Parable of the Great Banquet
Luke 14:15-24. One of the dinner guests jumped to bless those who would share in the kingdom banquet. He surely assumes that he will be among those so blessed. But Jesus cautions the dinner guests about such optimism, while also correcting their misunderstanding of the kingdom itself.
The Kingdom is Now
The man pronounced a benediction on those who will feast in the kingdom. But Jesus’ parable describes a banquet that is ready. In fact, the invitations are going out to the invited guests. But the guests are refusing to come to the party. The Jews had RSVP’d for the banquet several times (e.g., Exodus 19:8 and Joshua 24:24). But now, when the day of salvation has come, they refuse to come in.
The Jews’ problems
The Jews misunderstood the kingdom. They were counting on their physical descent from Abraham (Luke 3:8). But physical descent only connects a person to the first Adam. Faith unites us to the Second Adam. Faith makes us spiritual sons of Abraham (Gal. 3:7-9). Rather than focussing on their social standing, they ought to have recognized how far short of the glory of God they had fallen and come in humble repentance. And rather than counting on their genealogy or their circumcision, they ought to have counted on the mercy of God.
The Jews also misunderstood the coming of the kingdom. They expected a sudden appearance of the kingdom. But the kingdom of God begins in the heart. Christ, the Second Adam, came to bring the kingdom, restoring man to his proper place in the created order, as vicegerent, with dominion over the earth, and exercising that rule in submission to God. That process begins by returning God to his proper place in our hearts, as sovereign commander of the whole of our lives.
But these men have embraced the world. They have been distracted and sedated by mere earthly pleasures. Worldly wealth … even family, cannot take precedence over God’s reign. Jesus will go on to say, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple,” (Luke 14:26 ESV) and “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25 ESV). And later he will explain, through his servant James, that “friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4 ESV) They have sold their birthright for a pot of stew. Mere trinkets have kept them from a grand eternal inheritance. It’s tragic.
The Guest List
Because the invited guests have refused to come when the call was issued, the king expands the guest list. He invites the poor, the lame, the crippled and the blind. It is not the healthy who need a doctor. And it is not the wealthy who appreciate a feast. The king calls the humble to dine with him.
But still there is room. So the guest list expands further. Clearly, the expansion of the kingdom offer to the gentiles is in view. In the parable, the guest list’s expansion has the aim of excluding the no-shows. The host will ensure that none of those who refused the call will taste the banquet. Obviously, this does not fully capture the expansion of the gospel call. Already in Isaiah, God said to His Servant, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Is 49:6 ESV) And in Romans 11, we see that expansion to the gentiles is the means by which God will recall some of the Jews from their wandering. That is, he will make them jealous through the inclusion of the gentiles. But here, Jesus is warning the Jews.
Today is the Day of Salvation
This is but another iteration of a warning he’s been issuing for some time. Judgment is coming. You do not know the day or the hour. It will come suddenly, like a thief in the night, at an hour you do not expect. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:2 ESV)
Let us head the warning, too, as those on whom the end of the ages has come (1 Cor. 10:1-13). Let us be sure that we are not counting on our baptism or attendance or good works. Baptism puts us in touch with the promise. But the promise is that those who repent and believe will be saved. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12) Let us hear the call of the kingdom and bear fruits in keeping with repentance. Let us recognize our sinfulness. Let us recognize that we do not deserve a spot at the table at all, let alone a prominent one. And let us embrace, not our own righteousness, but the righteousness freely given us by Christ alone. Then, clothed in the righteousness of Christ himself, we will be exalted to the highest place.
Indeed, for those who know Him, this is already the case. We are seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus … seated at the right hand of God. There is no higher honor. And it is an honor that will never end. Let’s not settle for trinkets or stew, when an eternal heavenly banquet is before us.
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