Evangelism is Discipleship
GO OUT INTO THE HIGHWAYS AND HEDGES AND COMPEL THEM part one
Intro: Luke 14 has 35 verses. The setting of the first 24 verses is a luncheon on the Sabbath day in the home of a prominent Pharisee. From this venue the Lord Jesus addresses four truths concerning table fellowship at dinner parties. In vv.1-6, after healing a man suffering from edema in the synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus knew the cold hearts of the religious leaders, so His act of mercy asks the question, Can you see your bondage? In vv.7-11, after observing how the guests were choosing where to sit during the luncheon, Christ asks, Can you see your pride?. Then in vv.12-14, our Lord tells the host to change his guest list to include society’s outcasts and those easily overlooked the next time he throws a party, asking Can you see your insulation?
By this point in the meal, Jesus has offended just about everyone at the table: the Pharisees by healing the man on the Sabbath, the invited guests by telling them not to take the best seats in the house, and the host by criticizing his guest list. Who else was left to offend?
In today’s text, which will be a 2-part sermon, Jesus replies with a dramatic parable to man who was confident that he already had his ticket to the next world. Our Lord asks, Can you see your danger?
The story of the supper/banquet emphasizes that people are saved by responding to God’s invitation, and not by their own effort. Likewise, if they are lost it is by their own fault and their own will. Tragically, we learn that it is possible to refuse the invitation of grace. Those who are eventually excluded from the kingdom of God will have only themselves to blame.
It is typical of Luke to use somewhat anonymous interjections from the masses to focus an issue while leaving Jesus in the spotlight.
Peter: “Master, it is good for us to be here!” (9:33) Woman in the crowd: “Blessed is the womb that bore You!” (11:27) One from the crowd: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (12:13)
Luke 14:15 Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
Clearly this man had no doubt that he would be found in the kingdom, regardless of the fate of others. Jesus’ parable will challenge his confidence and his sincerity.
When the critical time came, would he really accept God’s invitation? Or would he be too preoccupied with lesser priorities?
The kingdom of God is a reference to the next world where Christ reigns over all the earth in peace and love. Often, this kingdom is called a great banquet or supper. It has long rhetorical history in Israel that is referenced over and over in the OT.
The prevailing Jewish thought was that a great and ongoing feast would be held when the Messianic kingdom was established on earth after the resurrection.
Isaiah 25 describes the messianic banquet as an outpouring of grace when God will wipe away tears and remove disgrace from His people, and all the redeemed will celebrate the joy of salvation.
Isa 25:8 He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.
Isa 25:9 And it will be said in that day: “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”
Unfortunately, in later centuries, sound doctrine was lost and participating in the messianic banquet became increasingly dependent on human worthiness and effort rather than on divine grace.
This table guest who declares blessing on all who will eat bread in the kingdom may intend it as the last word of the meal. He seems to want to trump what Jesus has just said.
Luke 14:14 “And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
This anonymous exclaimer alters the understanding of “blessedness” from Jesus’ unreturned giving to his own eternal receiving – “blessed is the one who shall keep on feasting in the kingdom!”
UNDERSTAND THE GRAVITY OF THE INVITATION
Luke 14:16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many,
Luke 14:17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’
In an age when no one had timepieces and the keeping of time was fairly elastic, and when a large supper took a long while to prepare, precautions were taken.
It was customary to send two invitations: the first was to get an accurate head count to know how much supplies to accumulate and how much meat to slaughter; the second was to notify those who had RSVP’d that the meal was ready.
We have a comment in the Jewish Midrash that shows men took the double invitation quite seriously: “None of them would attend a banquet unless he was invited twice” (on Lam. 4:2).
Honor was available for everyone
The host receives honor when he has a house filled with revelers. The guests receive honor by simply being invited to such a sophisticated event.
Shame was on the line for the host
To devise a large, publicized gathering ran the risk of limited interest. What if the important members of the community were not interested in his hospitality? What if no one or only a few accepted his invitations? He would be shamed in those cases.
The word for “supper” or “banquet” refers to the main meal of the day, usually served in the early evening into the night.
