THE GREAT BANQUET
INTRODUCTION… FoodNetwork.com “A McConaughey and Fieri Feast”
Today we will be looking at a passage in Luke 14 where Jesus tells a parable about a huge banquet. He tells all about a great feast that takes place and makes several important spiritual points for us to ponder. That is the point of parables after all… to tell a story that your audience understands in order to make a great spiritual point. I started looking over this passage and got thinking about “feasts.” I of course did what any person would do when thinking about feasts, I went to FoodNetwork.com and searched the word “feast.” #1 after the search was “Wachowicz Family Seafood Feast” which didn’t mean anything to me. #2 was a tempting Rachel Ray recipe for “Cuban Via Miami Feast: Mashed Plantains with Oh, Baby! Garlic-Tomato Shrimp on Top, Grilled Flank Steak with Lime and Onions, Quick Rice with Black Beans.” That was pretty tempting. But it was #3 that caught my eye… “A McConaughey and Fieri Feast.” I clicked on that and found that the “feast referenced one of the TV shows that guy Fieri hosts (Guy’s Big Bite) where he and Matthew McConaughey cooked together.
I noticed several elements about the “feast” as I looked it over that are true of all feasts.. I noticed that it was quite a production. There was a lot of effort that went into the show, the décor, table settings, and preparing the food. I also noticed the people seemed to be having a good time and lots of folks were around certainly those who were invited or were expected to be there. They seemed to enjoy themselves. It seemed like a good celebration. All of those things are elements of a feast. The “feast” was all of that and more.
The feast that Jesus talks about in Luke 14 is no different. It too was and will be quite a production. Huge amount of effort and sacrifice went into preparing it. People will have a tremendous time and will enjoy themselves. Jesus tells us about this feast so that we might learn some valuable lessons about the Church and our spiritual lives.
Jesus just finishes talking about the “resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14) and then there are questions by those around Him. Let’s read.
I. FEAST PREPARED (verses 15-17)
We first read about a FEAST PREPARED.
READ Luke 14:15-17
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God." 16 Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.'
We see in these verses that the context of this parable is a dinner. You can call it a “feast” if you want, but it probably was more like a party. Jesus is at a table with Pharisees and teachers of the law who are watching Him and attempting to trap Him. They are eating and drinking with an agenda. Jesus takes this opportunity of the meal to describe a grand meal in “the kingdom of God.” What is that? Where is that? In the Scriptures, the phrase “the kingdom of God” can mean several things. It can mean the Church on earth. It can mean Heaven. It can reference all Christians in the midst of a sinful world. It can mean the Christian faith. It can mean all Christians who have ever lived and some times even ties back to Old Testament believers in God. For this context, it seems that Jesus is directing His “Kingdom of God” comment and the parable to the meaning of the Christian faith in general and eternal rewards and this has implications for us who are already in the Church just as it had implications for the Jews listening.
As with any parable with players or characters and events, we need to figure out what each of them represents. There are six elements to this parable we need to nail down before we can understand the rest of the story and the implications for all of us who are already in “the Kingdom of God.”
First, since the parable is focusing on “the Kingdom of God,” the main character or the character in charge is going to be God the Father. He is the “certain man” in charge of the entire show. God is the central character of this parable and to be honest with you He is the central character in most parables. Jesus’ teachings were always about revealing Almighty God to us. Second, “a great banquet” is the central happening of this parable which is a way of talking about the Christian faith.
Third, notice how people attend this “banquet” or “feast.” It is by an invitation that is freely extended to “many guests.” No one can earn their way to the feast or inherit an invitation or buy their way in, but it is an invitation freely and graciously personally given.
Fourth, there are “many guests” who get this gracious free invitation. Who are they? The “guests” are the citizens of the Kingdom. Citizens of the Kingdom are people of faith. In Jesus’ day and in all the days before His arrival, the people of God were the Jews, the children of Abraham. They were the ones who first received the invitations to the feast.
Fifth, notice “his servant” who comes and offers the invitation personally. Who is that? Who is the ultimate representative of God who invites people to God’s table? It is of course Jesus. Philippians 2:6-11 describes Jesus to us perfectly, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” It is Jesus, the perfect representative and ultimate servant who gives the invitation.
And sixth, “his servant” invites them, “Come, for everything is now ready.”
He invites them to “come” because all the preparations have been made.
He invites them to “come follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19) (Mark 1:17)
He invites them to “come to Me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest “ (Matthew 11:28)
He invites them to “come and share your Master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:6)
He invites them to “come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)
All gracious invitations that Jesus extends to be part of the kingdom that God has prepared for His people have been given. But the parable is not over. There is a complication within the parable. It is the complication that the whole parable is actually about. It is the complication that will lead us to the application of this passage in our own lives. The parable has just begun.
