Father God, prepare us to receive Your call to obedience as an invitation.
As we have moved through the weeks of obedience, I have recognized something in me. I have a bad attitude when it comes to obedience. God revealed my attitude is a direct reflection of my seeing obedience as something required of me. And frankly, I don’t like imposed requirements. I see these requirements as something to get away from… something to be free of. Oh, the rebellion it creates in me.
I’ve been asking myself, “Where does this come from?” The simple answer, “I’m a Pharisee.” I’ve reduced obedience to a list of rules instead of a relationship. I pile rule upon rule and forget none of it matters without relationship.
So a couple of weeks ago I began to see obedience as an invitation. An invitation into relationship with God and others. He is leading me to a new place of freedom… the freedom to obey.
What about you? How is your attitude when it comes to obedience? Did you have any new revelation about your attitude through the spiritual discipline this week?
Did you take a Time Out this week? Why? What impact did it have on your day? Your attitude?
This week we looked at the parable Jesus told about the wedding feast.
Read Matthew 22:1-10
Let’s start with a little historical background about weddings at the time Jesus told this parable.
First of all, the father of the groom made arrangements for the marriage in conjunction with the father of the bride. The marriage contract was established and the father of the groom paid the agreed upon price for his son’s bride. After the covenant was established, the son returned to the father’s house to make a place for himself and his bride.
The father of the groom was primarily in charge of the process. Jewish weddings during Jesus’s day didn’t have an exact date and time on which they took place. The groom’s father determined when the time was right based on the preparations the son made for his bride-to-be. The son didn’t know the date. The bride-to-be didn’t know. She maintained a constant state of anticipation and preparation. Once the day arrived, the groom’s coming was preceded by a shout so she could finish up last minute details. She underwent a ritual cleansing prior to the wedding ceremony. Then a private wedding ceremony took place, after which the groom took the bride into the bridal chamber to consummate their marriage.
Finally, it was time for the marriage feast. This was when those who had been invited were called to come. There was no RSVP to return for wedding feasts in Jesus’s day. Those who knew they would be called also had to be prepared to drop what they were doing on short notice to come and celebrate the newlyweds.
This parable Jesus told compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a king’s wedding feast for his son. Let’s look at those involved. When talking about the Kingdom of Heaven, who represents who in the parable?
Who is the king?
Who is the son?
Who are the first called?
The Jewish people; God’s chosen (Deuteronomy 7:6). When the king sent his servants to call the invited, the original language reflects calling those who are called. It’s a double calling. They were the ones chosen to be called. Perhaps, they represent those specifically called into the priesthood or teachers of the law. The devout Jews.
Who are the slaves or servants?
The prophets, the last of which was John the Baptist who was ignored by most of the Jewish religious leaders. Or in a post-resurrection interpretation of the parable it could be the apostles.
How do you interpret Jesus’s parable of the Kingdom of Heaven with this information in mind?
God called the called, the Jewish leaders and people, to the wedding feast for His Son, Jesus. But they, over the many years of relationship with God, paid no attention to the prophets sent to prepare them for the feast. They actually abused and killed many of those God sent to call them to celebrate the Son and His Bride.
After the King decided the “called called” were unworthy to attend and the banquet hall was still empty, He sent his servants out to the “main highways” (NASB) to gather anyone willing to come. Who do you think these people are on the main highways? Who do they represent?
The ones on the main highway are those walking the world’s way. The ones on the broad road leading to destruction (Matthew 7:13). The Gentiles. The lost Jews, those living outside the law like the tax collectors and prostitutes. These are the ones gathered, both good and evil, to celebrate the wedding of the Son.
One of the exercises in the study this week asked us to consider who we are in this parable. Who are you? Or did you find yourself standing in more than one of the character’s shoes?
In my past, I rejected the call, paid no attention to it. Self-righteous. Proud. I avoided church because it was full of hypocrites.
I was also among those on the main highway, going the world’s way. I received an unexpected invitation sitting in an ICU waiting room. An invitation which totally captured my heart and changed the course of my life.
Now, I identify most with the servants sent to gather people, but mostly being ignored…
It seems odd for the king to send his servants to call anyone who would come to the wedding feast of his son, because an invitation to a wedding implies some sort of relationship. It’s personal. Intimate. The relationship may be casual as in a business acquaintance or it may be a longtime friend, but we don’t invite just anyone to our child’s wedding.
From a Kingdom of Heaven perspective, what relationship do those on the main highway have with the King?
Creator to created. We are all related to Him in one way or another, we just might not acknowledge it.
The invitation to the wedding feast in the Kingdom of Heaven implies relationship with the King and His Son. The response of the calling of the called or even the ones on the highway reflects the relationship between the King and those called and their willingness to obey and drop what they are doing to celebrate the Son.
Read Matthew 4:18-20
What did Jesus call Peter and Andrew to do?
He invited them to: Follow Me.
An invitation to follow means so much more than just shadowing someone in their work. It was how the rabbis invited chosen students to be their disciples. They would say: Follow me.
The invitation to follow includes: acquaintance, attendance, and apprenticeship. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume)
To follow Jesus as a disciple is to first become acquainted with Him.
acquaint – 1. to cause to know personally 2.to make familiar: cause to know firsthand
—Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Ed.
Follow Me is an invitation to get up close and personal. To become acquainted or familiar with all His ways. This is not stalking. This is an invitation into relationship.
For the first disciples, it was an invitation to attend to Him. To serve Him, help Him in His work by seeing to His needs. For example, the disciples left Him at the well in Samaria to get Him food because He was tired. There was also a group of women who followed Him and supported His ministry financially.
