Luke chapter 14 puts a lot of focus on dining. In the ancient world, sharing a meal was not merely to satisfy one’s appetite; it was a means of engaging with people socially, signifying acceptance and fellowship. In verse 1, Christ enters a leading Pharisee’s home to share a meal, vv. 1, 15. Increasingly in these chapters of Luke’s Gospel, Christ is at odds with the Pharisees and rulers who are offended at the inclusiveness of His gospel invitations, appealing especially to the poor and marginalized - those who, in pharisaical thinking, had no place in God’s kingdom. Accordingly, verses 7 to 11 constitute a corrective parable for supper guests, as Christ observed their shameless vying for position at the meal. It teaches humility. The trouble with such behaviour is that people tend to adopt the same attitudes of superiority and fancied entitlement when it comes to their relationship with God.
Christ also has corrective advice for His host, vv. 12-14. Among the rich and powerful of religious Israel, table fellowship could be a means to social advancement. Naturally, the poor, sick, and disreputable were excluded from these circles. According to Jesus, God does things very differently, and so should His Jewish hosts, vv. 13, 14.1
The parable of the great supper is then triggered by the exclamation of a guest about the blessedness of participation in the future kingdom of God, v. 15. The speaker no doubt assumed, as a matter of right, that he would be there.
A wealthy man puts on a great banquet and invites many guests. Some who receive invitations and initially accept, refuse to come just as the banquet is about to begin, citing a range of excuses. Not to be thwarted, once and again the master orders a whole new range of disadvantaged people and others to fill the available places.
The parable of verses 16 to 24 addresses the comment of verse 15 in order to identify those who will participate in the kingdom of God. In the Old Testament, the kingdom is often represented by the idea of the messianic banquet, ‘In this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well refined wines on the lees’, Isa. 25. 6 NKJV.2
Whilst the full enjoyment of this heavenly feast awaits the future, as the context in Isaiah makes clear, now the King and Messiah Himself has come to call Israel’s people to participation through the gospel. The prevalence in Luke chapter 14 of the verb ‘bidden’ or ‘bade’ [‘invited’ NKJV] in connection with the banquets is marked: vv. 7, 8 [twice], 9, 10 [twice], 12, 13 [‘call’], 16, 17, 24. Elsewhere, the verb is commonly used for calling sinners to salvation through the gospel.3
The banquet conveys to us the scale and costliness of the saving provision that God has made in the gospel of Christ. A banquet certainly satisfies hunger but offers so much more. It is not the work of a moment but requires careful planning and execution. In its future consummation, it will eternally delight every legitimate appetite of those blessed to be there.4 How vast the scope and richness of God’s redemptive purposes!
According to the customs of the time, the invitation process comprised two stages. The first invitation would go out to the invited guests, much as we might issue notice to reserve a date for a wedding. Food would then be prepared on the basis of people’s acceptances; a second call would be issued when the meal was ready.
In relation to Israel, we can see that God had done much to prepare the people for the advent of Christ, both providentially through time and finally with the arrival of John the Baptist, ‘saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’, Matt. 3. 2. We should observe that many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to his baptism, v. 7, corresponding to some who received the personal invitations of our parable. Elsewhere, we learn that the gospel is to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile, Rom. 1. 16. Irrespective of the nation’s past faithlessness and apostasy, God will be true to His character as a faithful covenantkeeping God.
By the time our Lord told this parable, however, many of the Jewish leaders had profound unease at the inclusiveness of the grace of God, Luke 5. 30; 7. 34; 15. 2. Those whose whole approach to religion was based on pedigree, privilege, and meritorious works were grossly offended by the wonderfully wide reach of God’s grace to perishing sinners.
Now a servant is sent with the exciting summons, ‘Come; for all things are now ready’, 14. 17.5 This Gospel describes how God’s righteous Servant, Jesus, signalled that He had come to fulfil the predictions of Isaiah chapter 61 verses 1 and 2, Luke 4. 18, 19. Sadly, in His own locality of Nazareth the Saviour was greeted with scepticism and violent rejection. Likewise, at this critical point of repeated invitation the parable takes a dark twist. Three invited guests in turn make wholly unconvincing excuses. One needs to see a field that he has purchased and begs to be excused; but in Proverbs the wise woman saw her field and then bought it, Prov. 31. 16. Another is on his way to try out some oxen; but surely you would try before you buy? The third man is blunt, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come’. But why should marriage prevent attendance at a banquet?