I’d like to talk about invitations for a moment. I can recall two very distinct invitations in my life from God: One to faith and one to full-time vocational ministry. The first invitation I remember was an invitation to faith. I remember lying in my bed as a fifth grader, 10 years old, thinking about a baptism I had seen. I thought about all the lessons in the Bible I had been taught. I looked over at the old King James Version Bible that had been my father’s that he gave me. I liked that Bible because in the front it had my dad’s name and in the back it had cool old maps to look at. And some of the letters were in red. Way cool. I believed in God. I believed that Jesus died for my sins. I had no doubts. Why shouldn’t I be baptized? I asked my parents the same question. It seemed natural and normal and so I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and was baptized. I accepted my invitation from God which was given from Him through the teaching of my parents and church.
The other invitation in my life came when I was a senior in high school. Like many seniors in High School, I was supposed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I had narrowed it down to a federal judge or a history teacher. I recall going to Sunday School one morning and our regular teacher was out and one of the military chaplains was filling in. I don’t know if he planned a lesson or not, but the point of what he said that morning was to be open to listening to God in prayer. His point was that prayer is not just one way, but we must listen. I then began to earnestly pray to God and not just talk, but also listen. It was not too long after I began to listen to God that I felt an overwhelming call on my life, one that is hard to explain, but one that I knew was an invitation from God to be His minister for my whole life. I was surprised. My parents were not.
So what about you? What about your life and the invitations that God has placed in your life? The main invitation I am concerned with is the invitation to enter the “Kingdom of God” and have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Have you answered Him? Have you confessed Him as Lord before people and been immersed into Him and are now living faithfully? Has God called you to be an elder? A deacon? A teacher? A greeter? A leader or member on a short term missions trip? The invitations have gone out to all of us. Each of us are among that group of guests who receive from the master an invitation. What are you doing with yours?
II. EXCUSES MADE (verses 18-20)
As we continue to read we see that there are EXCUSES MADE.
READ Luke 14:18-20
18 "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' 19 "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' 20 "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'
In the story, those who had received the gracious personal invitation by the servant of the certain man offer excuses to Him as to why they cannot come to the feast. Now what do the “excuses” represent in the story? The “excuses” in the story represent nothing other than plain old excuses... no mystery there!
There firstly are excuses about business getting in the way. I bought a field and I need to go check it out. I got a job and I work every Sunday. I have to conduct business in this underhanded manner and set my morals aside or they will fire me. I have to spend 70 hours at the office and let my family responsibilities slide by because that is what the business requires. I don’t want to be a believer because then I have to change the way I make money. Business can be an excuse.
There are excuses about material goods and things getting in the way. I just got five oxen that I need to tend. We don’t go to church because we go boating. We don’t attend Bible studies because that’s my “me” time on Facebook. I can’t tithe or give because I have bills to pay. I can’t give to the food pantry but I can buy a $600 cell phone. Material goods and things get in the way sometimes of our invitations.
There are excuses about relationships getting in the way. I just got married so I am busy. I just had a child so I am busy. Our kids need to be in sports so we can’t come to church. We don’t really believe in God because “so and so” was a Christian and they were a hypocrite. Relationships can get in the way. No matter how you look at it, the people invited just plain gave an excuse as to why they could not come.
What is an excuse exactly?
Excuse is avoidance.
Excuse is shunning responsibility.
Excuse is rejection.
Excuse is replacing priorities.
As we follow the story, we find that Jesus is telling a story about the Jews and their relationship with God. He is speaking to the Jews about themselves. He is pointing out the errors of the Pharisees and others sitting at the table with Him. For you see, many of the Jews did not believe in Jesus. Many of them had all kinds of excuses. Many of them avoided Him. Many of them shunned responsibility for the deplorable condition of their society. Many of them rejected what God actually wanted and dismissed the Words of Jesus.
Jesus gives a great defining example of this in Mark 7:9-13. Mark 7:9-13 states, 9 And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' 11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that." What were some of the Jews doing? They were rejecting their elderly needy parents and were calling it Godly. Notice His last statement in verse 13: “And you do many things like that."
I want to talk about excuses a little more for a moment. Can I tell you a little secret that is not really little and is not really a secret? We all give God excuses. I give God excuses when I don’t want to do what His Word tells me. I blame other people… mostly my wife and kids. I shirk responsibility. I reject His commands to forgive. I decide at times my way of spending money is best. Sometimes I just don’t want to be a Christian and have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I say it isn’t my job or it is someone else’s responsibility. We all have excuses.
Excuses practically work out in two ways for us today.
