I grew up attending a very legalistic church where we were not permitted to go to the movies, play cards, or dance. In other words, as a teenage male it appeared to me if I did anything beyond breathing I was sinning, and of course going to hell. Thankfully those days are behind me, but I’m alarmed at how many people I have met over the years who had a similar introduction to the christian faith as I.
That is why I find the exchange recorded in Luke 5:27-30 between Jesus and some religious leaders so interesting. Here is what it says:
After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet (PARTY) 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?”
In other words, if you’re so godly, why do you party so much? This is kind of humorous as you realize the religious leaders are sarcastically accusing God that he’s not godly enough. You can’t make this stuff up.
Luke continues — Some people said to Jesus, “The disciples of John fast often and pray frequently. The disciples of the Pharisees do the same, but your’ disciples are always eating and drinking.” In other words Jesus you and your boys are having too much fun! Don’t you know God is not a fun God! Jesus replied, “You can’t make the wedding guests fast while the groom is with them, can you? The days will come when the groom will be taken from them, and then they will fast.”
I love Jesus’ response. He gives them the illustration of a wedding feast, the greatest celebration in Jewish culture. A celebration of dancing, drinking, laughing, playing cards, feasting. Jesus responds to the religious leaders, it’s not me who has missed the point, it is you! You think following God is about keeping a bunch of rules, and long faces, being miserable, and skipping McDonalds for lunch. Jesus says I have come to change all that. I’m the PARTY MESSIAH! I’ve come to show you how to have a good time. His actual words were, I have come to give you abundant life. I’m here to show you that following God can be a BIG PARTY!
Surely we need to pray, and there are times I feel led to fast; but as I follow Jesus around in the Gospel I find him spending much of his time having a good time with others. So I say, get rid of your long religious face, and let’s get this party started!