The Parable Of The Great Banquet


‘Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Luke 14:12-15

One of the greatest qualities, which dominated the life of Jesus, was His unselfishness. While He was eating dinner in the presence of the Pharisees, Jesus’ thoughts turned to the many people who hadn’t been invited, and so He spoke to His host in the plainest of terms.

Make no mistake about this, these were hard words, I would imagine the host staring at Jesus with anger and rage in his eyes. But that didn’t deter Jesus, He just stood His ground.

Have you ever been talking with someone about a subject that you just don’t want to talk about? When that happens to me I usually try to change the subject or say something that will make my thinking a little easier.

Well, that’s what happens next because from nowhere one of the other guests tries to break the spell and dismiss the question by saying “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” And so Jesus responds with a parable that compares His kingdom to a banquet furnished by God.

The Parable Of The Great Banquet

“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ “But they all alike began to make excuses.” Luke 14:16-18

Before we get into the parable we need to mention Matthew’s account. In Matthew 22:1-14 we find a similar parable by Jesus to the one we have just read. And many people interpret them both as variations of one original story. However, when you read the backgrounds and the details of both parables you will find that they’re both very different.

The parable in Matthew’s account is in close succession with the parable of ‘The Tenants’ and sounds a warning note to the Jews who would reject their Messiah.

The parable in Luke’s account however isn’t as severe in tone, yet it stands as a warning to all men that they shouldn’t take the kingdom for granted. And so the two parables are independent of each other but the obvious similarities are due to their common origin, Jesus Christ.

Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a sumptuous banquet. It’s very significant that in most of this chapter, Jesus talks a lot about feasts and banquets. And so in this atmosphere, Jesus talks about entering the kingdom of heaven to that of coming to a feast.

Now I don’t know about you but I hate rumours, I hate them because they may have an element of truth about them but mostly they are extended lies about an event or a person. And so what started as a rumour, has now become a fact in some people’s eyes.

During the days of Jesus, there was a rumour that went around that the Jews believed as fact, even today many Jews still believe it as fact.

It was a common, belief at that time that when the Messiah came, in the golden age of His reign, all of the Jews would be invited to sit at His table. And so with that in mind Jesus uses this popular notion and taught that the kingdom is like a banquet.

It’s not a long dreary funeral procession, it’s a festive occasion of warm fellowship and unheard of delight. And remember that Jesus didn’t come to darken an already gloomy world, His mission was to bring good news. And I wish the world would recognise that Jesus’ message of good news has been distorted beyond the point of recognition.

Multitudes of people have come to believe that people can’t enjoy themselves and still be a Christian. And many people have misconceptions about Christianity because they have a distorted view of Jesus. Yes, it’s true that Isaiah 53:3 describes Him as a ‘Man of sorrows’ but this view has been magnified out of proportion.

A man named Publius Lentulus wrote a commentary on behalf of Pontius Pilate which incidentally was written some 3-4 hundred years later and in it he describes Jesus. Listen to the way he describes Him.

“In reproof and rebuke, He is formidable, in exhortation and teaching, gentle and amiable. He has never been seen to laugh, but oftentimes to weep, His person is tall and erect, and His hands and limbs are beautiful and straight. In speaking He is deliberate and grave and little given to loquacity, in beauty He surpasses the children of men.”

And this image of Jesus had a lasting effect on the art and sculpture of succeeding ages so that even today Jesus is seen as a man who never laughed. Is this what Jesus was like? If Jesus lived in a way as to enjoy life, then surely His disciples should do the same.

We’re not expected in ‘Monk fashion’ to withdraw from the world and punish ourselves. We’re not expected to be like the Pharisees and bind ourselves with a code so strict that even toys for children are condemned as ‘works of the flesh.’

Jesus said, ‘His kingdom is one of Joy’. Not a joy of bodily depravity and sensual living but the joys that are spiritual and eternal. Now there are three excuses given but they can be divided into two classes.

The first two have to do with earthly possessions and the third concerns earthly ties. And we’re going to look at the excuses in more depth in a minute but let me first say this.

That word ‘Alike’ in Luke 14:18 is an interesting word because it doesn’t mean they couldn’t go or they simply said, ‘No thank you’. What it basically means is that they simply ‘didn’t want to go’.

Firstly let’s look at the first two excuses, the earthly possessions.