Perhaps you have yet to accept Jesus… you have yet to confess faith in Him… you have yet to be baptized… you have yet to answer God’s call to have a personal intimate relationship with Him. Why not? What is your excuse? Did God make you mad? Did He not heal someone who should have been healed? Did some Christian tick you off years ago and now you just put it all off? Is it pride? Do you like your sin so much you really just want to hold on to it? What is your excuse for not trusting in Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?
Perhaps you have yet to answer another invitation of God in your life. Perhaps you are already a believer in Jesus Christ, but He has asked something more of you. Are you supposed to join NBCC as a member and put all your energies and efforts to work here? Are you too busy for Him? Are you putting your family before your God? Are you putting your business or pleasure or hobbies or appetites before Him and just giving excuses? We all give excuses for not doing what God asks us to do. What are yours?
III. SOLUTION COMMANDED (verses 21-24)
We continue to read in Luke 14 and we find a SOLUTION COMMANDED.
After Jesus sets up the parable and presents the complication, there is a solution to the story given and it is a command from the certain man who owns the house and is in charge of the feast. The one sending the invitations makes a decision and makes all things right.
READ Luke 14:21-24
21 "The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.' 22 "'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' 23 "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'"
What is the response of the master? The response was anger! He was angry that all the preparations were made, the invitations were sent, and all He got back were excuses. This made Him angry. Now some of you may be thinking back and remember that the master of the banquet is God… and you say to yourselves… that is not right… God does not get angry. You could not be more wrong. God’s anger burned against Israel in Exodus 32 after He brought them out safely from Egypt and they crafted a golden calf idol and Joshua warned the people of that anger at the end of his life as well (Joshua 23:16). A man irreverently touched the Ark of the Covenant and he died because of God’s anger (2 Samuel 6:7). The whole book of Jonah is about God’s anger being satisfied by the repentant hearts of the Ninevites (Jonah 2:13, 4:2). Make no mistake, God gets angry with our idolatry. God gets angry with our sin. God gets angry with our excuses.
So what was the solution to the problem? The master of the banquet commanded that the invitation be expanded to include people off the streets and from the country no matter their identity. Remember, first the parable was to the Pharisees and teachers of the law and the other Jews who were there because they were the people of God… the invited ones at that time. Jesus is letting them know that they have squandered the invitation of God to be His people and that invitation is going out into the world for others to accept.
God has a plan. The Apostle Paul reflects on it in Romans 11:25, “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” Gentiles (us) were invited to the feast to be part of the “Kingdom of God” and join as people of God to experience the eternal promises God has given just as some of the Jews were making excuses and refusing Him.
PARABLE SUMMARY: So what is this parable all about? The parable was a warning to the Jews who already had the invitation of God to be part of His Kingdom to watch their excuses because the Kingdom will be filled with people they did not expect. The Kingdom would be filled with people they perhaps looked down on and they themselves would find themselves outside of the Kingdom at the end of everything.
IV. LESSON LEARNED
I have been thinking a lot about this parable. I have been thinking a lot about feasts and why Jesus would tell this particular parable to these folks He is eating with and what this parable has to do with us. And make no mistake, this parable does speak to us! We as the Church are now the people of faith who receive this parable. We have been freely given the invitation to join Him. So what do we learn?
The preacher in me wants to give you three solid lessons as to what this parable means. I want to give you six steps for a better life. I want you to know that the “Kingdom of God” and faith and the payment of Jesus’ blood for our sins was not an accident or an afterthought, but was well planned. I want you to read Hebrews 11 and find out that God has prepared so much for you as a believer. I want you to think about how you judge others who come to church because those invited to the feast by Jesus are not those that we might choose.
I thought a lot about it and I think one lesson from this parable would be best. What grabbed my attention the most? What caught me off guard as I pondered this “Parable of the Great Banquet?” After some prayer I realized that I just could not get over the excuses given in the parable. Our lesson today is all about excuses.
Here is my thought, I suppose you can take it or leave it: When looking at ourselves, we had better make sure we who are already in the “Kingdom of God” are not offering any kind of excuse to our God when He asks us to do things or go places or speak up or be more like Him. We who are already invited better not hand our God back excuses when He has already prepared do much for us and done so much for us and forgiven so much for us.
We had better be so careful about…
... the excuses for not being good neighbors and loving others around us.
… the excuses for sitting in the pews and not volunteering in the church.
… the excuses for not consistently reading and studying God’s Word.
… the excuses for not verbally telling others about our faith in Jesus Christ.
… the excuses for not have a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
… the excuses for not remaining faithful to God in hard times.
Boiling it all down to this:
“We can’t exchange our invitations for excuses because God will move on.”
Say that with me.
“We can’t exchange our invitations for excuses because God will move on.”