The Invited – Luke Ch14v15–24

The Invited – Luke Ch14v15–24

(0:00 – 1:49)

Let’s open our Bibles together to Luke’s Gospel, the Gospel account of Jesus’ life in Luke, and chapter 14. The NIV describes the parable we’re going to look at as the parable of the great banquet. Luke 14, from verse 15.

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

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.’

(1:51 – 4:41)

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 compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

This is the word of God.

 Have you noticed that in modern society, people hate awkwardness? It feels as if awkwardness is just not on.

So let’s say, for instance, you’re invited to a night out at work, and you’re meant to be bonding around a meal. And two of your work colleagues start to talk about the upcoming election. And sparks begin to fly, things get a bit heated, and everyone else sits back in silence.

But the telling bit is afterwards, isn’t it? Because afterwards, someone will whisper, that was awkward. They won’t comment on the substance of the arguments. They won’t say anything about who was right or who was wrong.

That’s irrelevant. What was wrong was the feeling of awkwardness that we all just experienced. And of course, that’s a bad thing.

It’s always a bad thing to feel awkward. So, we’re living in this culture that seeks to avoid awkwardness, that seeks to even eliminate awkwardness. We would like to feel comfortable all of the time.

Thank you very much. And yet, I think it’s worth us asking the question whether this is always, in fact, helpful. Is it always a good thing if we never feel awkward? I’m always struck whenever I read the Gospels that when we encounter in its pages the person of Jesus, I’m struck that Jesus isn’t always scared about making people feel awkward.

Oh, at times He’s comfortable company. But on occasion, Jesus has zero qualms about saying the uncomfortable thing. Not because He doesn’t care for people, but because He does.

(4:43 – 7:31)

Because He understands actually that comfortableness is not always good for us. He knows that as human beings, we far too easily become comfortable in our sin. And He knows that that’s eternally dangerous.

And so He’s willing from time to time to provoke us to feel even huge discomfort. Because only then will we be shaken out of our complacency. Only then will we see our great need for His cross.

And that’s the dynamic at play in our passage, I think, this morning. The situation is that Jesus is a guest at a meal. He’s been invited by a prominent Pharisee to have some supper.

And the fellow guests at the meal are some experts in the Jewish law. These are all the sorts of men that you might expect Jesus to get on with. Jesus is a great teacher of God’s Word.

You might have expected Him to be mingling with these sorts of people. But to the contrary, this dinner party, up to this point where we started reading, has been extremely awkward. In the opening stages of the meal, Jesus has been calling out these religious men in various ways.

He’s called out their wrong views of the Sabbath, their self-important pride, and their self-serving dinner parties. He says, you invite people to your home who you know will invite you back. Someone is surely whispering it by the time we reach verse 15, this is awkward.

But I love what happens next. There’s a guy at the table, and there’s always someone like this, who tries to change the subject and defuse the awkwardness. There’s always someone who tries to make a segue to something lighter.

Ideally, something related, but sometimes even that’s out the window. This guy at the table, he exclaims, verse 15, blessed is the one who will eat in the feast of the kingdom of God. Let’s pivot from our dinner parties, that was the awkward discussion, and let’s shift to something much more agreeable.

(7:32 – 8:26)

Blessed is the person who will eat around the table in the kingdom of God. It was the Jewish expectation that in a future day, God’s kingdom would come on earth fully. And the manifestation, the way you would know that that blessing, that kingdom had come, is that there would be a great feast, this great banquet that God himself would host that was promised in the Old Testament.

It would be the party of all parties. And this man says, blessed are those who will sit at the table in that feast. I think the assumption that’s in play here, of course, is that we, us guys who sit around this table, we, of course, will be part of that feast.

(8:28 – 9:07)

This is meant to be a unifying thought. Let’s fix our happy thoughts on the feast that we will one day be part of. It’s a genius level of pivoting, but Jesus is having none of it.

He cares way too much for the souls of these lost men, religious but lost men. And it’s not that Jesus disagrees with the overall sentiment. He doesn’t deny that a person is blessed if they eat at that feast.

(9:09 – 9:56)

But you see, that’s the very question. What he challenges is their assumption about who will actually be there, because in fact, the men at this table were in danger of missing out. Why was that the case? And what does this mean for us? That’s what we’re going to think about over the next minutes.

And we just pray that God by His Spirit will move among us and make us appropriately uncomfortable as we sit under His Word. Well, let’s walk through the parable. Notice that it starts with a generous host.

(9:57 – 10:51)

Our first point today, the generosity of the host. Verse 16, a certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. So we have this unnamed man.

We don’t know who he is. We don’t know what he does for a living, but we know two things about him. We know that he is wealthy and that he is generous.

