In the Gospel of Luke, we see often Jesus as the great teacher, sent from God to tell us about salvation. Since he was sent on this mission and was faithful to it, he never missed an opportunity to speak for the glory of God his Father. Many times he happily joined in opportunities to share meals with people. Meals are an excellent opportunity to get to know others and to talk about life with them.
The occasion in our text was Christ’s attendance at a meal offered by a Pharisee (14:1-14). When someone at the meal heard Jesus recommend the attitudes of humility and generosity towards other at meals, a man was moved to make the remark recorded in 14:15, which means, “How happy are the people who will enjoy the feast of eternal life and salvation!” Jesus takes that opportunity to teach that salvation comes from an invitation from God. The Lord used a story to make known the truth that in his goodness, God seeks the happiness of people (14:16-17).
- God’s goodness is seen in the preparations for the banquet. It was a great banquet. This is an illustration of the happiness and satisfaction that God desires for those who seek him (Psalm 23:5; Isaiah 25:6-9; Matthew 22:2; Revelation 3:20). Many were invited as guests. No small, polite dinner party was intended. God invites many to come to him!
- God’s goodness is seen in telling people that the feast was prepared. Think of the long (from a human point of view) preparations that God made for the banquet of salvation. Thousands of years of human history had passed from Adam to Jesus the Messiah. The servant is Christ; he is the Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 42:1; etc.). His great word is “Come!” (cf. Matthew 11:28).
We must view God as good and generous, or we have never understood him. His goodness and generosity must influence our attitudes and actions if we claim that he is our Father.
Yet, out of dislike for God, people make excuses to refuse God’s generosity (14:18-20). Observe the character of the human heart. People do not want God to provide them with joy – not really. Yes, people get upset if they think that God is judging them or making their lives unpleasant. But people do not want God’s joy, because it involves God, and God is holy and righteous and the Judge. Behind people’s excuses to come to Bible studies, small groups, etc. is a lack of desire, a lack of desire for God. So people invent excuses, in order that they can avoid God and his blessings. Here are two:
- People turn from God to property and possessions. The first two excuses are transparently false; they are the excuses of liars or foolish people. Who would buy a field without looking at it? Who would buy five yoke of oxen without checking them out before the purchase? Even if such unlikely events had happened, both could wait to check on their purchases later. They could check them out after the banquet.
- People turn from God to people. This excuse is of someone plainly disinterested and desperate to find any way out. There was nothing hindering him from bringing his wife, especially considering the generosity of the host of the banquet.
Let us notice that none of the three gave a simple refusal. Each had “some reason of his own why he ought to be held excused… Each differs from the other, and each has its own plausibility; but all arrive at the same result – ‘We have other things to attend to, more pressing just now’” (John Brown). Through the cares of this world and the desire to be rich and to enjoy the passing pleasures of this world, many refuse to accept God’s invitation. But all other preferences must go in the face of God’s invitation. What is your response? “Infidelity and immorality, no doubt, slay their thousands. But decent, plausible, smooth-spoken excuses slay their tens of thousands” (Ryle, his emphasis).
According to the freeness of his grace, God extends the invitation to many (14:21-24).
Since God is the overflowing fountain of goodness, he continues to seek people. Like the host in the parable, God seeks out the disadvantaged and those despised and rejected by other people. God is like the host of the banquet. He is “very big-hearted and generous. He loves to make people happy, especially those down and out” (Hendriksen). In one sense these were the common people of Israel, the “rabble who don’t understand the law”, to use the words of the Pharisees. In another sense they are all who the world deems “misfits”. God invited all these people purely out of grace (cf. 14:14). They were not bringing anything to the banquet; instead, the feast was for their enjoyment.
Like the host in the parable, God seeks out a “full house”. In one sense these are the Gentiles, the people of all nations. They were not near the banqueting house, but they are brought near. They would have to be “compelled” with many arguments, because they would not believe that the God of Israel would be generous to them. In another sense, they are any far removed and out of the way. The servant was not to take “no” for an answer (cf. 2 Cor 5:20).
God’s purpose will not fail. The Lord will have a full banqueting house. There will not be empty seats at the table. Everyone who serves the Lord should desire to see his or her Master’s table filled. I would like to see my neighbors in heaven, glorifying God and enjoying his glory, wouldn’t you?
However, since God is just, he gives people what they want. If people refuse God and eternal joy, God will not give it to them. People can and will have justice if they so desire. I did not say that people like the alternative, but they would rather have the alternative of justice than turn from their sins and idols to God. The Lord threatens terrible things to those who refuse to be joyful with him. The Lord is saying in this parable to all who refuse his gospel invitation, “Since you will not receive fullness of joy, my joy freely offered to you, you will receive the opposite, eternal misery.” There is no second chance. “Only one life will soon be past…” Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment… (Heb 9:27 NIV).
There is a great central lesson to this parable. “Accept God’s gracious invitation to eternal happiness. Accept it now!”
Grace and peace, David