By Randy Harmon
Pastor, Rock Springs Baptist Church, Greenbrier
Focal Passage: Luke 14:12-24
In Luke 14, Jesus participates in a conversation that had begun over 700 years earlier (Isaiah 25:6-9). While the religious elite are refusing to accept Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom, spiritual outsiders are responding with faith and acceptance. To the Jews, this story would be inconceivable.
At a lunch provided by a very prominent Pharisee for other Pharisees and scribes (v. 3) they intended to trap Jesus into healing a sick man on the Sabbath. They planned to use this act to prove that He could not possibly be sent from God if He so readily broke their laws in this way. As Jesus taught, someone responded with a blessing (v. 15). They probably expected Jesus to reply with a commendation, but Jesus has just taught previously about humility and being a host to those who cannot reciprocate (v. 14).
The Jews thought they were earning the resurrection of the righteous by keeping their regulations. They saw the resurrection of the righteous as a banquet because that is the way Isaiah described it in Isaiah 25:6-9. Thus the statement in verse 15 is an affirmation of two things: first, that they would be there. And second, that they didn’t accept what Jesus had said. They were confident in the security of their ancestry.
The invitation (vv. 15-17, foreshadowed in Luke 13:22-30). Two words stand out in these verses, “big” and “many.” The man who hosts this dinner is obviously prominent. Receiving an invitation identified you as an honored guest. Two invitations would be issued to such events. The second invitation indicated “it’s ready now.”
Such a dinner would be lavish. No one would refuse such an opportunity. This was an event of honor. Refusal to attend would be seen as a bizarre response.
The excuses (vv. 18-20). The responses and excuses offered here would have been considered outrageous and insulting.
It would be akin to a declaration of war. It was as if they were saying, “I want no friendship with this person.” Three absurd excuses are given for refusing to attend the banquet. They are especially ridiculous if the cultural background is understood. A person with a true excuse would present it with more diplomacy, which would allow the host to save face. These are all blatant insults intended to publicly dishonor the host!
When it comes to ministry, evangelism, and missions, we cannot predict how the recipients may respond. If we are faithful to humbly serve the Lord, He will do the rest of the work and bring glory to Himself! Notice the Master’s reaction. He moves from anger to grace!
The inclusion (vv. 21-23). This seems to be a reflection of verses 12-13. The host essentially says, “Invite the outcasts and untouchables.” The story goes from one absurdity to another. Many of these people would have been considered ceremonially unclean. They would have to be compelled because they would resist by saying, “I can’t repay” or “I’m not worthy.” Even after the initial appeal to the alternate guests, there is still room (this was to be a big celebration). So in verse 23 the host encourages his servants to go out and compel even more people to come in.
The exclusion (v. 24). The initial guests had forfeited their privilege. The hearers, when they understood, would have realized that this is not a story about a man and his dinner. It is a story about a banquet for the resurrection of the righteous. Israel had been pre-invited and said yes to the invitation to the banquet. They were God’s chosen people who lived under this structure expecting the Messiah! But, at the second invitation they offered excuses showing they were not interested in Jesus’ message. They said yes to the promise, but no to the reality (Luke 13:34).
Because of the grace and mercy of God, there is room for all who will come to Him. That is His plan. Those who surrender by faith, repent of their sin, and trust in Christ’s work on the cross (His substitutionary death and resurrection) have a place at the Lord’s Table. Because of our experience with Christ, we are called to live on mission and invite others to attend the banquet. Our social hospitality becomes a means for us to extend spiritual hospitality as God works through us to grow His Kingdom!
— Harmon is pastor of Rock Springs Baptist Church, Greenbrier