The Great Banquet, Luke 14:15-24

by Matt Slick

The Old Testament background for this parable is found in Isaiah 25:6-9,

6 "And the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine.
7 And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.
9 And it will be said in that day, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation."

 

"A ritual banquet is one that marks some personal or interpersonal transition or transformation, held to give honor to those undergoing the important social change.  As a ritual feature of hospitality, banquets indicate the transformation of a stranger into a guest (Gen. 19:3-14; Luke 5:29) or of an enemy into a covenant partner (Gen. 26:26-31; 2 Sam. 3:20).  Banquets mark important transitional points in a person’s life, e.g., Isaac’s weaning day (Gen. 21:8); the weddings of Jacob (Gen. 29:22), Samson (Judg. 14:10), the Lamb (Rev. 19:9), and in the parable of Matt. 22:2-10; the birthdays of Pharaoh (Gen. 40:20), of Herod (Mark 6:21); or the victory banquet hosted by God in Rev. 19:17.  At the Last Supper Jesus changes the ceremonial banquet of the Jewish Passover into a ritual banquet effectively symbolizing the meaning of his impending death (Mark 14:12-25 and parallels)."1

The setting is that Jesus was at the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath.  Jesus noticed that some of the invited guests at the house were seeking the more honored places to sit.  Jesus spoke about being humble and seeking the lower position.  He then spoke about inviting the poor and the crippled to dinner even though they could not repay the host because the host would be repaid in the resurrection.  Then we have the following . . .

 

15. And when one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, "Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!" "To eat bread" is another way of saying, "To eat a meal."

The phrase "kingdom of God" occurs 66 times, and it is found only in the New Testament.

Matthew’s Gospel frequently uses the term ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ while Mark and Luke always use ‘Kingdom of God.’ ‘Heaven’ in these instances is a circumlocution--a way of referring to God without using his name.2

There is both both a present and a future aspect to the kingdom of God. In the present aspect deals with the presence of Christ who is a king. Matt. 12:28-29 says, "“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 “Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house." The presence of Christ is the king means that the gospel is being preached as a result of the victorious sacrifice of Christ upon the cross.

The future aspect of the kingdom of God deals with the return of Christ and the "age to come," the full redemption of the saved in a resurrected form, the remaking of the heavens and the earth, and all that is promised by God in the future.

The one who said "Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God" is a Jew who expects that he himself will enjoy the blessings of the coming kingdom. Jesus takes the opportunity to teach that one enters the kingdom of God, salvation--not by birthright or by works but by grace.

16. But He said to him, "A certain man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many;

It was the custom when giving a dinner to invite a certain number of people. Those who accepted the invitation were then counted. The meal was prepared according to the number who accepted the invitation. The more people coming, the more food had to be prepared. For example, a chicken would be for 2-4 guests, a duck for 5-8, a lamb for 10-15, a sheep for 15-35, and a calf for 35-75. In other words, the amount and type of meat depends on the number of people who accept the invitation. Once an animal has been killed, it must be eaten soon or else it will spoil. Therefore, to back out at the last minute would be rude. The invited guest is duty bound to attend the banquet.

Also, it was considered very rude to attend a banquet if you were not invited; after all, the meal had not been prepared with you in mind.

17. and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, 'Come' for everything is ready now.'

The second invitation is a notification to the guests that the meal is ready.

The Greek word "come" means literally continue coming. This is consistent with the custom of a double invitation.

18. but they all alike began to make excuses. the first one said to him, 'I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.' The meal has been prepared, the table set, and people notified. To back out now is an insult.

In the middle East, no one buys a field without first examining it thoroughly. The springs, wells, stone walls, trees, paths, and anticipated rainfall are all well known long before a discussion of the purchase is even begun. The excuse is a lie, an obvious one; and the guest is stating in no uncertain terms that the field is more important than his relationship with the host. In a community where interpersonal relationships are very important, this strikes even harder as an offence.

