Luke 14:15-24 At this point in his ministry, Jesus was teaching thousands of people—he was at the height of his popularity—and so he was something of a local celebrity.
He was invited by a ruler of the Pharisees to his home for a banquet—which is kind of an odd thing for them to do because Jesus had been warning the people he taught about the hypocrisy of their leaders. Woe to the scribes and Pharisees! Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy!
And yet here Jesus was, in this ruler’s home as his guest, surrounded by the very people he had been criticizing.
Luke gives us the reason for this odd scene: that the ruler and the other Pharisees were watching him closely—trying to catch him, do or say something wrong. But Luke tells us that Jesus was also watching them—that he noticed how they chose the places of honor for themselves.
Jesus used this context to tell some stories about what life with God is really all about. He told them about a wedding feast where a man chose the best place for himself only to have to move after the host came and told him someone more important had arrived—that everyone who exalted himself would be humbled and the humble exalted.
He told them that rather than inviting family and friends to their banquets (people who could repay their hospitality) they ought to invite the poor and the blind and the lame because God would repay them in the end for their generosity.
Of course, Jesus was not really telling them these stories to correct their boorish behavior and give them social graces. Instead, he was telling them about how the
with God is about God’s grace and our humble reception of that grace that makes
us gracious to others. At least one man
there got it: kingdom
When one of those who reclined at table with Jesus heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the
This is the response that Jesus wants from all of us—yet it is the very thing we struggle with.
Life with God is about humility-- and yet we want to exalt ourselves above others. Life with God is about generosity towards others-- but there’s a cost in that to us we don’t always like to pay. Life with God is about our hearts being right rather than just looking good on the outside-- but we are experts at pious facades.
Life with God is different than the way the world works-- and there’s a cost to following Jesus-- but the blessings are worth it a thousand times over: forgiveness for our sins and the confidence that God is with us and guiding us and the promise that there is life for us after this life is done.
The blessings of life with God in his kingdom are wonderful and life-changing and he invites us to come to him and faith and take our place and receive his blessings:
Jesus 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.’
Throughout the Bible—Old Testament and New—life with God is portrayed as a great banquet.
It is no accident that the central feature of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is a salvation meal: the Passover in the O.T. and Holy Communion in the N.T. A banquet is peace and plenty and God is the One who is the Host and he invites all people to come and take their place at his table of salvation.
He is the One has made it ready. He has sent his Son to die on the cross, reconciling the world to himself. He is the One who raised Jesus from the dead, promising life and salvation in his name. And he is the One who issues the invitation.
Wherever and whenever the Gospel is preached and the sacraments administered, there is God the Holy Spirit, inviting all people to come and feast on the riches of his bountiful love. And you would think that every person who heard this invitation would accept it with joy and thanksgiving and receive what he offers—but they don’t.
[Those invited] 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.’
This list is not meant to be exhaustive-- but it captures the spirit of those who refuse God’s invitation to come to his banquet of salvation. They reject God’s invitation because they can’t be bothered--because they think little of the host--because they regard the business of their lives more important than receiving God’s gifts.
They do it for material reasons—always seeking after and concerned about things that will only matter in this life. They do it for relationship reasons—because the ones they love have no interest in the things of God, neither do they.
But these reasons—these excuses-- do not suffice when it comes to God’s invitation to have a life with him.
Jesus said: you cannot serve God and money. Jesus said: those who love family more than me are not worthy of me. And to refuse God’s invitation to come to him and have a life with him is to lose something much more precious than money or family—it is to lose one’s own life for eternity under the wrath of God.
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.’
The Good News of God’s invitation is that the poor and the obscure and the broken are invited to his banquet as much as are the rich and famous. Such is his love for the world that his gracious invitation to come and partake of the banquet of salvation goes out to every person irrespective of who they are -or what they have -or what they have done. God wants each person to have a place at his table.
But to refuse his invitation—to reject his salvation—to ignore his grace-- is to learn something else that is also true about our gracious God: that he is also a God of wrath who is angry with those who refuse to have a life with him.
Those who think that they can refuse God without consequences are deceiving themselves-- and so the lesson for us from Jesus’ story is to take to heart God’s invitation right here and now and receive the good things that he wants to give to us.
And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 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.
Not only does God call us into his kingdom to give us his gifts—he invites us take part in making sure that others have a place at his table like we do. You will notice that it is the servant who actually issues the invitation.
The question for us is this: can we answer the same as the servant—that everything necessary has been done—that we have made sure that everyone we know has received God’s gracious invitation?
The servant thought he had and I believe that he answered that way fully believing that he had. He wasn’t intentionally trying to deceive the master. But the master asked him to look again. He knew that there were still plenty of folks who didn’t have a place at his banquet and he wanted to make sure that they had every opportunity to come.
The challenge for the servant—and the challenge for us—is to see things from God’s perspective—that all people are welcome to have a life with God.
For the Pharisees and the other religious leaders this meant that they needed to open their eyes and see that God also loved the Gentiles—that God also loved those who had failed miserably in life—that God also loved those who were, at that moment, very far from him.
The master in Jesus’ story wanted his house FULL and so does God want his kingdom full. The challenge for us is to look with fresh eyes and see the folks around as objects of God’s redeeming love—no less than we—no matter who they are, no matter what they have done, no matter how far they are from the kingdom of God right now.
God invites all people to come and have a life with him with the warning that those who reject his invitation will never experience the peace and forgiveness and life that Jesus came to give. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.
There are many places where we can see ourselves in this story Jesus tells. Are our hearts as open and inviting as that of the master who wants to make a place in his life for everyone-- or are we closed off to people because of who they are—wanting to keep them at arm’s length?
Are we that faithful servant who makes sure that the master’s invitation goes out to all people—doing our part in the mission of Jesus-- or are we content for others to do that work and support that mission?
Are we those folks who are too busy and too self-important to receive the gifts that God wants to give? May God forbid that we find ourselves there and there is no reason to find ourselves there!
The banquet of life and peace is ready. Jesus has done everything to set before us a feast of forgiveness. God invites us to come and have a life with him.
Perhaps the most important place to see ourselves in this story is that of the man at the beginning of the story, who, hearing about all that Jesus offered, said in faith: Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the
This is the response that God is
looking for from us when he invites us to come and have a life with him. Amen, kingdom of God