Sermon title:  GUESTS AT JESUS’ BANQUET

 

Luke 14:12-24    Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, March 17, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we continue to follow our Lord Jesus’ ministry chronologically

we see Christ now in Galilee,

preaching and teaching in towns and villages

as he makes his way slowly toward Jerusalem.

 

Beginning with Luke 13:31, we see that he has

a number of interactions with the Pharisees

along the way.

 

And we can learn a useful lesson

from each of those encounters.

 

Our Responsive Reading covered a couple of them,

but there are a couple more

that we can learn from

if we go back a few verses

and start at Luke 13:31.

 

31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus

and said to him,

"Leave this place and go somewhere else.

Herod wants to kill you."

 

The Pharisees were the strictest sect of the Jews,

and they were also hypocrites,

as our Lord pointed out on multiple occasions.

 

Herod was the ruler in Galilee,

and he had already killed John the Baptist,

so it may have seemed that

there was a real possibility

that he could kill Jesus, too.

 

The Pharisees were Jesus’ enemies,

so they weren’t really trying to be helpful

by warning him about Herod’s desire to kill Jesus.

 

They wanted to kill him, too,

so they were probably giving him this warning,

just to make him move on—to

Leave this place and go somewhere else,

as they said.

 

That would get him out of their hair for the moment.

 

But Jesus wasn’t afraid of Herod,

and wasn’t about to change his plans.

 

32 He replied,

"Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons

and heal people today and tomorrow,

and on the third day I will reach my goal.'

 

33 In any case, I must keep going

today and tomorrow and the next day—

for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

 

Jesus wasn’t afraid to let Herod know

that he would remain in Galilee—in Herod’s territory—

setting people free from demonic possession

and healing the sick.

 

All the while, Jesus would be moving South,

travelling through one Galilee town after another,

going toward Jerusalem.

 

He knew that Herod would not be able to kill him,

but that he would eventually be killed in Jerusalem.

 

Jerusalem was the guilty city

that killed so many of the Old Testament prophets in the past

and that was about to crucify the Son of God.

 

Our Lord longed for Jerusalem to repent

and for the city to turn to him.

 

But the people of Jerusalem were not willing to do that.

 

So, Jesus lamented over the city

with a mournful lament

that he would also repeat later,

after he reached the city,

according to Matthew’s Gospel.

 

34 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,

you who kill the prophets

and stone those sent to you,

how often I have longed

to gather your children together,

as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,

but you were not willing!

 

35 Look, your house is left to you desolate.

I tell you, you will not see me again

until you say,

'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

 

Jerusalem’s “house”—the temple of God—

would be left desolate,

because God would abandon it to destruction.

 

He would allow the armies of the Roman Empire

to come in bring desolation

upon Jerusalem and its temple.

 

The Romans would tear down the temple.

stone by stone,

not leaving one stone on top of another.

 

And the Jews would not see Jesus again,

until they accept him as the promised Messiah.

 

That time will come,

when Israel will welcome Christ as their King.

 

The day has not yet come,

but prophecy promises it,

so it will be fulfilled.

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Now, continuing in Luke Chapter 14,

we learn that Jesus paused along the way to Jerusalem

to attend a large dinner

at the home of one of the Pharisees.

 

At this point the Pharisees

were still looking for ways to attack Jesus,

and so they would even have him to dinner

to gather evidence against him.

 

So, Luke 14:1 tells us,

 

1 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat

in the house of a prominent Pharisee,

he was being carefully watched.

 

They were looking for Jesus to break the Law,

so they could charge him with a capital offense

and have him killed.

 

2 There in front of him was a man

suffering from dropsy.

 

3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?"

 

“Dropsy” is the old medical term

for “edema,” or swelling of the legs

and maybe the arms, too—

usually due to congestive heart failure.

 

As Jesus explained on other occasions,

it was good to heal people of their illnesses,

even on the Sabbath day,

and there was nothing against healing on the Sabbath

in the Law that God had given to Israel

through Moses.

 

The Pharisees interpreted the Law

to prohibit what Jesus was doing,

even though they had no right to do that.

 

Verse 4 tells us,

 

4 But they remained silent.

So taking hold of the man,

he healed him and sent him away.

 

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?"

 

6 And they had nothing to say.

 

Jesus taught that same lesson to the Pharisees

time and again,

through his words and his actions,

but they refused to learn.

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There were other lessons, too,

that Jesus taught while at this Pharisee’s dinner.

 

And one of these begins in Verse 7,

where Jesus teaches by illustration:

 

7 When he noticed how the guests

picked the places of honor at the table,

he told them this parable:

 

8 "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.

 

9 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.

 

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.

 

That was good, practical advice

for anyone who attends a formal dinner

where guests are seated according to rank.

 

Picture yourself, if you went to a wedding reception,

and by mistake,

you sat yourself down at the head table.

 

Then the Master of Ceremonies comes along,

and tells you, “This table is just for the wedding party,

and immediate family.”

 

Then he asks you to move to the only empty table

at the far end of the room.

 

How embarrassing that would be!

 

Well, when the Pharisees sat themselves down

at the head table,

they didn’t do that by mistake.

 

They considered themselves so important,

they thought they were entitled to such V.I.P. treatment.

 

Through this parable, Jesus put them in their place,

and he taught us not to act like that.

 

In Verse 11, Jesus gives this wider application

that includes us,

when he concludes,

 

11 For everyone who exalts himself

will be humbled,

and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

 

The Pharisees exalted themselves,

and expected to be treated as “big shots” or V.I.P.s.