19. And another one said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.'

Teams of oxen are sold in the Middle East in two ways. They are taken to the market place and a nearby field, and there they plow the field. Anyone wishing to buy may then drive the oxen himself and examine the animals thoroughly to see if they work well as a team.

That is like calling your wife at home and saying you'll be late for the big dinner that's been planned for weeks because you need to go out and look at five cars you just bought without looking at them.

The other way to buy the oxen is to announce that the team is for sale and say what day the team will be working in the field. Prospective buyers can then come to the field, watch, examine, and test them for themselves. Only after the team is examined thoroughly is a price discussed.

This excuse, like the other one, is also an insult.

20. And another one said, 'I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.'

In the tightly knit community of the Middle East a wedding calls for a celebration. At a celebration is food and lots of it. The community would have been aware of the wedding, and many people would have been invited. Meals would have been prepared beforehand. Therefore, the banquet would not have been scheduled for the same day as a wedding.

Also, if the man simply wants to be with his wife, then why did he accept the invitation in the first place.

This one doesn't even say, "Please."

21. And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.'

Anger would be a natural expectation of the head of the household. He has been insulted three times.

The invited guests refuse to respond to the good news that the feast is ready. What then is the host to do? He cannot have a feast without guests. He then invites the unworthy, the poor, crippled, blind, and lame. He brings in the undesirables. So, he gives the command to bring in the poor, who aren't normally invited to banquets; the crippled, who cannot test oxen in the field; and the blind and lame who don't normally marry.

They have no way of repaying the host, and he knows it. Therefore, he is being gracious, very gracious in light of the insults received.

  • Matt. 9:36-38, "And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He *said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 “Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
22. And the slave said, 'Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' Some have already been saved. But there is room for more.
23. And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house my be filled.' Notice also, that the command is not carried out in this parable. It is given but no account of its fulfillment is mentioned. This is because those being compelled to enter in have not yet been all invited. Redemption is still going on.
24. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.  

 

With what would the original audience have identified in the parable?

  • The Banquet = the messianic banquet that ushers in the age to come.
    • Matt. 12:32, blasphemy of the H.S. will not be forgiven in this age or the age to come.  Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30, we receive much in this age and in the age to come we will receive eternal life. Eph. 1:21, "(the power of God) is far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come."
    • In this age we will receive 100 times as much, Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; People are given in marriage, Luke 20:34; The wisdom of this world is the wisdom of this age, 1 Cor. 1:20; The rulers of this age are coming to nothing, 1 Cor. 2:6; Satan is the god of this age, 2 Cor. 4:4; Jesus rescued us from the present evil age, Gal. 1:4; In the age to come we will receive eternal life, Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; 1 Tim. 6:19; we do not marry, Luke 20:35
  • The Original Guests = the leaders of Israel who are rightfully the first to be invited.
    • Acts 3:25-26, “It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’  26 “For you first, God raised up His Servant, and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”
  • The Lame and Poor of the City = the outcasts within the house of Israel.
    • Matt. 10:5-8, "These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  7 “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  8 “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give."
  • The Guests from the Highways and the Hedges = the gentiles.
    • Acts 13:46, "And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles."

This parable teaches that no one may enter the kingdom of God without an invitation from God--an invitation by grace.  It also is a warning to heed the invitation when it is heard; the invitation does not last forever.

In between two great banquet parables, each declaring pure grace (the Great Banquet and the Prodigal Son), is set a collection of sayings that speaks of the high cost of discipleship in clear and demanding terms (Luke 14:25-35).

The Banquet is free, the invitation by grace, but acceptance carries with it responsibility.  Discipleship is our responsibility.

Luke 14:25-35:

"Now great multitudes were going along with Him; and he turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.; Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand.  Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks terms of peace.  So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.  Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?"

  • 1. Achtemeier, Paul J., Harper’s Bible Dictionary, (San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc.), 1985.
  • 2. ibid.

 

 

 

 
 
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