It is hard to be satisfied deep within. Psychologists call this the empty self. There is within most of us a dissatisfaction. We seek to fill that with consumer goods or with food, hobbies, vacations or thrills. Sometimes we seek to fill that inner longing with addictive behaviors.
We can also seek fulfillment by accomplishing great tasks, with making money, or with watching a TV show. How do you seek fulfillment in your life?
No doubt all of those things do fill the empty self for a time. But only for a time. What we notice is that the dissatisfaction comes back. Over and over it comes back. And we seek to fill it over and over.
My wife, Michelle, and I got new smart phones last year. Within a couple months the newer model of the phone came out, and all of a sudden my new phone felt old…obsolete. I felt within my heart a desire to get the new one. I felt upset that I didn’t know the newer one was coming out so soon. I started to think that maybe I needed to go to the store and ask for a refund, thinking that they should have told me. I would have waited to get the newer one. But I decided not to go through all that trouble. Now almost a year later, guess what? Another newer model has just been released! Now my phone is two versions old. And those feelings of dissatisfaction have started rising up inside me again.
There is an answer to this ongoing sense of empty self. The banquet of the Lord. How can a banquet answer our deepest longings of our soul? Let’s talk about that.
Jesus told the Parable of the Banquet while he was at a Pharisee’s house for dinner. In the parable he says that the first set of guests were too busy to come to the banquet. They said no. So the master sends his servant to invite a second, then a third, set of guests, so that he can fill up his banquet hall with rejoicing. In the parable Jesus is teaching that some people reject God’s invitation, and for a variety of reasons. But God wants all and invites all to his banquet. What we learn about God’s invitation will help us answer how God’s banquet can fulfill our deepest longings.
On Easter we remember the resurrection. It is the clearest invitation from God that there is! Let me explain.
When Jesus died on the cross, he took upon himself what was keeping us from being invited to the banquet feast. Our sin, our disobedience of God, was keeping us apart from God and fueling the empty self. Jesus took that sin on himself because he loves us, because he knew we could never make ourselves right, we could never invite ourselves to the banquet, and he defeated that sin. On that first Easter morning, in the amazing power of God, he defeated death, he defeated the devil, and when he rose to new life, he opened up the doors to God’s banquet feast for all of us. His resurrection is an invitation to us all from God saying, “You are invited to my banquet!”
When you look at the invitation God has given you to enter into his banquet, there is only one way to accept the invitation, by faith.
One of Jesus’ earliest followers, Paul, had something to say about the invitation to the banquet, especially because he was one of the ones that was against Jesus. Paul was the kind of guy who would be going around trying to keep people away from the banquet.
Paul actually was one of those Pharisees. And in the first couple years after Jesus returned to heaven, and Jesus’ followers were inviting more and more people to God’s Kingdom banquet, Paul stepped in and said “STOP!” In fact he started rounding them up, sending them to jail, even trying to kill some.
Until Jesus spoke to Paul in a miraculous voice saying “Paul why are hurting me? I have an invitation for you. I want you in my banquet. I also want you to be the servant who goes out all around the world inviting people to my banquet. My house is nowhere near full.” From that point on Paul spent his life traveling the Roman Empire inviting people to God’s banquet.
In one of his letters, Paul talks about this. He reflects on the fact that he was one of the guests who was invited first, but turned down the invitation. But now he not only accepted the new invitation, he is giving his who life to telling others:
“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Paul would go on to say that this resurrection of Jesus is an amazing thing. The power the rose Jesus from the dead is available to us. Talk about an invitation to a banquet! Paul says in another letter:
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.”
You see what this means? God’s invites you to his banquet today. It’s not a banquet of food. Instead it is an invitation to receive him, to follow him, and allow him to transform your life with his power. Do you feel the emptiness in you? The empty self? Accept God’s invitation and allow his resurrection power to flow into your life. It’s a banquet to a new life. Not to a perfect life, not necessarily to a life of earthly blessings, not to a life where it is promised that life will be easy or that life will be as we think it should be. But when we feast at God’s Banquet table, it is a life loved by God, a life of community with other followers of Christ where we love and care for one another. Through God’s Banquet, in other words, he meets our deepest longings.
When we accept God’s invitation, we are inviting him to transform our lives. At God’s banquet table we find the only place that our empty selves find fulfillment.
I’d love to talk with you further about how to RSVP to God’s Banquet invitation.