Grace For The Journey
Few things seem more uncomfortable at a dinner party than the awkward silence that suddenly creeps over the guests and fills the room with an uneasy quiet. Just a moment earlier there was noise of some kind or another, the clanging of plates or the moving of chairs, or the sustaining drone of amiable conversation, but suddenly – as if cued by a director – there is silence. It is a strange phenomenon and sometimes the silence is simply broken by someone who smiles and says, “It sure got quiet all of the sudden!” And everyone laughs. But when the silence occurs among a dinner party whose guests are not at all comfortable with one another to begin with, the sudden stillness of the moment paralyzes the guests, causing them to look down at their plates, everyone waiting for somebody to say something–anything!
This may well have been the situation in which the Pharisees found themselves at the dinner table to which Jesus had been invited. You will remember from last study that Jesus had politely insulted the guests of the dinner party as well as the host of the dinner party! You will remember from verses 7-14 that Jesus had said first to the guests at dinner, “Do not sit down at the best places, choosing the first seats, but rather sit at the lowly place so that you might be exalted.” Then Jesus turns to the host of the dinner party and says in verse 12, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not invite your friends and the well-to-do, but rather invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and blind.”
It did not take much looking around for these Pharisees and religious leaders to note that there was not a single one among them fitting the description of poor, maimed, lame, and blind. The heavy silence must have slowed their movements considerably. Finally, one of the guys blurts out in verse, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Seems a strange thing to say. And everyone peeks up from their plates to see how Jesus will respond to this man’s unanticipated benediction.
Jesus uses the man’s statement as an opportunity to teach about the kingdom of God. By now we are seeing that the Pharisees and the religious elite of Israel rejected Christ as Messiah; they rejected His teachings like invited guests rejecting the invitation to the great banquet; the great banquet a metaphor for living in the kingdom of God in the final state; the great banquet a metaphor for final salvation and eternal life.
Today, we will go through and study closely these ten verses after which we will consider a few things from this dinner conversation. Look now at verse 15, “Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, ‘Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!’” Sensing the awkward conviction resulting from Jesus’ challenge to invite outcasts to a dinner party, this unnamed guest attempts to turn the conversation to more pleasant thoughts. He strikes me as the sort of fellow who probably paused dramatically after making this statement, himself nodding in agreement to what he had just said, looking around at others for their nods, too. I am sure he took pleasure in how he heard the words come out of his own mouth.
But this is a sham. The guy has no real interest in the kingdom of God because he rejects the king – King Jesus. This is why Jesus tells this little parable here in verses 16 and 17, “Then He said to him, ‘A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’” These verses illustrate what was common practice and custom in the ancient, near east. When a person was invited to a dinner, two invitations were extended. The first invitation was something of an RSVP. A servant is sent out to invite folks to the future banquet meal. After the invitees agreed to come, then a second invitation was given once the meal was prepared. That is what you have in verse 17. The servant goes out and says to those who were invited, “Come, for all things are now ready.” That is a way of saying, “Soup’s on! The table is set, it is time to eat.”
To accept the first invitation – agreeing to come – and then to reject the second invitation – after the meal is already prepared and the table set – was not good; it was a breach of social etiquette that would cause “Ms. Manners” to become apoplectic! Socially, it was about as low as one could go. But these invitees had their reasons – were they reasons, or excuses? Verse 18 tells us, “But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’” Hard to imagine a guy back then buying a piece of land without first even looking at it, but that is this guy’s excuse. The second excuse is in verse 19, “And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’” Here is a guy who buys some 20,000 pounds of livestock and says he has got to go and check it all out. Then the last guy’s excuse is in verse 20, “Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’” The guy who only a few days earlier says he can come suddenly gets married and now he can’t come? Even if he really got married, he can’t bring his wife with him? This is a parable and we are not supposed to press the details as Jesus is teaching a larger, greater point about the kingdom of God. These three guys – who represent the Pharisees and religious elite – have rejected the invitation to the great banquet.
Verse 21 says, “So that servant came and reported these things to his master. 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 here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’” The food is ready! The table is set! The time is now! The master of the banquet tells his servant to go out and invite others who will gladly come – the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. The servant does so and reports back in verses 22 through 24, where the Bible says, “And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’”
Jesus is teaching about more than some guy inviting people to a supper. He is teaching about eternal salvation and the kingdom of God. Remember it was a self-important Pharisee who got this conversation started with his silly platitude, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” The great banquet pictures the ultimate kingdom banquet, what the Bible calls “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). This parable illustrates ultimate salvation in the kingdom of God. We have said that the kingdom of God is both a present reality and a future reality. People enter the kingdom of God now by receiving Jesus Christ into their lives. They take a seat at the banquet to “feast” on the sumptuous blessings of Christ, the Lord Jesus, Himself the sum and substance of the wedding banquet. As Jesus says in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will never hunger and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” Jesus Christ is the sum and substance of the wedding banquet. We enter into the kingdom now by receiving Christ; it is a present realization. But the kingdom of God is also a future expectation. We await the final state when all that is ours through Christ Jesus is granted; the final and future consummation of the kingdom of God.
