(Please read Luke 14:15-23)
Jesus, for whom a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years, a day, has little tolerance for smug religious claptrap (think of His “whitewashed sepulchers” speech against the Pharisees, Matthew 23). So when He was at a dinner hosted by influential Pharisees, one where He had already called out their glory-grubbing hypocrisy, and one of the diners intoned, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God” (interpretation being “happy are folks like us who are descended from Abraham and belong to the ‘right’ party”), Jesus was ready. With a parable.
“A certain man gave a great supper and invited many.” (Luke 14:16) Jesus gives no detail about the when and where of this supper; no wine list or menu is described, it is just “great.” Significantly, the invitations have already been delivered. The parable here represents the history of Israel: the long promise—descending from Abraham, through Jacob, through Moses, through all the priesthood and prophecy—the promise of a Messianic kingdom; an era of grace and fellowship with the Lord. All those years the Lord had held out a continual invitation to Abraham’s descendants to embrace the promise of this banquet (which was, as David might have said, “a table in the midst of my enemies.” (Psalm 23:6)
“Come, for all things are now ready.” (verse 17) Jesus, here, is pointing to His presence among them at that moment—the Lord incarnate, the Lamb of God (John 3), ready to offer up the redeeming sacrifice for all; Israel’s Passover Lamb, by Whose blood the people would be saved.
“But they all alike began to make excuses.” (verse 18 EHV) While Jesus is addressing the Jewish leaders who refused to follow Him, in one way or another the excuses given probably expose our own failures: “I have bought a piece of ground.” (verse 18) Just where, exactly, did the fellow think that ground was going to go? Do we not often overlook the extraordinary of the Kingdom for the ordinary of this world? “I have bought a yoke of oxen.” (verse 19) Okay, oxen might wander away, but to “test” them implies that this was business. But is the daily press of business an excuse to spurn the invitation of the Provider of all things? The last excuse, the blunt “I have married a wife,” (verse 20) is a flat rejection of all things heavenly for the fleeting benefits of the earthly. Have we ever made a poor exchange like that?
Up to this point, the parable deals largely with the past and present: Israel had been promised a Messianic king, and here He was. But those who held an invitation to the great supper had no real hunger or thirst for the righteousness of God.
But there is a prophetic element to the parable as well. The Master is good, the Master is generous, and if the rejection of those invited to His feast provokes anger, He turns that anger into something marvelous and wonderful. The invitation is quickly extended broadly and urgently to those who long had been on the edge of God’s covenant activity: the unclean and the Gentiles. “The poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind,” (verse 21) though not formally prohibited from participation of Israel’s fellowship (unlike, for instance, lepers), they were seen by others as less acceptable to God. Likewise the Gentiles (out on the highways) were despised by proper Jews as unworthy of the kingdom. But it was to them that the invitation was sent, and they were brought in by the score, urged on by servants of the King, servants like Paul, who wrote “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us . . . be reconciled to God.” (II Corinthians 5:20)
Jesus is God’s invitation to the feast. Let all who hear the invitation accept it by faith and with the obedience of faith.