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A Seat for the Betrayer

Still so many things we could talk about – But I’ve decided to talk about dinner.

Cadre – how I would walk into a room where I didn’t know anybody and nobody knew me.

Reminded me of being in school, Walking with a tray – trying to find a seat in a sea of people you don’t know.

Biggest Pants. When I was in school, the kids with the biggest pants won. And that’s not a euphemism, literally, the biggest pants. Kids are awkward.

The cool table

There was always a cool table. And there still is always a cool table.

And the thing about the cool table is this: If you ARE sitting at it, you won’t be sitting there for long. And there will always be a cooler table. Just so you know.

Most of us know something about walking around awkwardly with the tray, not knowing where you belong, not know who you fit in with, hoping someone will invite you to their table, hoping someone will include you.

The interesting thing is I bet most of us have been on the planet long enough to experience sitting at a table with someone that we didn’t want at the table.

Teppan Grill I feel like that’s my biggest issue with those ‘teppan grill’ chinese places. I don’t want to eat dinner with strangers.

My point: Table fellowship is a big deal.

There’s something sacred about dinner – Not you cramming a Double Big Mac into your face in your car.

There’s something primal about sharing a meal with someone where you’re sitting there, eyeball-to-eyeball.

There’s something very human about it. We all need food. And you can only look so nice when you eat.

Something in act of sharing a meal that kinda puts us all on the same playing field. Kinda levels us out.

So it makes sense then why the primary scandal of Jesus’s ministry is the people that he chooses to have table fellowship with.

It’s odd, that for all the things he did that we find offensive and shocking. More than anything he taught, more than any miracle, it was this “That guy will eat with anybody.” He will share a table with ANYBODY.

So this accusation keeps coming up: Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?

1st Century Jewish culture — Class System HUGE.

Forbidden: mingle w/sinners outside – law.

Beggars – Tax collectors – Prostitutes.

When Jesus ate w/ Zacchaeus (Tax Collector) – Why: such hostility.

It would be impossible to overestimate the impact these meals must have had upon the poor and the sinners. By accepting them as friends and equals Jesus had taken away their shame, humiliation, and guilt. By showing them that they mattered to him as people he gave them a sense of dignity and released them from their old captivity. The contact he had with them at the table made them feel clean and acceptable. Moreover, because Jesus was looked upon as a man of God and a prophet, they would have interpreted his friendship as God’s approval of them. They were now acceptable to God. Their sinfulness, ignorance, and uncleanness had been overlooked and were no longer being held against them.

It meant peace, acceptance, reconciliation, and brotherhood.

“For Jesus this table fellowship with those whom the religious had written off was not just an expression of tolerance and humanitarianism. It was the expression of his mission and message: peace and reconciliation for all, without exception, even for the moral failures.” (Albert Nolan Theologian “Jesus before Christianity”)

Matthew 22:2-14

“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. (Matthew 22:2)

He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. (Matthew 22:3)

“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ (Matthew 22:4)

“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. (Matthew 22:5)

The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. (Matthew 22:6)

The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. (Matthew 22:7)

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. (Matthew 22:8)

So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ (Matthew 22:9)

So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. (Matthew 22:10)

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. (Matthew 22:11)

He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. (Matthew 22:12)

“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 22:13)

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)


  • A king gives a wedding feast for his son.
  • He sends his servants to call on all those invited, but they wouldn’t come.
  • He sends more servants our to tell them that a great feast has been prepared.
  • They ignore the invitation and went about their daily business.
  • SOME even seized the servants and beat them and killed them.
  • The king is furious and he sends his troops to kill the murderers and burn their city.
  • So again he sends servants to the street gathering all who were found there, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled.
  • When the King came to see the guests, one man was not wearing ‘wedding clothes’.
  • The King asked him “How did you get in here without wedding clothes?”
  • The man has no answer and the king gets his servants to bind the man and throw him out

Ok, so what’s happening here?

Jesus first comes to the jews.

But a day is coming and is not far from here where that invitation is going to be opened up to all people.

The original guests who don’t come represent the jews (AKA God’s chosen people) who rejected Jesus.

