By Sam E. Stone
The scene described in today’s text takes place in the third year of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Luke 14 begins with him having dinner in the home of a prominent Pharisee. Luke explains that “he was being carefully watched” by his critics. The critics didn’t care about the health of a very sick man who was brought to Jesus there; they were interested only in seeing whether or not Jesus would cure him, since it was a Sabbath day. Then Luke turned his attention to other lessons taught at the dinner itself.
Choosing a Place
Jesus had noticed that the invited guests were each trying to get the best seat in the house. It wasn’t that they might not get enough to eat if seated elsewhere—this was a matter of pride. They wanted the places of honor, those nearest the host. Picking out such places for themselves was a practice for which Jesus later condemned the Pharisees (see Matthew 23:6; Mark 12:39; Luke 20:46).
To teach the principle, Jesus described a fictitious but realistic situation. He told them, “When you’re invited to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor.” Why? Because you’re setting yourself up to be humiliated. The host might ask you to move so that a more important guest can take the seat you had picked. He then gave one of his favorite maxims: “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14; Matthew 23:12; see also Proverbs 25:6, 7). God honors the humble, not the proud (Luke 1:52; 18:9-24; 1 Peter 5:5). We should not be concerned about receiving recognition and praise.
Enlarging Your Circle
Then Jesus turned from the banquet guests to the banquet host. Those who invite guests to their home for special events face temptations too. It is all too easy to invite to your party only those who will invite you to theirs. Or you may be tempted to invite only wealthy, well-placed friends and family. “If you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.”
Instead Jesus commanded his followers to invite another group of guests—“the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” The one thing they all have in common is that “they cannot repay you.” Never mind. God will. R. C. Foster urged Christians not to leave it to government agencies and benevolent groups to help those in need. He wrote, “We still face the instruction Jesus has given us in this passage. Occasionally we may invite some blind person or one maimed into our home, but an entire banquet in our home dedicated to the unfortunate!? Too often the difficulty is that our hearts are hardened. We are like the priest and the Levite on the Jericho road; we are afraid we might become involved.”
Accepting the Invitation
Luke 14:15-18a, 21-24
One of the guests at the dinner responded when Jesus spoke of a banquet. “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Jesus then asked him if he would be ready to accept the invitation, putting aside all other interests that might interfere. This story alludes to the cultural practice of sending two invitations to any formal banquet. This old custom (see Esther 5:8; 6:14) is still observed by some. The first invitation is answered by an agreement to come, and the second is the final summons sent at the time all preparations are complete.
All of the people who had accepted the first invitation to this great banquet suddenly began to make excuses. J. W. McGarvey noted, “The excuses show the guests had made their arrangements without the least regard for the hour of the banquet. Further, they placed little value on the friendship or the feast of the one who had invited them. The excuses progress in disrespect. All the excuses are trifling, for the parable is intended to teach that men forego their rights to heaven for trifles.”
This story described the behavior of the Jewish people in reference to God’s invitation for them. Even though the Messiah was present, the invited guests continued to reject him, refusing the Father’s gracious call. Since this is so, the Lord ordered his servants to find others who will appreciate what is offered and will respond. A. T. Robertson observed, “The Gentiles are to take the place that the Jews might have had” (Romans 11:25). Some have pointed out that this shows the “roominess of heaven and the largeness of divine hospitality.”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.