‘For the Jew first and also for the Gentile’
In this parable of the Great Supper, Jesus sought to highlight the Jews’ rejection of God’s gracious invitation, and to warn those who were invited to the banquet not to reject this gracious invitation. “For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper” (Lk. 14:24).
The warning is also there that we do not take for granted God’s grace, and in self-righteousness reject the Gospel invitation.
Jesus used this parable of the Great Supper to expose the process of rejection that already was at work in Israel. The opposition to Jesus, particularly among the religious leaders of the Jews, was increasing (Luke 14:1-6). The time was soon coming when Jesus would set His face toward Jerusalem on a journey that would end at the cross.
After Pentecost the early church’s make-up would shift from being predominantly Jewish to being predominantly Gentile. This is understood in connection with the mystery of God’s plan of salvation–to the Jew first and then to the Gentile. God chose the descendants of Abraham, the Jewish nation, as His people. This was an act of grace, not merit. To the Jews God gave the Old Testament prophets and scriptures. To the Jews God gave the promises of the coming Messiah and the glorious kingdom of God. Isn’t it then mind-boggling that this special people of God rejected Jesus as their promised Messiah and put Him to death on the cross?!
In Jesus’ day banquets were an important part of a village’s and family’s social life. Not to come to a banquet was a terrible affront to the person who had invited you. This would be especially true if the king or an important person was giving the banquet. So it was that “a certain man gave a great supper and invited many (Lk. 14:16).
However, when this man sent his servant to let those who had been invited know that it was time for the supper to begin, those who had been invited began to make excuses why they could not come. The excuses sound good: “I have to inspect my newly bought property” — “I have to test drive my new oxen” — “I have just gotten married.”
The reaction of the master of the house was swift and predictable. He was “angry.” These excuses were a slap in his face. It showed that those who had been invited did not think very much of him or his invitation. It would be like a bride and groom whose wedding invitations are ignored by those who had been invited.
The Application Is Obvious
In the context of the growing opposition to Jesus and His ministry, the application is obvious. Jesus was describing the chosen people of God, the Jews, and their religious leaders who were rejecting Him as the promised Messiah. The people of Jesus’ day had all kinds of reasons and excuses not to follow this Jesus. Because of their self-righteousness, they rejected God’s gracious invitation to partake of this banquet in the kingdom of God.
However, these words are also written for our learning. In His grace, God has also called us as His particular people, even though we were not a people. There is always the real possibility that with our own excuses we will reject the gracious invitation of the Gospel to follow Jesus.
It is easy for “religious” people–especially conservative Lutherans–to take refuge in their own religiousness. It is easy to become distracted by the things of this world and fail to “count the cost” of discipleship. People ignore the means of grace, the Gospel and the Sacraments, through which God extends His gracious invitation to partake of the banquet of life.
If the chosen people of God, the Jews, rejected Jesus, it is also possible for us to refuse God’s gracious invitation.
However, God’s grace will not be frustrated by man’s unbelief. When those who were chosen rejected the invitation, the master sent out his servants to bring in the uninvited. He told his servants: “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind” (Lk. 14:21).
The master compelled people to come in so that his house would be filled. Here was a banquet that was attended not by the rich and the powerful, but by the unwashed, the homeless, the poor, and the beggars. God has invited even us to His banquet.
These words of Jesus set the stage for the events recorded in the book of Acts. Time and time again, the apostle Paul preached first to the Jews. When they rejected the Gospel message, he then turned to the Gentiles. The New Testament church was soon filled with the unworthy, with real sinners, with the poor and neglected, with Gentile “dogs” (cf. Matt. 15:26f).
God brings the lowly and humble into the kingdom of God through the Gospel invitation of the forgiveness of sins.
The sad news is that “none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.” The good news is that there is now room for people like you and me.
The Gospel invitation goes out into all the world, as Jesus says, “Come, for all things are now ready.” May you realize the power of the Holy Spirit, Who compels you to come in through the power of the Gospel.
This parable illustrates how God’s salvation was to the Jew first and then to the Gentile.
–Pastor John Schierenbeck