Joy for the Party
Joy for the Party
Words of Faith 4-13-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
 Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
 They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking."
 Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?  But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast."
Frankly, Jesus and the disciples were having a good time. For some, it was too good of a time. They were still at the party thrown by Levi, the tax collector. Inside, with all of Levi's tax collector friends, there was a lot of joy. After all, people had been healed all around Capernaum.
At the party, there very likely was one fellow who used to have leprosy, telling the story of his healing. There was probably another fellow who used to be paralyzed and perhaps he was leading the dancing! People had been transformed. Others were hearing about Jesus for the first time.
But outside, there was criticism, first about mixing with sinners. Jesus had answered: Healthy people don't need doctors. But now there was more criticism. These religious people had come a long way to observe Jesus and even ask him some questions and this party was annoying to them. Religious people don't like such things. Matters of God are supposed to be very solemn and sad.
They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking." In simpler words? "You guys are having too much fun!"
One definition of a religious person might be "someone who doesn't want others to have fun." Real joy is often not understood by religious people who are looking primarily for ways to be offended.
Jesus gave a powerful answer. He answered as a teaching Rabbi. He answered with a question: "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast."
Jesus actually answered according to rabbinical tradition! A wedding was a highlight in the life of a village. It was a huge 7-day celebration. Invitations were sent in advance and then another invitation at the time of the wedding. Everything stopped for the celebration, even mourning! Rabbinical rulings provided that even if a required religious fast occurred during a seven day wedding celebration, the participants in the wedding celebration were released from any obligation to fast!
In other words, you don't go to a wedding feast wearing black clothes and offering condolences. You don't play a dirge and offer a mournful memorial speech. Weddings are a time for joy and celebration! The wedding itself was a release from mourning and somber observance.
Sadly, the spirit of religion wants to bring a sackcloth and ashes into every happy place. The spirit of religion wants to point out the ways that people have failed to meet the rules or the expectations and how they are not worthy of God. The spirit of religion wants to control and constrain.
Jesus knew that there would be times for mourning. Grief like they had never known. Good Friday was coming. Jesus could see that on the horizon. But for now, Jesus the Messiah-- the Bridegroom of God's people-- was with them. And it was a time to rejoice.
So what is Jesus trying to say to us?
I think Jesus was telling us a lot about what our fellowship and worship is to be like. Worship is like a wedding celebration and any time that the Bridegroom is with you it is a time to rejoice. This Kingdom of God is a wedding party. The gathered church is the Body Christ but it is also the Bride of Christ. It is a time to rejoice.
Are you ready to rejoice? We have been invited to a series of pre-nuptial celebrations leading up to the great Wedding Feast when the Bridegroom will come for His Bride. Celebrate this weekend with great joy!
Father, forgive me if I have come to your celebrations with a spirit of sadness. Fill me with the joy that overflows as the Bride of Christ anticipates the return of the Bridegroom. Nothing could be more joyous. In Jesus' name.