The reality is that they simply did not want to be at this supper, possibly because of its terms, or even the nature of the fellow-guests. The refusals reflect the growth of opposition to our Lord and His ministry on the part of the Jewish ruling classes. Moreover, the refusals are insulting, for the invitees had implied commitment by their acceptance of the original invitation, cp. Matt. 3. 7. More generally, we learn that possessions, wealth, and pleasures often militate against people’s engagement with God, cp. Luke 8. 14; Jas. 5. 1-6.6 Millions today use and abuse the Creator’s gifts with no thought for Him or His goodness. In an age of materialism, it is searching to note that none of the pursuits were sinful, and indeed reflected common aspects of life; Satan will ensure that counterfeit gods frequently arise from the good things of life.7
In the face of unbelief and rejection, disappointed servants do well to take the matter to God, cp. Isa. 49. 4. The master is understandably angry, for he has been insulted and his kindness abused. The lavish banquet stands ready, however, so now a new and urgent call is issued to ‘the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind’ of the city, Luke 14. 21; cp. v. 13, presumably to their great surprise and delight.
A bias to the poor has often been discerned in Luke’s Gospel. Our Lord Himself had nothing against the rich as such, v. 1. Yet the message of His kingdom was especially good news to the poor, outcast, and the conspicuously sinful; they had little to lose, and everything to gain. On the other hand, for the rich and powerful, the gospel was still indeed true gain,8 but at the same time carried a cost - present loss of power, wealth, and social reputation, 14. 26.
The mission to the needy of the city is duly completed, but ‘yet there is room’ at the feast.9 Now an extended mission is launched beyond the confines of the city to those in the ‘highways and hedges’. They are to be ‘constrained’, v. 23 ESV, not by physical force, but by all legitimate powers of persuasion. We should especially note the urgency and earnestness of the servant’s commission, speaking of the imperative to spread the glorious gospel, Luke 14. 21, 23.
‘The city’ in Old Testament prophecy often denotes Jerusalem, representing the nation of Israel. Therefore, this outreach beyond the city points to the mission to the Gentiles, Acts 13. 46-48. What astonishment to happen upon the riches of a glorious feast made ready, with no entry qualifications whatsoever required (other than repentance and grateful acceptance, in the gospel application)! We might compare the words of Romans chapter 10 verse 20, ‘I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me’. The master’s intention is that the house should be filled.10This hints at the marvellous scope and extended duration of God’s saving purposes, He ‘is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance … account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation’, 2 Pet. 3. 9, 15.
Ending on a most solemn and emphatic note, the Judge of all breaks out of parabolic language to address His audience directly, v. 24, ‘I say unto you [plural], That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper’. In chapter 13 verses 24 to 30, people missed the banquet unintentionally; but not so here. Those originally invited excused themselves, and finally were excluded by the master of the feast, 14. 24. Others gratefully accepted places which the rejecters might have occupied, ‘Seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles’, Acts 13. 46; cp. Matt. 21. 43. How solemn! But God will be God, and His grace will secure a full and eternally satisfying house of feasting ‘for all peoples’.
1 Cor. 1. 26-31.
See also: Isa. 55. 1, 2; 65. 13, 14; Zeph. 1. 7; Matt. 22. 1-14; Luke 6. 21; 12. 37; 13. 29.
See 1 Cor. 1. 9; 7. 15, 18, 20; Gal. 1. 6, 15; Rev. 19. 9.
D. W. Gooding, According to Luke, IVP, pg. 267.
Whilst this has a simple function in the story, what thrilling gospel truths are implied! All preparatory ages led up to the coming and work of Christ, Luke 10. 23, 24; 1 Cor. 10. 11; Heb. 9. 26. All that is required of the sinner is to ‘come’; ‘listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food’, Isa. 55. 2 ESV.
‘It is the stock market, family life and house maintenance (among other things) that keep people from the kingdom’, D. Wenham, The Parables of Jesus, IVP, pg. 138.
T. Keller, Counterfeit Gods, Hodder & Stoughton. See Gen. 3. 6.
1 Tim. 6. 6.
This indicator of the amazing dimensions of grace contrasts markedly with the ‘no room’ for the infant Saviour at Bethlehem’s inn, Luke 2. 7.
Rom. 11. 25.