In Luke 14.12-24, we are still having lunch with Jesus. He is dining at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees (v.1). He has taught about the Sabbath and having mercy for human life. This rolled right into a parable about a wedding feast, culminating in a teaching on humility. That parable was directed at all those present (v.7) at the luncheon. Now in v.12-14, Jesus addresses the host of the meal.
A Word to the Host
He advises this man about who to invite to his lunches in the future. Jesus tells him not to invite those close to him (friends, brothers, relatives, etc.) because then he will be repaid. Instead, invite those whom cannot repay him: the poor, crippled, blind, etc. There is a blessing attached to this. The reason there is a blessing is because you are acting like God when you help those who cannot help themselves. This is God-like compassion that is to be extended. And when we exhibit this kind of godliness, there is a reward attached to it. We are not rewarded by men; Jesus advices we seek the opposite. Instead it is reward from God at the resurrection. We let God recognize and reward us for the good deeds we have done. This is a promise.
A Word from a Guest
Perhaps it was excitement at this amazing proposition that stimulated a guest at the lunch to exclaim the blessing found in v.15. He had heard these things and for joy he shouted out, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.” I wonder if it caught the Lord off guard. Or maybe there was a slow smile that crept across his face as he saw an opportunity to teach. Simply speculation. But the Lord did, it would seem, use this exclamation to teach the people about the kingdom of God.
A Word about the Kingdom
This parable is sort of divided into three guest lists: those invited who refuse, those invited who were collected, those invited who should not have been there. First, there are those who are invited but refuse their invitiation. Jesus details the various excuses they use. One says he has a field he has to go look at. Another has some oxen to examine. Still another has a wife he just married. It is a dismal report this servant brings back to his master: no one is coming.
Furious because of this development, the master sends the servant into the streets and alleys to find anyone and everyone who will come to the banquet. Now these are people were the social outcasts. The street walkers, prostitutes, “sinners” were invited and tookl their seats at the banquet. Actually, I suppose they take the empty seats of those who should have been there but for earthly cares decided not to come. These are gathered and there are still seats to fill. Now the servant is to go to the “highways and hedges” and collect those who will come. Now we are at the lowest rung of the social ladder. These are the vile Gentiles (for these are the roads outside the city, pointing to the invitation that would be extended to the Gentile who was outside the Jewish system). But this is a theme running throughout the gospel of Luke: it is the emarginated, those pushed to the edge of society who are pictured as recipients of the good things the master has prepared. It is this group who receive with gladness the invitation and take the place of the Jew who was to be at the banquet.
And notice the final words of Jesus in this section: “For I tell you (plural), none of those men who were invited will taste my banquet.” I think this is the lesson of this parable for the people sitting around the table eating lunch with Jesus. And surely the lesson is for us also as we sup with the Lord. Currently we have an invitation to the banquet of the Master if we are Christians. But if we allow the cares of the world to bog us down, if we lose focus on that grand feast, we will lose our spot. But God’s table will be filled that day. Just as the Jew could refuse to take his proper at the table, so can we. And just as the “vile” Gentile would take the place of the Jew who refused, so also will our spot be filled should we deem ourselves unfaithful. Jesus is showing the true blessing of eating at the banquet: there is room for all. The sad truth that goes with this teaching, though, is that the table feast can be refused.