THE GREAT BANQUET IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD

 

Luke 14:1-35

Key Verse: 14:23

 

“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.’”

In the previous chapter Jesus taught us that the kingdom of God would grow like a mustard seed once it was planted in our heart and it would expand like yeast works through a batch of dough. So, Jesus encouraged us to enter through the narrow door to participate the feast in the kingdom of God. There is no other door to the kingdom of God other than Jesus. Today, Jesus teaches the basic attitudes as the citizens of the kingdom of God during the banquet. This is called “Jesus’ guest meal discussion.”  First, Jesus teaches the religious leaders compassion and humility (1-11). Second, Jesus teaches the host of the banquet generosity. (12-14) Third, Jesus teaches all invited guests the parable of the Great Banquet. (15-24) God prepared the great banquet in the kingdom of God and sent his Son Jesus to invite all of us though we were least expected to attend. May God bless us to accept his invitation humbly and enjoy the heavenly banquet with Jesus forever. I pray that we all may go out to the campus lanes and invite UMCP students until God’s house will be full.  

PART I. JESUS AT A PHARISEE’S BANQUET (1-14)

First, Jesus teaches the religious leaders compassion. Look at verse 1. “One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. The motive to invite Jesus was clear from the start. They were watching Jesus carefully to find something to discredit his work. Who was in front of Jesus? Look at verse 2. “There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy.” O my goodness! They made a man with dropsy sit right in front of Jesus. The symptoms of dropsy are swollen limbs and tissue resulting from excess body fluids. He suffered from his sickness and he needed the mercy of God. This poor, suffering man, was being used by the Pharisees as a setup to catch Jesus. The Pharisees prepared this dinner in an attempt to bring charges against Jesus as a violator of the Sabbath law. This was the third Sabbath controversy in Luke’s gospel. They watched Jesus with lurking eyes to see if he would heal the sick man on the Sabbath.

Usually, the enemies of Jesus attack first to find fault in him, but this time Jesus attacked them first. Jesus made a preemptive strike with a question in verse 3b, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” Though Jesus was in a hostile environment, he was not shaken or afraid of men. He understood his enemies’ poisonous intentions and rebuked their hypocrisy with the word of God. Verse 4a says, “But they remained silent.” Why were they silent? They had an unenviable position. If they say, “yes,” it is against the teaching on the Sabbath law but if they say, ‘no,’ it is against doing good and showing compassion. Their silence meant their defeat. Jesus shut their mouths of unloving and complaining and critical minds. They no longer say anything in reply. Now Jesus acts and heals. Jesus lost no time. Look at verse 4b, “So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away.” Jesus was a compassionate shepherd for this man. Jesus was willing to sacrifice his very own life for the sake of this man. Due to Jesus’ compassion, this man began to have a new life free from his swollen legs and hands. He dreamed to establish a house church with a woman of faith.  

Jesus did more than heal a man with dropsy. He also taught the Pharisees compassion of God. Look at verse 5. “Then he asked them, ‘If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?’” Verse 6 says, “And they had nothing to say.” That’s right. Out of his compassion, Jesus pulled this suffering sheep out of a well of despair and suffering. Compassion is the expression of God’s love for fallen men. One time Jesus wanted to have a quiet retreat with his disciples but the unruly crowds followed him. Mark 6:34 says, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” Jesus had compassion on them and taught them the word of God. Jesus cancelled his vacation plan to help his needy sheep with compassion. God desires mercy and compassion that reaches out to meet our needs even on the day of rest. Once we were in the pits of dark sins but Jesus reached out his hands and rescued us so that we might have a new life. In the past M. James P. was suffering in the pit of fatalism and sin, but Jesus pulled him out of the pit of his dark life with 1 to 1 Bible study with compassion. Since then, he became a compassionate shepherd for many young American students. Tommy is growing as a spiritual leader under his compassionate love of God. In the same way, Jesus had compassion on me and pulled me out of the pit of sin and selfishness. Now I retired last August and changed my tires and traveled thousands miles to serve the world mission. At the same time some former members and critics are looking to find faults in me and trying to discourage me when I decided to work fulltime. But God gave me courage to keep going today and tomorrow and the next day until God enables us to pioneer 206 East Coast campuses and send out missionaries to China, North Korea, Latin America, and Africa. .

Second, Jesus teaches them humility (7-11).