The new people that are invited – (the good as well as the bad) represents EVERYONE who is now invited to the Lord’s table.

So then the weird part where there’s the man who isn’t wearing ‘wedding clothes’ and is thrown out into the darkness represents a man who comes to God, but on his own terms, not God’s terms. – “I want to come to you, but I’m not willing to change.”

Here’s what I want to talk about tonight: his invitation goes out to all these people and there’s these people that are basically too cool to come. They have too many other important things to do, so they can’t make it.

And so, the invitation goes out to all these people who are notorious sinners, profoundly broken.

In fact, when Luke tells this story he says : ‘Bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

In fact, it would seem that their brokenness doesn’t disqualify them from coming, it seems to be the thing that qualifies them. Go out and find any straggler you can on the road and compel them over here. – I want them to be with me.

My big idea: Everyone is invited to the table. But it’s so easy to believe that in theory, and live our life as if it’s not true.

That’s the interesting thing, I’ve thought about the table of God that we’re invited to, it doesn’t matter how broken or imperfect you are, it doesn’t matter what kind of sin you’ve committed, or how many times you’ve done it. There’s nobody that’s excluded from this invitation.

But ironically, the reason a lot of people can’t bring themselves to the table is because to come to the table at all is an acknowledgment that you are broken and in need of Jesus.

It means you’re associating with all these other imperfect people. You have to admit to the ways you’re imperfect yourself. That you’re broken yourself. And for lots of us, we don’t want to be named in that group.

We don’t like the kind of fellowship that comes to the Lord’s table. We all have people we don’t like to be associated with.

“I’m just glad I don’t have to eat with people like THAT.”

When in reality, we’re every bit was broken as they are. We have just as many issues as they do. But our issues don’t bother us the way that their issues bother us. And so we’re still choosy.

Like: Jesus is inviting you to his table.

  • “Oh cool! What time?”
  • “7:30”
  • “7:30. Cool cool…. Who else is gonna be there?”

(Show me the guest list first. So I can decide if it’s cool for me to come or not.)

We’re uncomfortable being included with people at the margins, with people who are broken b/c it means we have to acknowledge that we’re broken too.

I’ve always liked that story about how Jesus invited everybody. It’s the perfect example of broken, imperfect, liars, misfits – invited to the table just the same as everybody.

But what has really struck me this week is just how far that invitation extends.

You read this story in Matthew 22 it’s a nice, theoretical story. But by the time you get to Matthew 26, that table is real. The meal is real.

Shame “Last Supper” It’s a shame to call it the Last Supper. In many ways it’s the first supper, the first of millions and millions and millions of these suppers.

Matthew 26:26-30

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26)

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. (Matthew 26:27)

This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Matthew 26:28)

I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29)

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:30)

Here’s my question: What does it mean for Judas, the betrayer, to be included in this supper?

This story is in Luke and John also, Luke’s in the longest, and there it’s fairly clear that Judas takes part in the meal.

That’s contested. There’s some traditions that find it very important to say that Judas did NOT partake in this meal. – B/C it provides a good theological reason for why YOU can’t receive this meal, unless you are a member of our church.

BUT – within the text, it’s pretty clear that Judas is part of the supper. So what does it mean for the betrayer to have a seat at the table?

  • Matthew 22 – We find out that the kingdom feast is open to all kinds of people, including the poor, the crippled, the lame, the people who were rejects in society.
  • But then we move to Matthew 26 – it’s much more radical when you see this actually put into practice.

The offer is extended not only to people who society has decided are unworthy, but is extended even to the one who betrayed Jesus.

I know there’s a lot of complexity about Judas that I could never sort out in one message, or 10 messages, and everyone’s gonna have a different opinion about.

I believe Judas had the opportunity to come back to God at any point.

Peter denied Jesus 3 times, do you really think Judas is that much worse? They both betrayed Jesus.

The thing about Judas that was so tragic, is that he in his brokenness, just cannot receive the forgiveness that’s extended to him. He can’t fathom it.