So here it is: the Pharisees and the religious elite leaders, here in Luke 14, sitting with Jesus at this dinner party are the Jews who claimed to live for the kingdom of God. They claimed to be looking forward to their Messiah and the future fulfillment of the wedding banquet. But when the invitation finally comes, when the invitation is extended, the invitation that says, “It’s here. The table is set. Everything is ready,” they will find themselves all making excuses – Why? – Because they will not like this so-called “King” of the kingdom of God. So the invitation is extended to others – people who will gladly come to the feast – people considered by the Jews to be “second class,” the poor, maimed, lame, and blind – the Gentiles (cf. Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Acts 28:23-28).
I am not sure all of that sunk-in at this meal 2,000 years ago. It is always easier for us to see, living as we do this side of the cross. But that is the main thrust of Jesus’ teaching: these Jews would reject their Messiah, like invitees rejecting the second invitation to feast with the food of eternal life. So, in the words of Jesus – verse 24 – “none of those men who were invited shall taste (His) supper.”
It would be easy for us to close our Bibles and think, “How unfortunate for those unbelieving Jews, to forfeit their privilege of being first in the kingdom of God” . . . “And how fortunate for Gentiles like us to receive the invitation to eternal life.” If that is the way we are going to leave this morning we are not better than the guy who pompously opined, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
So, let’s consider . . . Three Things To Glean From This Dinner Conversation . . .
1) Consider The Lengths To Which God Has Gone To Provide Salvation.
Jesus begins the parable in verse 16 with the phrase, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many.” Here is the Gospel. An invitation goes out from God to attend the banquet of all banquets; it is a banquet of feasting on the “food that endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27). It is salvation full and free.
We are sinners separated from God because we are by nature sinful and He is by nature Holy. Only someone who is both God and Man can bridge the gulf of separation. What does God do? God comes to us and takes on humanity; God comes to us in the Person of Jesus Christ to live a perfect life for which we get credit and He dies a death whereby He takes the punishment for sin that we deserved. He is buried and rises the third day to indicate His power over sin, death, and hell. We are saved from our sins by believing in Him and accepting what He has done, and living for His glory.
Jesus Christ is the “sum and substance” of the supper and He invites us to feast on the food of eternal life. He says in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will never hunger and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” Jesus Christ is the sum and substance of the wedding banquet.
This is an invitation for everyone. The banquet is NOW here; the table is NOW set; it is NOW ready. Jesus says in John 6:37, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” All who come will be received! God loves all and receives all who will come, The Bible tells us in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His unique, one-of-a-kind Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” He loves all. God loves all people regardless of ethnicity, accomplishment, or ability. He seeks to save those who are lost – no matter how sinful. This is why He has come to us in the Person of Jesus Christ.
His love is so great for lost people that those who carry the message to them are told in verse 23 to “Compel them to come in from among the highways and the hedges.”
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea
Number two . . .
2) Know That Religion Alone Does Not Guarantee Entrance Into The Kingdom.
The Jews and religious elite leaders sitting at the dinner table thought they were guaranteed a spot at the banquet in the kingdom of God. Remember, it was the smug way in which one guy made the comment that got Jesus to tell the parable. No doubt that man – and all those sitting with him – thought surely if anyone would sit at the ultimate marriage supper it would be they! But they were wrong. They were like the guys who made excuses for not attending. They will reject the King of the kingdom; they will reject the Good News of the Gospel found in Jesus Christ. And because they reject the invitation, the Gospel goes out to those who will receive it, people the Jews tended to avoid, the lame, maimed, blind, and poor–the Gentiles, the non-religious, non-Jews.
The Bible says in Luke 13:30 the first will be last and the last will be first. It also says in Luke 14:1 those who exalt themselves would be humbled and those who humble themselves would be exalted. Like the Jews in Jesus’ day, we may think we know who will be in the kingdom of God based on outward appearances. But religion alone does not guarantee entrance into the kingdom of God. It does not matter how religious you are and how religious-sounding you are . . . none of that matters if you are lost.
There is a warning here for us. You can know spiritual truth, read the Bible, faithfully attend the worship services, and be lost. Jesus warns in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Number three . . .
3) Honestly Assess Your Appetite For Spiritual Things.
It is painfully instructive that these who were invited to the greatest feast of the ages made excuses to not attend? The truth is, they loved their religion and they loved the world more than they loved God. They had a greater appetite for the things of the world than the things of God. When you examine these three excuses you find that their excuses had to do either with possessions or affections. Someone said, “Possessions and affections cover virtually every reason by which men and women give their regrets to the kingdom.”
Would you put an invitation from your family ahead of an invitation from God to feast at His banquet? Jesus will go on to say in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children…he cannot be My disciple.” What does that mean? Would you put your affections before God? Is an earthly relationship to you more important than a heavenly relationship with God?
Would you put the fleeting desires of this world ahead of an invitation from God to feast at His heavenly banquet? How much time do you spend at work, trying to acquire status, stuff, prestige, and power? Are you guilty of putting possessions ahead of an invitation from God to feast at His heavenly banquet?
Honestly assess your appetite for spiritual things. Understand that no excuse is valid when it comes to forfeiting one’s soul.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”