Plans for the meal proceed favorably: an impressive list of guests has been invited, they have accepted the invitation and the banquet is now ready.
But suddenly, things fall apart.
The timetable of the host no longer fits that of the invited guests. And each one of them begs out of their commitment.
Luke 14:18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’
“all with one accord” signals a social catastrophe. Remarkably, or we could say appallingly, they all announced their cancellations in concert with each other. This was collusion. It was a mass exodus planned down to the very detail.
The first to opt out says he has a new piece of real estate to inspect.
Luke 14:19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’
The second to opt out says he has bought some heavy equipment that he needs to try out.
Luke 14:20 Still another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.'
The third to opt out says he obviously cannot attend because he is a newlywed.
Remember that social status (honor) is a product of peer approval. It can be wrenched away just as it can be awarded.
In this case, the socially elite of the host’s community close ranks against him to shame him publicly.
Whatever we decide about the excuses, their refusal to join the great supper is a social strategy to defame the host.
RECOGNIZE THE FOOLISHNESS OF EXCUSES
Bible commentators are divided over these excuses. Are they valid? Are they hollow and lame? What are we to think of them? Do we give them credibility, or do we mock them for their transparent worthlessness?
Who buys a tract of land without first scouting it to see what it has? Who purchases livestock for farming sight unseen, without knowing if they can do the work? Whose marriage will fail if he is away from his wife for four hours one evening?
Categories of excuses:
(a) horticultural excuse – “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it.”
“I have property that demands oversight.” (possessions card)
(b) agricultural excuse –“I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them.”
“I have work that must be prepared.” (job card)
(c) matrimonial excuse –“I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.”
“I have family obligations.” (family card)
Also, how accurately can land and heavy equipment be examined after dark? Not only that, but if the wedding has already taken place, the husband has obviously already tried out his new wife (this is an ancient near eastern storytelling technique – “rule of 3”).
Deut 24:5 When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken.
But this is a regulation aimed at freeing him from military service, not at isolating him from social contact. Marriage certainly involves new priorities, but it does not cancel out other obligations, especially when due notice has been given.
If we conclude that the excuses are hollow and full of contempt towards the host, then it would seem entirely justified to ban the guests and punish them for their cruel insult.
And if the excuses are indeed lame, then the parable has not particular claim on Jesus’ hearers. The three invited guests have revealed themselves to be fools.
And we, like the Pharisees may safely condemn them, and anyone like them.
However, if the three guests offer the same kinds of excuses that we ourselves make – especially when it comes to following and obeying Christ – then the parable reasserts the scandal of the gospel.
In one sense it does not matter whether the excuses are legitimate or illegitimate, since they prevent the people who make them from accepting the invitation to the supper – and missing the supper is the point of the parable.
Consider these categories again: property, work, family. Do these not comprise the essential commitments of life?
What if it is not Satan, immorality, and indifference, but property, work & family that are the greatest rivals to the kingdom of God?
What if our lives are over-embedded in our possessions and our close relationships?
Fred B. Craddock – The forces against which God’s offer contends are reasonable and well argued, but God’s offer has priority not simply over our worst but also over our best agendas. (pg 179)
Those who attend do so not because there was nothing else to do but because the banquet was the best among attractive alternatives.
Preachers have a much more difficult time counseling wandering sheep who are entangled with material affairs and an unbalanced attachment to family than what we would consider gross, humiliating sins.
It is life’s gray areas that choke out believers far more often than heinous sins.
Luke 8:14 Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
A short lists of life’s important priorities certainly includes property, work, and family. No one disputes that. And these things can be expected to temporarily take precedence over matters of the kingdom of God.
From a purely human perspective – and this is the perspective from which we justify most of our actions – good excuses give the characters good reasons for not honoring the invitation of the host.
That is the point of Jesus’ parable. Even a good excuse for refusing the banquet is not good enough!
From heaven’s perspective – and this is the perspective Jesus introduces to us in the parables – property, work and family, and even life itself are trifles in comparison to eternal kingdom of God.
To refuse the kingdom on account of your possessions, your job or your family is sheer foolishness.
Luke 12:20 But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”
Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.