One of the most heartbreaking words – Here’s why I believe the forgiveness of God was extended to Judas all the way to the end. One simple word: in the garden of gethsemane, when the guards come to get Jesus, Judas is with them. There’s a whole system worked out, “Judas, you kiss the man, so we know who it is.” And so Judas comes up and kisses Jesus and Jesus responds in a way that is so incredible: “Friend, do what you’ve come here to do.”

I don’t think Jesus is being sarcastic here. I think it’s one of the most heartbreaking words in the whole bible.

Even to the person who betrayed him, Jesus is still extending the word of friendship. Even the person who would appear to be his greatest enemy.

I believe when Jesus said ‘Father forgive them, they know not what they do.’ I believe that included Judas.

But Judas could not receive it. And sadly, we know Judas will be filled with regret and despair and go out and kill himself. B/C unlike Peter, Judas could not comprehend a God who would offer him a seat at the table.

A lesson from Judas: The first tragedy is to commit sin, the second is not to believe in forgiveness. The second is worse than the first.

And I see this as a pastor all the time. People who know God is inviting them, they feel that and still they can’t receive the fellowship that he gives for free.

Point: “It’s not that God isn’t inviting us, it’s that we refuse to come.”

We can’t comprehend it. It’s too much. It’s our own shame that keeps us away.

Brief comment – 1st Corinthians

People use these few verses to say that people who are not professing Christians shouldn’t receive communion, which is, hear me, nonsense.

1 Corinthians 11:26-29

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 11:27)

Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. (1 Corinthians 11:28)

For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:29)

What Paul is describing here is people who were coming to church, and when it was time for the Lord’s supper, they wanted to come and get hammered on the communion wine. – They didn’t take it seriously, they just wanted to drink. That is how they were coming to the Lord’s table ‘in an unworthy manner’.

They came to the table and they didn’t remember what it meant, they didn’t care about the sacrifice of Jesus. They were receiving it in a unworthy manner.

Problem was not that they were too immoral. B/C I’ve got news for you friend: No one is moral enough.

You think you’re worthy? You’re not. I’m not. That’s the whole idea. The unworthiness is in how they were receiving the supper, not that they weren’t holy enough.

Everyone who comes to the table is undeserving. / In desperate need of the kindness of God.

So here’s a question that I love to ask: Does God want people to get what they deserve? – No.

And that’s GOOD news. Especially for someone like you.

When someone gets not what they deserve but what they need, because of someones generosity, we could say “Oh, that’s how God would run things!”

If you struggle with this, a commend you, it means your being honest, because this isn’t how the world works. In fact, it’s the opposite of the world.

This is something that is so radical that Jesus has to tell it in a story, so we don’t instantly reject it.

As enemies / betrayed — Still invited.

He offers us the same meal. Despite everything we’ve done.

Awesome story – Acts.

There is a wonderful story in the book of acts. The Holy Spirit has shown up, the apostles are doing amazing stuff.

Funny how it always comes back to a table. – Always comes back to eating.

Peter is given a vision.

And he’s presented with a whole buffet of unclean food. Things that as a good jewish boy you were not allowed to eat. “According to the law.”

In vision: This buffet is laid out before him and God says : “Eat!” Peter says “I can’t eat this! Unclean!’

Resists God – name of…God.

“Don’t call unclean – called clean.”

And I think maybe you need to hear that. That we have a tendency to call something or someone (even ourselves) unclean when God is saying ‘They’re clean.’

Prepare – Communion

This is all I want you to get: No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how many times you’ve done it, and no matter how ashamed you feel, no matter how unworthy you feel, you have been invited to the table.

And you don’t have to clean up to come to the table. You don’t need to shower first.

What God wants from you is a simple: YES.

That YES that Judas couldn’t bring himself to give.

No reason – Ashamed / unworthy – Can’t come – table.

That’s why he died.

It’s precisely b/c we are so unworthy, it’s precisely because we are so imperfect. / Rebellious.

He offered his life so that we could come and have a seat at the table.

As they pass

Spend a minute thinking about this gift of life. You didn’t earn it, you don’t deserve it, it was a gift, and for it we’re eternally grateful.