In Luke 14, Jesus tells three parables all set at a banquet. These parables are relatively straightforward, so they tend to get overshadowed by other parables like the prodigal son. But they are very profound.
Parable 1 – Honor
14:7Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Luke 14:7-11
- When a traveling rabbi passed through a village, the local religious leaders invited him to a meal during which they questioned him on his theological and political views.
- The presence of a table for a meal indicates wealth or rank.
- At that time, they did not use chairs. They reclined at the table on cushions or low couches.
- One place at each table would be considered the place of honor.
- In the story, the one who exalted himself and took the highest place of honor was humbled by being asked to move down. The one who took the lower place was exalted by being asked to move up.
- Like the guest who takes the lower seat, followers of Jesus will seek to honor others rather than seeking honor for themselves, and they will wait for God to exalt them.
- Compare with Philippians 2:4-8. Jesus had the right to speak for God, to be the Lord and Master and to expect us to serve him. Yet he served us to the point of dying in our place.
- The exaltation that is analogous to the parable is the reward of eternal life, and the humbling is the destruction of judgment.
- Just as the humble guest in the parable trusted that the host would honor him, the only way we can be this kind of humble person is if we trust that the God will keep His promises.
Parable 2 – Payback
14:12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” – Luke 14:12-14
- The dynamic of the story is when you give a feast, don’t invite the rich who will return the invitation as your reward. Rather invite the social outcasts who cannot repay you.
- When we are compassionate to others, we want others to be compassionate to us in return. At the very least, we want others to notice and appreciate our consideration.
- The point of the parable is don’t love other people for the payback. Love other people who can’t possibly pay you back.
- The only way we can be this kind of person is if we are content with the reward promised us by the gospel.
Parable 3 – The Great Banquet
When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” – Luke 14:15
- The Jews understood the final fulfillment of the kingdom at the end of history to include a great banquet with the Messiah which was known as the Messianic banquet.
- See Isaiah 25:6-9. Isaiah describes salvation in terms of a great banquet which is for all peoples and nations.
- By the time of Jesus, this popular idea was that only the worthy and unblemished of Israel would attend this banquet.
- This man’s outburst is an invitation for Jesus to say something such as “Oh that we might keep the law in a precise fashion, so that when that great day comes, we will be counted worthy to sit with the Messiah and all true Jews at his banquet.”
- Instead Jesus tells this parable as a warning that not everyone who has been invited is actually going to eat at this table.
14:16But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.’ 24For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” – Luke 14:15-24
- A great banquet is naturally hosted by a great man. The guests would be his peers and associates. Accepting his invitation is a firm commitment to attend.
- The decision on which meat to serve is based on the number of acceptances. Once the appropriate animal is prepared, it must be eaten that night. The guests who accepted are duty-bound to appear.
- Imagine a scene in which the guests arrive and are seated in the living room. When the host invites them to take their places at the dining room table, the first one says, “I have to mow the lawn.” Then the second one says, “I have to feed the cat.” Finally, the third says, “I have to wash my hair” and they all leave. That’s the situation of the parable. These excuses are ridiculous, highly offensive and rude.
- The problem is not that the guests cannot come; it’s that the guest don’t want to come.
- The host responds with grace, not vengeance.
- The original guests – the worthy—are confident that the banquet cannot proceed without them. But not so – the unworthy are invited, first from among his community and then outside it.
- The analogous reality is that the religious elite of Jesus’ day refuse his offer, so Jesus invites the tax gatherers, sinners and the gentiles to share in salvation.
- This great Messianic banquet is hosted by Jesus. The religious leaders listening to him are welcome to attend, but if they refuse, the banquet will proceed with the sinners and Gentiles.
- Accept the invitation now while you still can.
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