December 01, 2019 | Randy Smith
Sunday, December 1, 2019
Pastor Randy Smith
Thanksgiving is arguably the biggest and most elaborate meal we eat throughout the year. It’s the meal we are most likely to invite family and have many people around the dinner table. Often, it’s a great day.
But many people last Thursday night probably went to bed very disappointed. Somebody cancelled at the last moment. Somebody was ungrateful toward the host. Or most likely, somebody said something that triggered a very contentious evening. The relaxing and celebratory mood disappeared and it became an emotional debate with hearts left in an uneasy feeling. There was no hope for recovery.
Basically, that is what happened the very moment Jesus walked into this Pharisee’s house for group luncheon in chapter 14. Of course, this was a set-up to test Jesus. They invited him and a sick man intentionally (14:2). They were watching (14:1) to see if He would heal on the Sabbath. In turn, Jesus corned them. 14:6, “They could make no reply.”
And if the tension wasn’t bad enough, Jesus then tells two stories in verses 7-14 based upon what He observed that afternoon from the Pharisees. Remember, He was watching them! They clamored for the seats of honor and they only invited people who could pay them back. They assumed Jesus and the Gentiles were outcasts of heaven, while Jesus proved to these religious leaders that they were the outcasts of heaven based upon their lack of humility. “For,” verse 11, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
For the Pharisees, the party was a disaster. Yet in verse 15 it appears someone tried to break the tension. “When one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, ‘Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’”
Ok, we all good? This is getting uncomfortable. We all know the Kingdom of God is great! Now can someone please pass the potatoes?
Yet Jesus won’t let the insincere remark pass. He won’t accept the common belief that all the Jews were a lock for the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not only futuristic. The Kingdom of God is also God’s present reign crashing into this world in the person of Jesus Christ. Presence at God’s future banquet in heaven solely depends on what people do with King Jesus Christ right now. All roads go through Him, the “Narrow Door” (13:24). Will they accept God’s invitation by honoring Jesus Christ? And to that point, Jesus now presents another parable directed to them and to us as well. The new material…
The Dinner Is Ready (verses 16–17)
I am calling the first of four subpoints, “The Dinner is Ready” – verses 16–17.
Jesus begins with a parable. A parable is a teaching device. It’s a fictitious earthly story intended to convey a practical spiritual truth. Just so you see the big picture, this story about a rich man’s banquet is intended to portray God’s banquet, the kingdom of God, heaven, the wedding feast with Jesus. Jesus is the Host. The invitations for His feast are extended. Here is the main point: The parable answers who accepts the invitation to enjoy the Master’s presence. Keep that in mind.
So, verses 16-17, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’”
On the surface, fairly easy to understand, right? Clearly a wealthy man is preparing a large feast with many guests. Permit me to provide a little historical background to dig a bit deeper. Frequently there were two invitations. The first one was to announce the feast and general date of the event. When the guests RSVP’d with an affirmative, it was expected that they would come. To not do so would shame the host. Then a second invitation, the one we see in verse 17, was sent to pull in the guests when the dinner was finalized. The emphasis here is that the meal is ready, and the preparations are completed. Now is the time to attend.
So, to put the theological spin on this, Israel received her first invitation to receive the Messiah through the prophets (in our Old Testament). Then the Messiah came and issued the final invitation. But when Jesus extends the invitation (the feast is ready!), they rejected Him with lame excuses. We’ll now see how Jesus characterizes that in our second point.
The Excuses Are Offered (verses 18–20)
So, the “many” that were invited (verse 16) and promised their attendance were now called by the servant. The feast was ready for the guests to arrive. Yet one-by-one they all declined with their lame excuses. Look at verse 18. “But they all alike began to make excuses.”
Still in verse 18, “The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’”
So, we have two options. Either he claimed to have bought land without looking at it (that’s doubtful) or he is so in love with his business affairs, his idolatrous love for his land motivated him to be disloyal to his word and the host. Bad excuse!
Verse 19, “Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’”
So, let me get this straight. You are going to buy a few tons of livestock and not test them before the purchase? And if he didn’t, like the first guy, couldn’t he have waited another day? Another bad excuse!
Verse 20, “Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’”
Another lame excuse and a misunderstanding of Deuteronomy 24:5 if he thought that was applicable.
