In the last lesson, we saw that Jesus got invited to dinner at the house of a chief Pharisee. Jesus healed a man sick with dropsy (edema). He also noticed how the guests maneuvered to get the best seat. He challenged them not to be so prideful and to take the lowest seat instead.
But that is not all that happened that day at the dinner. Jesus turned to the host and spoke directly to him:
Luke 14:12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
Luke 14:13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed [crippled], the lame, the blind: Luke 14:14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
The Pharisees were very much concerned about social status and etiquette. Accepting a dinner invitation meant that you owed the host something—some sort of recognition and repayment. A picture in the newspaper of the two of you shaking hands. He would be greatly offended if you just came and ate and then you didn’t give anything in return.
Jesus challenges this social notion by calling them to invite the kind of people who can’t pay them back. He challenges them to instead wait for their repayment at the end, at the resurrection. That causes one of them to blurt out a Jewish blessing about the coming kingdom—
Luke 14:15 And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.
Why does this person say this? Scholars are divided on whether he was being honest or devious. I don’t know. I am going to say that he was apparently expressing his hope in the messianic banquet that would take place when the Messiah came.
The man was seemingly excited, like all Jews should have been, to eat with the Messiah in the kingdom of God. Jesus’s point in the parable will be: are you really that excited for the Lord’s banquet? Here was the Messiah among them and yet they were rejecting Him (John 1:11)!
THE PARABLE OF THE BANQUET
Luke 14:16 Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper [banquet], and bade many:
In that culture, someone planning a banquet would send out two invitations. The first would be similar to our RSVP-type of invitation. You were supposed to accept or decline so that the host would know how much food to make: a goat, a sheep, or a calf.
There was no refrigeration in those days, so it was important that there be no leftovers. If a host cooked the fatted calf and only five people showed, it would be a big waste of food! So, if you were not going to attend, it was common courtesy to say so at this first invitation.
Luke 14:17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.
A second invitation was sent out when the banquet was actually about to begin. Now the animal was butchered and cooked. The plates were on the table. Let’s eat!
To say that you couldn’t come at this point would be a great offense because, first, you had already said you would come and that influenced how much food was made. Secondly, it would be a personal insult to the host. But in Jesus’s parable, this is exactly what happens.
Luke 14:18a And they all with one consent began to make excuse.
If the following excuses seem silly to you, that’s because they are. Jesus’s point in this parable is that there really is no rational excuse to reject an invitation to a free banquet. What this does is highlight the point that no one really has a good excuse to reject Jesus’s invitation of salvation.
1) The First Excuse
Luke 14:18b …The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.
Okay, why would he need to go see the land right at that moment? It would still be there the next day! Besides, no one would buy land without seeing it in the first place, so this is a nonsense excuse. It shows us that he was concerned most about material possessions.
2) The Second Excuse
Luke 14:19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove [test] them: I pray thee have me excused.
Again, this is nonsense. He would have already seen the oxen before buying them. Is he so in love with his oxen that he couldn’t wait until the next day to try them out?
Five yoke of oxen would indicate that this man was very wealthy (an average farmer might have one or two yoke of oxen). So, like with the first man, the person here is consumed with material concerns.
3) The Third Excuse
Luke 14:20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
At first glance, this one sounds almost reasonable. But is it? The Old Testament made an exemption from the military for a newly married man (Deuteronomy 20:7, 24:5), but that cannot be applied here. Here it seems that the man is only interested in his own pleasure.
Now, obviously, there were more than three people invited to this feast, these are just three of the kinds of excuses that people gave.
Now there’s a problem. The food is prepared, but there’s no one to eat it. It’s just going to go to waste. The host reverts to Plan B.
Luke 14:21 So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed [crippled], and the halt [lame, same Gk in verse 13], and the blind.
Remember who Jesus said they should invite to their dinner parties in verse 13? The poor and crippled and lame and blind! This is what the host decides to do—“quickly” because the food is getting cold! But we find out that they will not fill up the seats.
Luke 14:22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. Luke 14:23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
Who hides in hedges along the highways? Thieves and robbers, that’s who! These would have been the most unworthy to come to a banquet. It’s like inviting prisoners to a state dinner at the White House.
Why does the host say “compel” (anankazō)? This is a strong word that means to force or press someone to do something. We should not, however, take it to mean that God forces someone to be saved. We need to interpret it in the context of the parable—the food was getting cold—it was urgent that people come to the feast!
THE POINT OF THE PARABLE
Up to this point, the people were probably enjoying what seemed like another good story from Jesus. But in the last verse, Jesus makes the point clear:
Luke 14:24 For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.
This is a biting conclusion to the banquet parable (much pun intended): None of those who were originally invited will taste of the feast. Instead, it will be the people that the original invitees would have considered of the lowest class.
But there’s a change in tone in this verse that makes the application of the parable clear.
First, Jesus addresses the people at the Pharisee’s house directly when He says, “For I say unto you.” It’s clear that they are to take it as a direct application to themselves.