“The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’” Luke 14:18-19

Now there is little difference between the two excuses. Both men are absorbed in their own interests, both men were so tied up in their business affairs that they had no time for anything else. They were basically saying, “they had too much to do, so they couldn’t come.”

How many times have we heard that excuse over the years? It’s like focusing on “self” is everything and the “life that is now” gets more attention. Their business is their Bible and making a living is their creed. They rarely seem to have time for other people and never have any time for God.

God knew that all of mankind would struggle with this and so what He did to help us take our minds away from our earthly possessions is institute what He calls the Lord’s Day.

It’s a special occasion and a special service of worship on the first day of every week. And Sundays are the days that He gives us a special call to put aside all of our concerns of the week and give attention to the concerns of God.

And as we meet every week with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we each encourage one another and each of us reflects upon the sacrifice of Christ, as we’re reminded again of the cost of sin, Matthew 4:4.

Some Christians don’t like Hebrews 10:25, is because it is a direct command from the Holy Spirit, through the Hebrew writer for us to continually come together. And the ones who don’t like this verse are those who are already in the habit of not meeting together.

People who don’t meet together could end up like Demas, 2 Timothy 4:10. It’s not so much a matter of commitment, it’s a matter of encouragement, James 5:5.

Let’s look at the second excuse, the earthly ties.

“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’” Luke 14:20

Now this man’s excuse is a little more difficult to understand because of one of the beautiful Laws written in the Book of Deuteronomy.

Maybe the man was basing his excuse on this particular Law found in Deuteronomy 24:5, and maybe he felt that he had a perfectly good excuse. He placed the obligation of his family and his home first and he thought that everybody would understand.

But when you think about it, it’s a paradox that something as lovely and sweet as a home can stand between a man and his God, Genesis 2:24. But that doesn’t mean that he’s to leave his Father in heaven.

When we think about our homes, they’re among our greatest blessings, but as we know many a blessing can turn into a disaster. Because there are at least two ways in which we can use our homes wrongly.

1. Our home and our family ties can occupy the chief spot in our hearts, Luke 14:20 / Luke 14:26.

We’re going to look more at this in a moment but for now, let me say that Jesus commands an exclusive affection, He wants the whole heart.

2. Our homes can be used selfishly.

We can come home after a hard day at work and want to do nothing but relax and enjoy ourselves. Or we can spend much time and effort making our homes so liveable that we wrap ourselves up in luxury and shut others out. Regardless of how our homes are built, the windows should always look out for the needs of others.

This is the way the first-century church thought of their homes and it’s the way we should think about our homes, Romans 12:13 / Hebrews 13:2. Practising this remains one of the great glories of a Christian home.

“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.’ “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “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.” Luke 14:21-23

The flimsy excuses made the host angry, especially with those who He invited but didn’t want to come. So He sent His servant out into the city, He sent Him onto the streets, and the alleys. He wanted His house full, He sent Him out into what we would call the slums.

Now, what’s Jesus’ point here? The point is that Jesus was saying to the Jews that they had rejected the Messiah and they wouldn’t sit at the Messiah’s table.

He’s telling them that the lower classes of people, the publicans, sinners and even the heathens are going to take their place at the table, that’s what He’s telling them.

“I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.” Luke 14:24

This is bad news for those who rejected His offer but great news for us. Isn’t that a wonderful truth of general application that God wants His house to be full?

He’s abundant in mercy and desires the salvation of all, Romans 5:17. Once His invitation is refused, He returns again and goes to others in order that some will feast at His banquet.

I mean this is a universal invitation to come and feast at the Lord’s Table, Matthew 28:19. The Gospel is for all, the love of God desires a multitude of guests.

What a sight it must have been! The cripples, the downcast, the poor with their heads bowed. The blind groping around for a place to sit, the lame leaning on their crutches.

And what we need to remember is that it was a happy group of people and a happy occasion. And I wish I could just leave the story on that happy note but I can’t because there are still the others, the ones who didn’t come in.

They had closed themselves out, they had sent different excuses, yet there was only one reason why they didn’t come. They loved things too much, they rejected a generous Host and they rejected His grace.

Imagine what it would be like! For some to be filled with the bread of life and for others to be dying of hunger! For some to have living water at their feet and for others to be dying of thirst! Matthew 5:6.

Jesus’ invitation is open to you all, please don’t make an excuse to refuse your personal invite to feast at His table today.