Now we have all had parties. We know the feeling when someone says he’s coming and then never shows up. Or worse is when people promise to come and then make alternative plans or provide lame excuses not to attend. Horrible integrity. Where is the faithfulness, dependability, honesty, loyalty, selflessness and consideration? It is so hurtful. Golden Rule? Back then in a shame/honor society, this situation was tragic, perhaps disgracing this man in society for the rest of his life. Insincere, last-minute, lame excuses.
We get it on an earthly level, but what is the spiritual application? The Host is Jesus. His feast is prepared. So why didn’t the people show up? They heard and received His initial and follow-up invitation. They knew it would be a good feast in a society where you lived for your “daily bread.” The only answer is they simply did not find any pleasure to be in the presence of the host. And as a result, they shamed him by their lame excuses.
The lesson for the Jews, as they rejected Jesus, is the same applicable lesson for us today as people on a massive scale reject Jesus. They say no to Jesus which shames the God of heaven and is contrary to all sound reasoning. And they do it with their lame excuses.
Just staying in Luke: 8:14, “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life.” 13:24, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” 17:26–27, “And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”
My friends, there is nothing wrong with buying real estate, purchasing commodities and getting married, but there is something wrong when we place them higher in our affections than God. Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
One author said, “The absurdity of the excuses matches the ridiculous amount of time and energy that people spend on meaningless ventures to the neglect of answering to God” (Garland, Luke, p. 588).
Another, “Jesus offers the kingdom, a perpetual feast of peace, a feast of help, guidance, friendship, rest, victory over self, control of passions, supremacy over circumstances—a feast of joy, tranquility, deathlessness, Heaven opened, immeasurable hope—salvation. Yet, people turn their backs on this feast, preferring a visit with their possessions and affections” (Hughes, Luke, p. 117).
So, the self-pious Pharisee can shout out in verse 15, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But according to Jesus, how many are truly going to accept the invitation and be there?
That takes us to our third point as the slave, verse 21, “came back and reported this to his master.”
The Additional Invitations Are Sent (verses 21–23)
So, what is the host going to do? The animals have been slaughtered. All the food is prepared. There is no refrigeration system. No opportunity for Thanksgiving leftovers. The food needed to be consumed right away.
Verse 21 continued, “Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’”
When we hear that we should draw an interesting connection to what Jesus said earlier at this luncheon with the Pharisees. Remember verse 13 from last week’s sermon? “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”
Put all this together and here is what I draw. The kingdom of God was offered first to the Jews. But, John 1:11, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” Therefore, the Kingdom was offered to the misfits, the rejects and outcasts in Israel that were thought to be impure and a waste of God’s time – the ill and lame and prostitutes and tax-collectors. They were the very people that Jesus associated with and in doing so was condemned by the religious elite. They were the very ones that felt unworthy to come to the feast, because as we learned last week, they had no means to repay the host (verse 14). These are the ones who come with nothing to offer and receive from the host unconditional grace and mercy.
Yet, verses 22–23, “The slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.’”
So, the invitation of God’s feast goes out to Israel. The nation sends forth its lame refusal. The Host invites the riffraff of the land who humbly accept the offer, but there is still more room. The invitation now extends from the back alleys of Jerusalem to the by-ways of the world. Here we are talking about the most despised class to the Jews: Gentiles.
I think of the Apostle Paul in Romans 11. “I say then, they [the Jews] did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be” (Rom. 11:11–12)!
And let’s remember, Luke was writing to the Gentiles. This account is not just a historical lesson regarding Israel. This is about the hope of God including Gentiles in His kingdom.
All the places will be filled. The banquet will go on as anticipated though it will be populated with the guests very few expected.
The Host Concludes (verse 24)
And then finally in verse 24, the host concludes, “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.”
What we can take from this is not that Jesus kicks them out as much as they were not willing to come when invited. I believe we can conclude that God is more willing to save sinners than sinners are willing to be saved. The invitation goes out to all. What’s tragic is that most people refuse the offer and forsake eternal satisfaction and shame the host.
From a social perspective, the meal with the Pharisees was a disaster. From an eternal perspective, the meal was a powerful lesson to teach who are the true citizens in the Kingdom of God. And only when we receive Jesus as our King we can honestly agree with verse 15 – “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God” (Rev. 19:9). For the feast is not just the food it is Jesus Christ (Jn. 6). For He is the food, the sacrifice, the invitation and the host!