EASTER IMPACT (STOP. LOOK. LISTEN)
“Jesus replied: ‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ ‘But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ ‘Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ ‘Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ ‘Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.” Luke 14: 15-23
There was only one thing left to do as the master prepared the banquet. He had a perfect plan and nothing would keep him from seeing it through. The servant looked up to the master and asked, “should I go now?” And with tears in his eyes, the master nodded in agreement... “go.” With one word, the servant left to deliver his master’s invitation. He stepped out of a mansion of glory and into a world of darkness, extending his arms to welcome all of those with ears to hear the message. He knew his task quite well. There was so much work to be done and so little time to waste. We know the story of this servant well… He's the one we call Jesus- The one who led like a shepherd, died as a lamb and rose again as a Savior. This was the Master’s perfect plan, and through the passion of His servant-son, the gates to His dwelling place are now opened and the table of His banquet is set. The invitation by His Son was given when He spread His arms out on the cross. God, the Master, requests our presence (your presence) at His table. The great feast has been made ready and Jesus has gone back to save seats. So... where is everyone? Why are so few responding to the free invitation to an eternal party?
Sure, some are honored by the invite and they respond with gratitude. They RSVP on time and they plan to arrive promptly dressed in their best white robe. They’ve cleared their schedules because what could sound better than dining with the master? Still, so many seats remain empty at the table. The party seems sparse. Why? Because many who respond “yes,” choose to turn away and throw a party of their own and too many more have just found other things to do. They’ve grown distracted, busy and preoccupied and they've shoved their invitations in the back of the drawer.
Can we blame the Master for His displeasure? No. The door to His home is swung open wide, and He put so much effort into making the party perfect. He held no qualms sharing with us His riches and the sacrifices He made to do this were great and terrible, immense and immeasurable. We can’t just come late and expect a warm welcome. We also can’t join His party if we’ve chosen another. Wave off the invitation and the stipulations are clear... “not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.” Folks, don’t miss the party. Make the decision to dine with the Master and stay firm with your "yes" until you walk through the gate and take a seat.
I know where I want to be, and I’m going to stick by my decision. I checked off the “yes,” and mailed back my invitation already. I chose Jesus and I want to live a life that leaves nothing in the way of my seat at the table. It’s far too easy to respond to the invitation and then fix our eyes on busyness, distraction, complacency or selfishness. Those of us who answer the call and then turn away will never get a taste of God’s banquet.
Easter is here, and it’s a cause for celebration. The entry fee for our attendance has already been paid. Easter Sunday is the ignition switch that should light the fire of our faith again, but does it? Stop! Look! Listen! It’s the promise of God’s perfect plan made complete through the death and resurrection of His Son.
“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28: 1-10
Stop. Look. Listen. Read it and then read it again. His body? Gone! The stone? Rolled away! The tomb? Empty! Death? Defeated! Servant. Shepherd. Sheep and Savior! When was the last time that impressed you in the ways that it should? Do you understand the implications of what was done on your behalf? Do you realize the impact of what Jesus’ fulfilled promises should have on you right now? Do you grasp the magnitude of what He did to demonstrate His love and lead us to the table of the Master? Your soul is made safe and whole because of Him. Stop. Look. Listen. Refuse complacency. Be shaken. Be awakened by the awesome power of the God Most High!. Friends; believers; brothers and sisters; I implore you… do NOT treat the Easter Story as just another “Sunday School” lesson and don’t leave the story to just one day. Don't slap on your Sunday best, drag the family out to church, smile fondly at the scriptures, mumble out a few words of “up from the grave he arose,” and then meander back home to dye your eggs, eat some jelly beans and pop the ham in the oven. Instead, celebrate the life breathed into your soul and the redemption you've been given through Christ. Loudly and firmly respond, “YES,” to the Master’s invitation.
It’s not just a story. Jesus really came. Jesus really served and Jesus really healed with supernatural power. Jesus really died, for you, on a criminal’s cross with complete innocence, and Jesus really rose again to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. How can we not be wowed to the point of emotional exhaustion? How are we not shaken to our core? How can we (like the folks in our scripture) make excuses for why we can’t attend the Master’s banquet? What could possibly be so important that it calls your attention away from the Savior of mankind? Income? Power? Prestige? Praise? Happiness? Possessions? Image?
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2: 15- 17
Have you heard the Easter story? Well read it again. Stop. Look. Listen. Do you live like you’ve been saved? If your honest answer is no, then ask the Father to sift, mold and refine you. Plead for new eyes to see the glory of it all. Listen for the voice the speaks directly to your heart. If the weight of Easter's impact is easily shrugged off, you too will join the list of those who turn away from the Master’s invitation. Don’t do it. Perhaps you accepted the invitation long ago when Jesus seemed close enough, real enough or amazing enough to draw a quick response out of you. Now, you go to church on Sundays, but live the other six days of the week “plowing” the fields of your life, pre occupied and no longer entertained by the display of love shown by the King of heaven. Stop at the foot of the cross. Look at the man who hung in your place. Listen to His cry, “it is finished!” Stop at the tomb. Look at the angel and listen to his words, “He is not here; he is risen, just as he said.” Do you still want to taste the banquet? Then open your heart to the invitation and live according to the answer you give.
Because He lives, you can face tomorrow to find healing, peace and passion. Because He lives, the mysteries of the Gospel are made known to you. Because He lives, you’re enlightened by a supernatural perspective into the deep, wide and great love of God. Walk in the light and life of Jesus as He leads you to the banquet of the Master.