In this part, Jesus deals with the problem of pride and teaches the religious leaders humility. Look at verse 7a. “When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table.” It is our human nature to seek honor and human recognition. The seats next to the host were the seats of honor. If someone seats next to the President, he is an honored guest. So, when all the seats of honor were occupied by the Pharisees, Jesus told this parable. Look at verses 8,9. “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.” What a humiliation this man experienced!  

Jesus told them to humble themselves. Look at verse 10. “But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests.” The citizens of the kingdom of God must learn how to humble themselves. Matthew 23:11 says, “The greatest among you will be your servant.” 1 Peter 5:5 says, “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” It is easy for many young men to become proud and lose God’s blessings. Jesus is a good example for us to follow. Though Jesus is God, he humbled himself and became a servant of all (Php 2:6-8; Mk 10:45). Let’s read verse 11. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” When Abraham was humble before God, God lifted him up to become a father of many nations. When Moses was proud saying “I am your leader and follow me by killing an Egyptian,” God could not use him but when he became the humblest man on the face of the earth, God used him to lead the Israelites to cross the Red Sea and conquered the Promised Land. Humility is the emblem of God’s people.  

Third, Jesus teaches them generosity. (12-14)

In this part, Jesus gives the host of the banquet who not to invite and who to invite. Jesus gave him the promised heavenly reward if he follows his word. Jesus saw that the members of the dinner were all the people of rank. Only VIPs were invited. What did Jesus say to the host? Look at verses 13,14. “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.” Jesus wanted them to invite the needy in order to practice generous serving.  An act of generosity is remembered and repaid, as our Lord promised Abraham as well as all the heroes of faith. In Genesis 18 Abraham served strangers with delicious food and he happened to serve the angels. God blessed him to become his friend to share the future work of God. Of course, it is difficult to invite the blind, the lame, and the crippled. But it  is natural for us to invite our friends and relatives and fellowship members and servants of God and like-minded people. Jesus did not say that we should not invite them. We should invite them to have fellowship among Christians because we love them. It is good thing. He also encourages us to invite the needy people who need our love and attention. Inviting others who cannot invite us back is not easy in this pragmatic generation. “Give and take” is a normal course of life today. But God gave us wealth to use for his glory. We received freely and we give freely. It is a great privilege to use our wealth to give generously and to invite others for a dinner. Giving something to the helpless is the same as giving to our Lord Jesus Christ. Whenever guests come to our center, many women coworkers invited them generously. Dr. Luke and Rebecca provide a place to stay for Dr. Steve and Allison every weekend. Though a return invitation from them is not possible, there awaits a different, better reward: God will repay with blessing in the resurrection. These days many spiritual leaders are saying that Christianity is becoming churchianity looking inwardly to serve each other such as a social club. Christians must look outwardly to reach out to the outside people who need God’s help. Let’s show genuine love for the students who cannot invite us back for a dinner. More than that, let’s serve them with one-to-one Bible study. Do your one-to-one students pay you? No. Do they buy lunch for you? No. Do they reward you? No. But they need your help because they suffer from broken family and broken relationship and hatred and wounded hearts. They are like sheep without shepherd. They need our love and care. As Jesus served us free of charge, we may serve them free of charge until they are healed and find new life.  

PART II THE GREAT BANQUET IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD (15-24).

In this part, Jesus invites all the guests to the great banquet in the kingdom of God. In this parable we see God’s heart desire to invite his children to the heavenly banquet, without missing one.  Look at verses 16, 17. “Jesus replied: ‘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.”’” Here a certain man refers to God and the great banquet to the kingdom of God. In Matthew 22:2, this banquet was a wedding feast of the king’s son. In the Jewish wedding it takes one year for the wedding ceremony. After the engagement, the bride and groom invite all the potential guests with a decorated invitation letter. Then the invitees accept the invitation and then awaited the servant’s message to announce the celebration’s start. They said, “yes” to an R.S.V.P. request. The imagery pictures Israel’s and the leadership’s invitation to the banquet table. In verse 17, “those who had been invited,” refers to his chosen people (Ro 9:1-5). Here the first invitees are the Jews, the chosen people of God.

Now the banquet is ready, so God said, “Come, for everything is now ready.” God prepared his salvation plan and sent his one and only Son to save men from the power of sin and death. Now his Son is here and is ready to finish his salvation work on the cross. Jesus said in Mark 1:15, “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Jesus said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) Jesus prepared the kingdom of God through his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. He prepared the heavenly banquet for his people. He would like to give eternal blessings and happiness to all his people. Jesus invited all people by saying, “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened. I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) God is calling everyone to come into his kingdom because it is a place of happiness and eternal life. All they have to do is to come just as they are. Just come and join the celebration.

