weak, it is not just a matter of thinking of the Lord, it is a matter of thinking of Him in a worshipping way, and as we eat of the bread and drink of the cup we show forth the Lord's death. I share with many a great admiration of Martin Luther, but here in this verse he gave a wrong translation. He said when we eat this bread and drink this cup we should show forth the Lord's death, and this is still the wording even in the revised version. This has had important consequences, it is the reason why men have connected a sermon with the breaking of bread, but it is rather by the action of eating the bread and drinking the cup that we "show forth the Lord's death". To whom do we show it? Firstly, we show God. God always looks from heaven to earth and here in London He sees many people who are at enmity with the Lord Jesus and even more who are indifferent towards Calvary, but then He sees some who do not pass by in an indifferent way but who on every Lord's day show forth the Lord's death. This is a joy for His heart. How long should we show forth the Lord's death? "Until he comes", and when He comes then there will be another meal, the marriage supper of the Lamb.
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God." (Rev.19:7-9)
Before the marriage supper of the Lamb can take place the Lord Jesus first has to come for the church, this rapture is the essential Christian hope. Many believers are fascinated by Jerusalem and are really bound up with what is happening in Israel and I was once asked if I would like to travel to Israel at some time, and I replied, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29). This is not the essential Christian hope, we do not want to forget this. The essential Christian hope is to wait for the Lord Jesus at the Rapture. Then another two things have to happen, one on earth and one in heaven. One is that the false church has to be put away and that will happen on the earth, but a second thing has to happen, we have to be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ, and that will happen in heaven.
I would like to say something about the judgment seat of Christ. There are two important principles, firstly this seat is the place of light and secondly it is the place of recompense, this is true for us when we stand before this judgment seat. From that moment onward we will see everything with the eyes of the Lord Jesus, everything we have done in our life will be made manifest in His light. There are many believers who are afraid of this moment, but I am not afraid, I long for this day, but it does fills me with reverence.
What I long for is to be brought to a state of complete conformity with the Lord's mind, then I will be able to see the whole measure of grace which has saved me out of this world, which has carried me on my way on this earth and which has brought me into the glory. But also for us believers it is the place of recompense, it is not a matter of giving or receiving recompense for any evil that we have done, another One has received this on our behalf, the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. We will in fact receive the recompense for any good that we have done, if God in His grace was able to work anything in our lives then there will be recompense for this. "His wife has prepared herself" at the place of light and "it was granted to her", this is at the place of recompense. Here again we see these two great principles of the judgment seat of Christ. The recompense here is the marriage robe. At a wedding the bride will have a beautiful dress and this is right, but what does the bride's wedding dress express, what is it there for? When I got married 28 years ago my bride had a beautiful white dress and as we went through the crowd together I heard a voice saying, 'Max was lucky, he has married such a lovely bride'. The wedding dress extols the glory of the bridegroom. Now we want to understand this in a spiritual way. If we are faithful on the earth and the Lord can give us a recompense at the judgment seat then this will also contribute to the glorification of the Lord. Does not this give us incentive to be faithful to Him? When I will stand before my Saviour at the judgment seat of Christ, will He have to be silent because I was not faithful, or will He be able to say to me "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Matt.25:21)?
We read here of those who have been invited to the wedding supper, this cannot be the bride, the bride is not invited to attend the wedding but without her the wedding cannot take place. Many expositors have said that these probably are the Old Testament saints who will be present at this marriage. In Hebrews 11 we have recorded the faithfulness of some of these Old Testament saints, and we marvel at their faithfulness. They will be present at the marriage and will see the exalted position of the bride, the assembly, they will greatly rejoice at the sight of the exalted position we have. They will also see whether we have been faithful to the Lord Jesus, and if we have they will rejoice. Despite this it is not the marriage supper of the bride, nor is it the marriage supper of the Lamb and the bride, but it is the marriage supper of the Lamb. Finally, it is only the Lord Jesus who is before our eyes and what He has done at Calvary where He suffered in such a terrible way in order to save men out of this terrible world and to give them this exalted position. We will surround our Saviour and see His hands with the marks of the nails and we will worship Him in eternity. This is our blessed hope.
"The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear bridegroom's face;
I will not gaze at glory,
But on my King of grace;
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His pierced hand:
The Lamb is all the glory
of Immanuel's land."