Summary: It is only by God’s grace and not by man’s achievement that we can fellowship with Christ.
Feast or Famine
Text: Luke 14:15-24
Introduction: There is a difference between a reason and an excuse. There are times when we may have a legitimate reason for what we do or don’t do, but excuses never stand up under scrutiny. As someone has said, "An excuse is actually the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie." It is not uncommon that people will offer the most ridiculous excuses for their behaviors: Statistics show that most flat tires occur Monday mornings and Friday afternoons. But are they real flat tires or unverified reports of flat tires? All I know is Monday morning is when we don’t want to go into work, and Friday afternoon is when we don’t want to go back. Officer Dave Hoffman of the Naperville Police Department offers this story of an inventive excuse for poor driving. "One night many years ago I was on patrol and observed a vehicle blow through a red light at a major intersection. There had been plenty of time to stop, yet the vehicle had not even slowed down. I stopped the car and asked the young female driver why she had done that. The girl told me she had just had her brakes repaired, it had been very expensive, and she DIDN’T WANT TO WEAR THEM DOWN! Usually I give people a pass if I haven’t heard their excuse before, but in this case she got the ticket."
Background: In our text today, we’ll see what Jesus thinks of excuses. He was in the middle of a Sabbath dinner at the home of a prominent Pharisee. One of those seated at the table with Christ blurted out, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” This sort of blessing was not uncommon (See Luke 11:27, 28). Scholars differ in their understanding of the blessing, however. Some say that the man said what he did out of admiration for Christ. He saw practiced a hospitality that was truly reflective of loving nature of God. Others, however, see it differently. They argue, and I agree, that the speaker betrayed a superficial idea of the kingdom of God. It was a privilege that only people just like himself (righteous and law abiding) could secure. In an effort to clarify the misguided man’s thinking, Jesus told the parable of the Great Banquet. In it He exposed the ignorance of the Pharisee when it came to his assumptions about the Kingdom of God. It is only by God’s grace and not by man’s achievement that we can fellowship with Christ in the kingdom of God. The word "grace" means favor. To understand the word and its meaning let’s look for a moment at what the Bible has to say about it.
• Grace is not payment for services rendered (See Romans 4:4). It is a free gift, unearned and unmerited.
• Grace is offered to us through Jesus Christ (See John 1:17).
• Grace is the basis for our salvation (See Ephesians 2:8, 9).
As you can see it’s pretty important that we understand Jesus’ teaching on grace. So let’s look more closely at what He has to say about this important subject in the parable of the Great Banquet.
I. God’s grace can be received (See Luke 14:15-17, 21-23). As Jesus gathered at the table of a ruler among the Pharisees with other socially elite Pharisees and scribes, He tells the story of a great banquet hosted by a great man. The guests would be his peers and associates. Though it is not stated in the parable, the assumption is that they are invited and agree to come. The first invitation was serious and acceptance of it is a firm commitment. When the host knew how many guests were coming, he would have enough meat prepared to satisfy their appetites. Once the preparations began, the affair could not be stopped for the meat had to eaten the same day or it would spoil. The guests who accepted the invitation were duty bound to attend. Then, at the hour of the banquet a servant is sent out with the traditional message: "Come, all is now ready." This is the invitation that is extended to those other "great men" who would have considered themselves equal to the host, and it fits within the appropriate norms of the Jewish society. What doesn’t fit is the second and third series of invitations mentioned in vs. 21-23. In these acts of grace, he stands ready and willing to include anyone among his table guests. No one is too sinful or too wretched to be excluded from the table (See Luke 14:12-14). Grace is available to all! Illustration: Jonah knew something about the grace of God and it was precisely this attribute that kept him from going with a warning from God for the Ninevites (See Jonah 1:1-4, 4:1-3).