 

Jesus showed that they had the wrong attitude.

 

And his lesson also applies to our walk with God

and our fellowship with his people.

 

Scripture tells us repeatedly 

that God does not approve of

proud, boastful, self-exalting people,

who put themselves above others.

 

And Scripture tells us repeatedly

that God puts down people like that,

and that he exalts or elevates the humble.

 

If we humble ourselves before God and other people,

in due time he will lift us up

to an elevated and exalted position.

----------------------------------------

 

Jesus went on to teach another lesson,

directing this lesson to the man who invited him to dinner:

 

12 Then Jesus said to his host,

 

"When you give a luncheon or dinner,

do not invite your friends,

your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors;

 

if you do, they may invite you back

and so you will be repaid.

 

13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor,

the crippled, the lame, the blind,

14 and you will be blessed.

 

Although they cannot repay you,

you will be repaid

at the resurrection of the righteous."

 

Our Lord taught two lessons here:

 

One was a reproof of the Pharisees.

 

He corrected their habit

of exalting themselves and showing off.

 

They were in the habit of showing off how important they were

by having the rich and famous come to their dinners.

 

Jesus rebuked them for that.

 

And the second lesson was a lesson in charity.

 

Giving gifts—such as a free meal—

to those who would return our favor

by giving us gifts, or meal invitations—

that wasn’t charity.

 

That wasn’t generosity.

 

Jesus was not forbidding us from sharing meals

with our relatives, friends and neighbors.

 

But the lesson was to be charitable, as well,

and to share with those less fortunate

who would never be able to repay us.

 

But he assured us that God would repay us

in the resurrection.

 

And that mention of the resurrection

led to the next opportunity

for Jesus to teach one more lesson

to this group of Pharisees and others

who were at the dinner table with him.

 

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this,

he said to Jesus,

"Blessed is the man who will eat

at the feast in the kingdom of God."

 

The Jews expected the kingdom of God

to be established on earth.

 

They thought the promised Messiah

would be a powerful Jewish king, like King David,

who would raise a Jewish army

and drive out the Roman forces

that occupied Israel at that time.

 

So, to the Pharisees,

the feast in the kingdom of God

would be a grand celebration in Jerusalem

after that Jewish victory.

 

But our Lord Jesus often compared heaven to a feast—

with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

and all the faithful prophets of old

enjoying an eternal feast of celebration

in the presence of God.

 

Jesus used this comparison of heaven to a feast

in some of his parables.

 

And he does that again on this occasion,

beginning in Verse 16.

 

I’ll read the whole parable,

so that we can get the full sense of it,

and the full flavor of how Jesus presented it:

 

16 Jesus replied:

 

"A certain man was preparing a great banquet

and invited many guests.

 

17 At the time of the banquet

he sent his servant

to tell those who had been invited,

'Come, for everything is now ready.'

 

18 "But they all alike began to make excuses.

 

The first said, 'I have just bought a field,

and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.'

 

19 "Another said,

'I have just bought five yoke of oxen,

and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'

 

20 "Still another said, 'I just got married,

so I can't come.'

 

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.'

 

22 "'Sir,' the servant said,

'what you ordered has been done,

but there is still room.'

 

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.

 

24 I tell you,

not one of those men who were invited

will get a taste of my banquet.' "

 

The man hosting the banquet pictures God,

and the banquet pictures his feast in the kingdom of heaven.

 

Those who were originally invited

represented the Jews.

 

As God’s Chosen People, they were first in line for this blessing.

 

But, like those in the parable,

they failed to come.

 

They made excuses for themselves—phony excuses.

 

 'I have just bought a field,

and I must go and see it.'

 

Who would buy a field without looking at it first?

 

No one buys property blindly

and only goes to look at it after passing papers.

 

That was a phony excuse.

 

'I have just bought five yoke of oxen,

and I'm on my way to try them out.'

 

They didn’t have farm tractors in those days.

 

They used oxen yoked together to plow fields.

 

And five yoke of oxen would have been

our equivalent of five tractors.

 

No one would buy five yoke of oxen,

or five farm tractors,

without test driving them first.

 

So, the man’s excuse

that he “just bought five yoke of oxen

and was only now going to “try them out

after the purchase—

that was another phony excuse.

 

Because the Jews were unrepentant

and rejected the Messiah,

they were like the invited guests

who failed to come to the banquet.

 

In the parable, we read that

 

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 was angry with the Jews

for their unrepentant attitude,

and so he began to fill their assigned places

at the table in heaven

with us broken sinners of all nationalities.

 

God found us in our broken condition,

like “the poor, the crippled,

the blind and the lame.

 

And he called us to a heavenly calling

where we will feast with him forever

at the table in the kingdom of God.

 

The servant in the parable reports to his master,

 

'what you ordered has been done,

but there is still room.'

 

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.

 

We were like that when God found us:

we were lost sinners,

wandering down the wrong roads that led nowhere.

 

We had no pedigree as descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

 

We were wandering on the “roads and country lanes

not seeking God.

 

But he found us and compelled us to come into his kingdom

even though we were wandering far away from him.

 

He gave us salvation from our sins.

 

He gave us a new life in Christ.

 

And he gave us a hope of endless joy forever

in his heavenly kingdom.

 

All of that should make us appreciative.

 

We shouldn’t be like those invited guests in the parable

who made excuses and didn’t come.

 

We shouldn’t be too busy for God.

 

A heart full of appreciation

will make us realize

what a wonderful thing happened to us

when lost and broken sinners like us

were called to Jesus’ banquet in heaven.