Summary: Excuses Excuses, Invitation to the Great Dinner.
The Parable of the Great Banquet.
Luke 14: 1-24
In our text, the entire section is centered around a meal table. A prominent Pharisee asked Jesus to eat at his home. A number of things took place at this table, but none of them were very pleasant. All-in-all, it was a most unpleasant occasion. It was not a time of friendly conversation and warm hospitality. It was a time of silent sullenness, of treachery, and of self-seeking on the part of those Pharisees who were present. It was a time of rebuke and sober warning from the lips of our Lord. It was not a pleasant meal.
The meal took place on the Sabbath. The Pharisees laid a trap for Jesus. The Pharisees silently and sullenly watched as Jesus healed a man of dropsy. This started off a confrontation over the legality of healing a man on the Sabbath (vss 1-6). They remained silent when Jesus asked them whether or not healing was permitted on a Sabbath. And they were even more so when Jesus unveiled their own hypocrisy as to the keeping of the Sabbath.
When the guests jockeyed for position at the table, Jesus spoke to this evil as well (vv. 7-11). While they believed that “getting ahead” socially required self-assertion and status-seeking, Jesus told them that the way to get ahead was to take the place of less honor and status. Status was gained by giving it up. One is exalted by humbling himself, Jesus said.
Jesus then went on to direct a word specifically to the host (vv. 12-14). He had apparently invited all the prominent people to his table on this occasion. Jesus told him that while men might seem to get more in return from inviting their friends, family, and prominent people to a meal, in heaven’s currency men were rewarded by God when they invited those who could not give anything in return—the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
The final words of our Lord in this section would have been the most disturbing to those present at the meal (vv. 15-24). By this time, I believe that things were so tense you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. It was exceedingly uncomfortable and to break the silence resulting from Jesus’ last words (and partly in response to His mention of “the resurrection of the righteous,” v. 14), a man called out, “Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (v. 14, NASB). Jesus’ response was even more unnerving. He went on to tell a parable which informed His listeners that while feasting at the banquet of heaven (that is, the kingdom of God) would be a blessing, it was one that they would not experience. Indeed, Jesus indicated that the prominent people would turn down the invitation given them and that the guests would be those they would never have anticipated, indeed, that they would never have invited to their own banquets.
The title of this message is “Excuses, Excuses” for these are not friendly, casual, “talks between friends” they are stinging words of rebuke to those who have not received Jesus as Israel’s Messiah. They are a shocking statement to those who viewed themselves as those who would be prominent in the kingdom of God .
These words of our Lord are, once again, directed specifically to Israelites. This does not mean, however, that they have no relevance to us.
We read from Luke chapter 14:1 to verse 24.
We will start our discussion from verse 1. It was the Sabbath day, in some unnamed town of Israel. Undoubtedly Jesus had been in the synagogue that day, teaching. The “preacher” was invited to the home of one of the prominent Pharisees for dinner. It is my impression that the atmosphere was hostile and the mood unpleasant from the very beginning. Jesus did not, in my opinion, sour the mealtime conversation by saying something unpopular. Jesus does not seem to be invited for the hospitality of it, but for the hostility of it. I believe that word of Jesus had already come to these Pharisees, and they knew Him to be at odds with them, their beliefs and their practices. It seems that He was invited so that some specific charge could be leveled against Him. Luke simply tells us, “they were watching Him closely” (Luke 14:1, NASB).
It appears that the guest list was made up of all the prominent Pharisees, Jesus and just one other person—the man who was afflicted with a strange-sounding ailment known as “dropsy” (verse 2). He seems hardly to have been there by chance. I think that the inference is clearly that this man was placed here, knowing that his ailment was obvious, and that Jesus’ compassion was so predictable, he would surely not be overlooked by Him.