What was their response to the servant’s final invitation, “Come, for everything is ready?” They blindly rejected God’s invitation. What a surprise! One of them said, “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it” (18b). He valued his field more important than God’s invitation. He can go and see his field after the banquet because he already owns it. He missed the banquet. Another said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me” (19). Five oxen show that he was a rich man. He cared his business more than the banquet. Still another said, “I just got married, so I can’t come” (20). This man said, “I am going to my honey moon to Bahamas, do not bother me.” They rejected God’s invitation. To refuse an invitation at this stage shows an absence of courtesy, much like being a no-show after already responding to an R.S.V.P.  They all regarded God’s invitation optional not mandatory. But God’s invitation is mandatory because we will stay outside the kingdom if we miss the invitation. Fields and oxen and marriage became their first priority. They made many excuses and missed the banquet. The first invitees refused to come to the banquet. This is a historical fact that the privileged religious leaders rejected Jesus and crucified him on the cross and threw him outside Jerusalem. They were excluded from God’s blessings and the eternal banquet prepared for them. Would you refuse to the invitation to the White house banquet or the rock and roll show? No, we would love to attend it. Last summer Abe and Sarah L prepared their wedding banquet carefully and sent invitation. When someone excused not to come, they sent their invitation to the second line of people and third line of people. They made sure that their banquet hall was full. They felt disappointed when someone did not show after saying “yes” to their invitation. I think all showed up. How was the banquet? It was joyful and happy. Many second generation kids were doing break-dancing and I loved YMCA dancing and learned a ball room dancing for the first time. Chris K. was doing the best dancing. I also enjoyed Tunde and Folake’s wedding banquet because when they danced, people threw money to them. Now Belssi is planning a wedding banquet with a careful planning. Make sure that you attend it. How much more it will be the heavenly banquet! I am longing for the banquet eating with our Lord Jesus, Abraham, Moses and Peter and John. How did you feel if someone did not show after you prepared a lot of food? How did God feel when his people rejected his invitation? We must understand God’s broken heart when we reject his invitation.

What happened next? Look at verse 21. “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.’” God did not cancel or delay his banquet but his banquet was on schedule. God did not stop inviting his people; the invitation was extended to the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. They were undeserving people. They represent sinners such as the tax collectors. They were humble and poor in spirit. Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” When Jesus called Levi, he got up and followed Jesus immediately because he knew he was a sinner who needs God. When Jesus called Peter, he left his net and followed Jesus at once. When Jesus called the Samaritan woman, she accepted Jesus as her true husband. When Jesus called us, we responded with gratitude. They accepted the invitation with great joy because they knew they were sinners who did not deserve such a glorious invitation. They realized God’s deep love through his invitation.  They understood Jesus’ word, “anybody and everybody.” Still, there was more room to fill.

The servant said, “Sir, what you ordered has been done, but there is still room” (22). Look at verse 23. “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.’” So God began to invite the Gentiles. We belong to the third invitation. This reminds us that we are saved by God’s grace alone. God is not willing for anyone to perish, but wants everyone to come to Jesus and be saved. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” When we know the heart of God, we can have universal love for all peoples of all nations. When we know the heart of God, we can pray for people in Muslim countries, including Iraq, North Korea and China to hear the invitation to the kingdom of God and be saved. Dr. Steve Haga traveled a long distance to see the work of God in India. He saw the conversion of many Hindus to Christianity. In the heart of God, there is no self-righteousness or condemnation. God wants to save all people of the world. Look at the servants who invited us. Today, God invites us repeatedly out of his mercy. We live in the grace period.  The servants God sent understood God’s heart desire and went to everywhere he sent to invite the lost flocks of God. Though they were rejected many times, they did not give up inviting people because they knew the love of God. Also they were invited to serve them by God’s grace alone. They rejected God’s invitation also but they accepted his invitation due to the repeated invitation. What are the excuses when we invite students today? They say, “I am busy.” But we found them in the video game rooms or in the movie theater or in the balling alleys. Some students say, “I am a Jew or a Catholic.” Or some students say, “I am self-sufficient and happy.” But they have a lot of problems. In spite of their excuses, we should invite them again and again. Lawson excused Dr. Steve’s invitation but accepted Sarah’s invitation. Who knows there is another Lawson out there? In conclusion, no man can enter the kingdom without invitation and we must accept Jesus invitation with humble heart. Thank God for extending his invitation to us, the least likely people.  Let’s read the key verse 23.