He decides to throw a great banquet for many guests, not just a few. And I think it’s significant, possibly, that he does so for no stated reason. So we’re not told that this was a wedding or that it was a king celebrating his coronation or something like that.

(10:51 – 11:29)

There’s no obvious occasion. It appears that this is something he just wants to do. And of course, as we start to interpret this parable, this is surely a description of God.

This is what the God of heaven is like. God makes plans for His people’s joy. God is a generous creator and a generous Savior.

(11:30 – 13:18)

The reputation that people often stick on God just doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of the Bible or of reality. I think it was C.S. Lewis who talked about people’s perception that God is a cosmic killjoy. That’s what people think of God, isn’t it? But that doesn’t line up with the God of the Bible.

In the Bible, God creates the world for no other reason than His sheer generosity. In Scripture, it is God who saves in a totally unnecessary and unprecedented act of grace. He’s the giver of all givers.

He’s the generous host. And if we have a view of God that is otherwise, then it just doesn’t square up with the God who exists. And maybe that’s why we might be responding to God with the kind of response that now follows.

We come secondly to the fragility of the excuses. The fragility of the excuses. A bit of cultural background that’s quite important for us just to get what’s going on here.

In those days, when you were invited to a party, you were invited twice. So you’d get the first invitation a few weeks or months before the big date, rather like a wedding invitation. But unlike the way we do it, on the day of the party, a servant would be sent out into the town to invite people a second time.

(13:19 – 14:02)

Maybe in days without watches, you needed to know dinner’s ready right now. And so they would go into the town, they would go from house to house, and they would give that second invitation. It’s dinner time, come to the feast.

It would be kind of like a best man at a wedding phoning around every guest on the morning of the wedding and saying, be at church at two o’clock, don’t be late. Now, that would make their job a little more stressful than it typically is. And of course, at this stage, you are not expecting many call-offs.

(14:03 – 14:24)

If people weren’t planning to come, they would have sent their apologies earlier. We’re not expecting here a mass pullout. But as the servant does the rounds, he not only receives some call-offs, he discovers that everyone calls off.

(14:26 – 20:04)

Imagine that happening on the day of a wedding. It’s kind of like the opposite of Taylor Swift. Those tickets for Taylor Swift, I didn’t try and get any, but they were gold dust, weren’t they? And virtually nobody, unless they had some extreme reason or they wanted to earn a lot of money by selling their ticket, no one was pulling out of that party.

Some kind of record attendance in Scotland at a concert. Well, this is a record. This is the greatest pullout of any major party ever.

Nobody comes. And even worse, the excuses are flimsy. We’re given a sample of the excuses.

There’s this bloke who’s just bought a field who says he must go and see it. Well, I don’t know much about buying a field, but I’m assuming that if you were to buy a field, you would go to see it before you bought it rather than after you bought it. It’s clearly a flimsy excuse.

Just like the chap who bought five yoke of oxen. Now, that may not sound much to us, but I’m told that this was something that a very rich farmer would own. Five yoke of oxen, way more than what you would typically need.

This is a major investment of money. Now, if you were working on a farm and you invested in tractors and machinery and equipment worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, I am assuming you would have done all the checks and all the research and all the testing before you engaged that massive outlay of money. This excuse is as flimsy as a house of cards, as is the excuse about marriage in verse 20.

Now, this last one might seem like a stronger reason than the first two, mightn’t it? Especially if you’re Jewish, because actually there was a law in the law of Moses that said that in the first year of marriage, a man was exempt from going to war and he was exempt from taking on heavy commitments so that he could be at home a good amount of the time. But Jewish history reveals that the Jews did not understand this law as a complete exemption from social duties. It wasn’t that the couple became hobbits for a year and then emerged after 12 months, right? Newlyweds still went to the temple.

They still attended the festivals. They still engaged in community. They carried on the basic social obligations.

The law wasn’t preventing that. And so this man too had a flimsy excuse that would shatter under any reasonable scrutiny. And the host, when he hears not only the rejections, but when he hears the excuses, he is rightly angry.

Not just because his generosity is being rejected, but because clearly he himself is being dishonored. The host is generous, but the invited don’t honor him. That’s what’s going on here in a kind of honor and shame culture.

And actually, if you read the Bible, this is the storyline of the whole Bible. Later this year, God willing, we’re hoping to study the early chapters of Genesis. And so it might be a good idea for you just to take some time over the next months to read Genesis 1 to 11.

But this is part of what we’re going to see there. God is generous. He creates a world out of his grace, chapters 1 and 2. But then, shockingly and sadly, human beings don’t honor God.