Notice how Jesus also makes it clear that the banquet that He had been talking about was, in fact, His banquet. Jesus calls it “my supper.” We aren’t told how the people reacted to the parable, but it would have been hard for them to miss the phrase, “my supper.” Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah—to eat with Him would be akin to being saved.
Let’s break down the parts of the parable:
First, the banquet host refers to God Himself.
The first group of people invited is Israel. The first invitation is the Old Testament. The Jews had received the Old Testament as God’s truth and accepted His promises.
The second invitation refers to Jesus the Messiah coming to Israel. Jesus’s ministry was the second invitation. Israel should have been primed and pumped for His coming, like people ready to come to a banquet that they had been invited to!
They should have seen that the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah were being fulfilled! But instead, Israel rejected their Messiah, even though they were expecting Him to come and had the promises of His coming written in the Old Testament.
Who are the two groups of people that were invited later? The ones from “the streets and lanes of the city” may refer to Jews who come to believe in Jesus.
The others from “the highways and hedges” are from outside the city, and so may refer to the Gentiles.
This banquet parable is about Israel rejecting the invitation to accept their Messiah and how God is now inviting all people—no matter who you are—to come and join His banquet of salvation.
There are people who feel like they are not worthy to accept the invitation to the Lord’s banquet. Or, vice-versa, they think that they are worthy enough that they can invite themselves.
For both these situations, look at who was invited at the end of the parable: those people in the streets and lanes, the highways and hedges, the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind (14:21, 23). These are not worthy people who can repay the host. You don’t need to earn your salvation—God offers it free!
These people at the end of the parable are also not those who can come uninvited on their own terms.
Turn back to Matthew 22. In a similar banquet parable, a host gives the unworthy, dirty, poorly clothed guests wedding clothes to wear. Not only didn’t they have to bring anything, they received everything they needed to attend the fancy party!
10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. 11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 22:10–13)
If someone invited you to a super fancy restaurant and said, “I’ll pay the $500 cover charge per person. Also, give me your measurements, I’ll rent a tuxedo for you,” you would not say, “That’s great, I’ll bring a hotdish.” They would rightly be insulted. I mean, the restaurant is serving steak, lobster, and caviar—tuna noodle hotdish (as good as it is) doesn’t belong there. That person would right to disinvite you and throw you into the street where there will be weeping and screeching of tires.
On the other hand, God has invited you to come. You can’t say that you are too unworthy. Salvation is not about you being worthy enough to receive it—it’s about God’s grace.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9)
I wish I could say that everyone now responds to God’s invitation, but there are still many who make excuses for not accepting. Some common excuses today are:
- I don’t believe that God exists—there is no banquet!
- I won’t go to a banquet of a God who allows suffering.
- I think God accepts me without me coming to His banquet.
- I have other banquets to go to as well; surely God doesn’t mind.
- I’ll wait until the very last moment to accept the invitation to the banquet.
- I don’t think I am good enough to go to God’s banquet.
- God loves us without us accepting the invitation to go to His banquet.
Why do people ignore the invitation that God gives? Why did the three people in the parable reject the invitation? Because the host and the feast were not important to them. The material things of their lives were more important.
The reason people reject God’s invitation (or try to rationalize it away) is because they have no appetite for higher things.
They are too busy buying new toys, pursuing earthly entertainments, being committed to their jobs, or having friends who pull them away from Christ.
As one pastor put it,
If Christ’s banquet and a large worldly estate were spread before us as options, would we rather have the [worldly] estate? Why is it that when Christ offers forgiveness, peace, eternal life, and an eternal feast, so few respond? Why is it that people do not want the kingdom? It is because their thinking is skewed. They do not think rightly about the eternal. In the depths of their hearts they do not want God. (Hughes, 118)
What about you? Have you already responded to God’s invitation to eat at His banquet, to be a partaker in His salvation? If so, you know the joy of being a guest at the greatest meal ever laid out.
When we go downstairs to eat our Fall Harvest meal, it will be a small foreshadowing of the meal that God has prepared for Christians. Remember that…remember what we are doing here in church. It’s a small, imperfect taste of the worship that we will enjoy for all eternity.
Or maybe you are one who has excuses. If you have heard the gospel at all in your life, and you haven’t responded—you have an excuse for why you haven’t yet.
I found an old Sunday school song based on this parable, the chorus goes:
I cannot come.
I cannot come to the banquet, don’t trouble me now;
I have married a wife;
I have bought me a cow.
I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum;
Pray, hold me excused, I cannot come.
Just like with the people in the parable, any excuse any person can make for rejecting the invitation of eternal salvation in the glories of Heaven is…well…stupid. We are far too easily pleased with earthly pursuits.
Take off the blinders and look at what is going on. You are passing up eternal life, peace, and ultimate joy for things that will not last. Don’t do that! Accept God’s invitation to the banquet today! It’s not enough to hear about it. You need to respond by placing your faith in Christ today!
Hughes, R. Kent. Luke: That You May Know the Truth. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998.
Levi Durfey—LDM-42-Luke 14.12-24-LKA#076-20191117FBCAM-SERMON