Our text this morning is found in the 14th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, in verses 15-24. Jesus is in the home of a Pharisee (Jewish religious leader) eating a meal on the Sabbath. This has been a tense meal thus far because Jesus offended the religious leaders by healing a disabled man (4) on the Sabbath. Jesus, undaunted by their attitude, then taught them about true humility (7-11) and generosity (12-14).
In our text this morning, a man at the feast said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (15). To this pronouncement, Jesus tells the group the following parable:
But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But 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.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So 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.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And 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. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
Explanation of the Parable
Here are the main points of the parable: The “great banquet” symbolizes the kingdom of God. In this culture it was customary to extend two invitations: one to make reservation (RSVP) and the other to announce that the banquet was beginning. The first group invited symbolizes the religious leaders of the nation of Israel. These are the people one would most expect to attend because they appeared to be the most worthy. Surprisingly, the first group refuses to come into the kingdom of God. While they approved of the invitation, they cringed at the sight of the feast and offered excuses as to why they could not attend.
After the first group refuses, a second group is invited. This group consists of the outcasts of society—the poor and crippled and blind and lame. These people in the city (are Jewish), but are the people one would least expect to attend because they appear to be unworthy. This group comes at once and enjoys the blessings of the kingdom of God.
After being told that the second group has come and there is still room, a third group is invited. This group consists of people out in the “highways and hedges” (23) and often avoided by Jews. These people are outside the city (are Gentiles) and appear to be the most unlikely people you would find at a Jewish banquet. Like the second group, this group comes at once and enjoys the blessings of the great banquet (the kingdom of God). Then, the announcement comes that the original invitees will never share in the kingdom of God.
The Main Point of the Parable
The man at the feast said, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (15). Jesus replied with the parable and, in essence, said, “Yes, those who are in the kingdom of God are blessed and you can only enter by grace. Those who are full of pride will be offended by grace and will not enter, but those who are humble will be thankful for grace and will enter.”
Offended by Grace
The man at the feast was looking forward to the blessing of eating bread in the kingdom of God, while he did not realize that he was feasting with the King. He spoke of the kingdom as a distant, future event, but Jesus taught that it “is at hand” (Mark 1:15).
This parable is very interesting for one primary reason, the excuses given are absurd. The first group invited had been told to prepare for the banquet. While they did not know when the banquet would occur, they were nevertheless supposed to be ready. For the first to make an excuse about buying a field, the second to make an excuse about buying five yoke of oxen, and the third to make an excuse about being married; they are sending the signal that they have changed their mind and do not want to come.
The people at the feast would have known this and immediately recognized the foolishness behind these excuses. They were thinking, “You cannot attend the banquet because of a business deal or because of your family? That is crazy, go to the banquet!”
Why did Jesus tell this parable at this time? He did so because He was talking to people who were offended that a disabled man had been healed, they sought the “place of honor” (8), and they refused to befriend the outcasts. The people at the feast could recognize the foolishness of the people in the parable but were unable to recognize their own. We, in 2013, often recognize the foolishness of the people at the feast, but are unable to recognize our own. Consider this point carefully, those who are offended by grace are blinded by pride.
Have you ever considered whether or not you are offended by grace? If you do not have a Christian background, grace may be a foreign idea to you. You may balk at the notion of submitting and surrendering to God considering it to be weakness. You may try to earn your way, but God makes it clear that no one earns God’s favor; it is given by grace alone.
Are you a Christian? If you were saved by grace, why would you want to continue by your works? The same grace that saved you, sustains you. Don’t work to earn God’s favor, work because God’s grace has given you God’s favor.