Follow Me is also includes an invitation to accompany Him as an apprentice. Those who follow are preparing to work with Him. Jesus invites us to hear all He has to say and become equipped to preach the good news He teaches us along the way.
Following Him begins with knowing Him, becoming acquainted with Him. Where did you first meet Jesus? Not where did you first hear about Him, but what was your first personal experience with Him? When did you hear Him say, Follow Me?
I remember hearing Jesus call in my early teens. I often prayed and read His word in those days. As I entered high school and then college, my relationship became more about following the rules I thought would get me into heaven. The more I tried to follow the rules… the less relationship I had with God. By the time I entered my early twenties I was doing life my own way.
I’ll never forget the moment I sat in my car tears streaming down my face. My marriage was in trouble and I was tired. I intended to give up and follow my own way once more. As I started the car God spoke to me.
“You’ve been doing it your way for some time now and it hasn’t been working. Why not try another way… My way.”
It was an invitation to follow Him.
I became acquainted with Him in the ICU room waiting room I mentioned earlier, through my mom’s words conveyed to me through my brother.
It may sound like I only heard about Him, but spiritually He revealed Himself to me through her words: I trust. I trust.
This was when I heard the invitation to follow Him.
What was Peter and Andrew’s response to Jesus’s call?
They immediately left their nets. Following Jesus is a full-time occupation. It requires separating ourselves to diligent attendance of Him. These fishermen left their jobs, what have you left behind in order to follow Him?
When I was young I would often think about my future and what I wanted it to be like. I dreamed of being an Aggie… a wife… a mother. The choices I made were focused on these three goals. And by the age of twenty, all I had left on my dream list was to be a mother. I was determined… I was proud… and I was a total a mess. Because even though I accomplished my goals, nothing about my life looked like I thought it would.
As I began to follow Jesus, and not a list of rules, the main thing I had to leave behind were my dreams for me. The laying down and surrender was painful at times. But I knew I couldn’t follow me and Him at the same time.
How is it different for us to follow Him, then it was for Peter and Andrew?
Remember, they were still under the old covenant. They were still in the external phase of relating to God even though Jesus was in the process of moving it to the internal. So, how does following Him look for Believers today? How do we become acquainted with Him? attend Him? apprentice alongside Him?
The more we follow Him around, spiritually speaking, attending to Him in the Word, and prayer, and obedience, a relationship builds. And the closer we become to Jesus by following Him, the more personal the call becomes. The more personal the obedience.
This is not the only time Peter received a call to follow Jesus.
In John 21:1-14 we find Peter and several of the disciples have returned to fishing. This occurred after Jesus revealed Himself to them. Jesus met them in the room, breathed Holy Spirit into them and disappeared again (John 20:19-21). They had no way of knowing what to do next, and so they returned to what they knew… fishing.
While they were fishing, Jesus showed up on the shore. Following Jesus’s command they hauled a large amount of fish into the boat and Peter recognized Him. It was a beautiful reunion made complete with the breaking of bread… and fish.
Read John 21:15-19 to hear the conversation between Peter and Jesus.
What question did Jesus ask Peter over and over?
What did Jesus reveal to Peter about his final days on earth?
Look at John 21:19 again. What did Jesus say?
Jesus revealed once more His call to Peter. And we will soon see Peter becomes the leader of the first body of Believers… the first church. Peter had the gifts and talents for this call God placed on his life, but it didn’t happen instantly.
God has given each of us gifts and talents to serve Him and others. He continues to invite us and when we respond in obedience, the gifts and talents we have are perfected through Him. Often we find ourselves freely serving in a way we never imagined.
I used to spend lots of time and energy wondering if I was doing what God called me to do. I would hear His leading and then begin to manufacture the way to get there. I birthed lots of Ishmaels in those days. I know now what I heard was God’s leading, it’s how I went about bringing it to pass that was the problem.
I see it differently now. When I respond to His invitation in obedience, I inch closer to the place He is calling me to. Pretty soon I find myself looking around and thinking, “How did this happen? How did I get here?” When we hear Jesus’s call to follow, He doesn’t give us a list of things to do with a promise to return when we finish. Instead He leads us one moment at a time until we get there.
I wonder if Peter looked around one day as he was leading the church and thought, “OOOOHHH… this is what Jesus meant by “Feed my sheep”.
All God is inviting us to do is take daily steps to follow Him. And He is more than willing to do His share of the work.
Read Matthew 11:28-30
Who is Jesus inviting in this Scripture?
This week we looked up the definition of yoke. What did you discover?
What does this yoke signify Jesus is inviting us to do?
Jesus invites us into relationship and to work alongside Him to bring God’s kingdom to others. Building His kingdom is His job and never ours alone. Becoming weary or burdened is a sure indication we are trying to do His stuff or our stuff without Him.
The relationship Jesus calls us into is even deeper than a working relationship. It is a love relationship. One of the Jewish traditions of the betrothal process we left out earlier was how the young man proposed to the young woman after their fathers agreed to a marriage contract.
…the young man would pour a cup of wine for his beloved and wait to see if she drank it. The cup represents a blood covenant. If she drank the cup she would have accepted the proposal and they would be betrothed. The young man would then give gifts to his beloved, and then take his leave. …
— Jewish Weddings, http://www.aish.com/ligeracy/lifecycle/Guide_to_the_Jewish_Wedding.asp
When Jesus poured the cup for the disciples at the last supper and said, Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:29), He was inviting us into a covenant relationship of love. And the Father was making the way for the Son to have a Bride.
Next week we look at the final part of obedience: An Act of Love.
Lord, teach me to follow You with a joyful heart of obedience.
Click the link for a PDF of the homework: Going Deeper – Week 20 – Obedience – An Act of Love