Party Time!

One of the greatest tragedies of modern Christianity is its image as being the religion of a bunch of somber, dour, legalists moaning and wailing their way through this life until we finally leave this “veil of tears” and fulfill our eternal destinies of sitting on clouds and playing harps through all eternity.


Frankly, a lot of people think we’re pretty boring.


Jesus, on the other hand, spent a lot of time talking about –and participating in– parties.


His very first miracle was turning water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. (John 2:1-11) In Jesus day, weddings typically lasted for five to seven days, and usually in the autumn after harvest was over and there was plenty to eat and drink. The cool nights also made it pleasant to stay up until all hours of the night eating and drinking. The entire village usually participated in the wedding. Their would be a procession, led by the bridegroom and accompanied by his friends, to the home of the bride’s father. Both the bride and the groom would be wearing particularly splendid clothing. Sometimes, the groom even wore a crown. There would be singing and dancing and games for days. It was considered a holiday for the entire village. 


Right after Jesus calls Levi the tax collector (Matthew) to be a disciple, he throws a banquet in honor of Jesus in his home. (Luke 5:29)


When Jesus called Zacchaeus (another tax collector) down out of the sycamore tree, Zacchaeus threw a party for Jesus in his home. (Luke 19: 1-10)


Jesus made a habit of this often enough that the “religious people” complained about it.


The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.” Matthew 11:19 (NLT)


And Jesus often spoke of a great feast in the Kingdom of Heaven:


And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 8:11 (NLT)


Matthew 22:1-14 and Luke 14:15-24 records Jesus’ parable of the Great Feast, where a great king holds a wedding feast for his son, but many refuse to come so he sends his servants out to gather anyone they could find to fill the banquet hall with guests.


The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, (Matthew 25:1-13) is about bridesmaids waiting for the groom coming to collect his bride for the wedding and the great celebration to come.


References to the party to come are not limited to the New Testament. The prophet Isaiah foretells of a great banquet:


On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines. Isaiah 25:6 (NIV)


And who can forget what David wrote in the Twenty-Third Psalm?


You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Psalm 23:5 (NLT)


But perhaps the clearest illustration of the festival to come is The Parable of the Prodigal Son. The prodigal, having wasted his inheritance on worthless self-destructive partying (Note the difference here, folks.) comes to his senses and returns to his father with a rehearsed speech about how badly he messed up, but his father is so overjoyed he doesn’t even let him finish the whole speech. He’s calling his servants to kill the fatted calf and dressing his son in the best he’s got while the son is still standing there trying to convince old dad to take him on as a slave. 


We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. Luke 15: 23b & 24 (NLT)


Now, a lot of us end the story there, but Jesus was telling this parable not just to the prodigals listening to Him, but also to a gaggle of party-killing Pharisees who stood criticizing Him. 


Jesus goes on to tell them about the old brother who was spitting-mad that this worthless younger brother was getting this great party while he had been the good kid his whole life and gotten nothing out of it. While great crowds were going in to celebrate the return and reform of the younger brother, the older brother was standing in the dark outside the party room door complaining about it and enjoying none of it. If it had been in his power, he probably would have prevented others from going in to that party. 


But his father did not apologize. He gently and lovingly explained why there was due and ample cause for a great and glorious and extravagant celebration:


“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” Luke 15: 31-32 (NLT)


Today’s Praise

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” Revelation 19:9 (NIV)

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