They don’t listen to their creator. They don’t worship him and obey him as they should. That’s chapters 3 to 11.

And of course, the rest of the story unfolds following that. And the worst part is the self-justifying excuses we make for our rejection of God. We excuse ourselves, don’t we, from giving God his place.

Human beings are self-justifying beings. Have you noticed that? You know, when someone rejects an invitation to come to a party or something that you put on or a birthday or something, they always will give you an excuse because we’re self-justifying beings. And we do that with God, don’t we? We excuse ourselves from the urgency of repenting of sin and believing in Christ.

(20:05 – 22:16)

We can’t come to God. We can’t come to him now, at least. We’re too busy living our lives and chasing our dreams and pursuing our happiness.

Or we raise those seemingly moral objections to coming. And we kind of like those moral objections because when you give a moral objection to Christianity, it kind of feels like you’re taking the high ground. You’re actually a really good person, an intelligent person.

And so we say, I’m not becoming a Christian because Christians are hypocrites. Or I’m not coming to Christ because I’ve got moral and scientific objections to the Bible. And sometimes people genuinely have these objections and wrestles.

But too often, these become convenient objections culled from the internet to keep my Christian friend at arm’s length for another week. It’s just a good reason to not explore this more deeply. Or maybe our excuse to not come to Jesus is actually a religious one because actually that’s the context of this passage, isn’t it? Remember that Jesus is sitting at this table with religious men, religious men who think their salvation with God is sorted even while they reject Jesus.

See, that’s who Jesus was aiming this parable at. Who do you think the invited are in this text? Who are these invited people that reject? It’s the people at the table with Jesus. That’s who he’s targeting, isn’t it? They were invited to a table of grace, but their religion kept them back from coming.

(22:19 – 22:56)

If you think your religion can save you, you will never come to Jesus to save you, will you? Because you don’t need Jesus. You’ve got your steps, you’ve got your practices, you’ve got your faith in God, and that’s going to be enough. The big point of it all is that the excuses can be different, but they’re all alike.

They land you in the same place. They leave you outside the feast. And the thing is that God can see right through every one of those excuses.

(22:58 – 23:39)

If you’re not following Jesus today, and I’m assuming that’s true of some of us at least, what excuse are you sending back to God as the reason that you cannot come? That’s an awkward question, isn’t it? But that’s a needed one, because the reality is that the generous host is rightly angry at the flimsiness of our excuses. He’s generous, but he’s just. Don’t be one who misses out, because as we now see, God will invite others in.

(23:41 – 26:27)

The generosity of God, notice that it resurfaces again. If this were me with nobody coming, I would call it quits at this point. I think I might just call off the party and eat all the food myself.

But God remains a generous host. And that brings us thirdly to the intensity of the mission. What does the host do now? He sends out his servant again.

He sends out his servant with urgency. Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. So the servant sent out to bring in, you might say, the less privileged people.

Jesus, as we see in Luke’s gospel, has a particular heart for the weak, the poor, and the vulnerable. Just incidentally, this is where we need to be careful not to read parables too literally or too woodenly. Because if we read it in that way, we might think that Jesus went to the privileged, the privileged rejected him, and then he thought as a kind of afterthought, maybe I should go to the poor now.

But when you read the gospel, that’s not what happens at all. In fact, if anything, Jesus prioritizes the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable. So don’t read this parable in a wooden way.

It is the case that Jesus reached out to people who were often overlooked. And so the servant goes out to them and finds that they are much more receptive. And he comes back with some of them, but then he says to the host, actually, there is still more room at the feast.

And again, I think I might have stopped at this point. I mean, we don’t always need a Taylor Swift sellout all the time, right? This is not a disaster if it’s two-thirds full, isn’t that okay? Unlike Matthew’s gospel, in a similar parable, the servant here is sent out two extra times. If you read Matthew tells a similar story, the servant is only sent out one extra time.

But in Luke, the servant is sent out two extra times. Once to the town to bring in the lowly, and the second time to the roads and the country lanes to bring in everyone else. There’s a relentlessness to this mission.

(26:27 – 26:54)

And again, in one sense, the whole of the Bible is the story of this mission. I mentioned earlier Genesis 1 to 11, but of course, when you get to Genesis 12, you find that the generous God continues to be generous. And he gives that great promise to Abram to make him into a great nation and through that nation to bless the world.

(26:56 – 27:12)

A mission to bless the nations, a mission to bring the nations back to God’s blessing, back to the feast. And there’s something of that here, isn’t there? The roads here are really, think of them as the motorways. They’re the highways of the world.

(27:14 – 28:54)

It’s a place of international travel. The country lanes speak of the difficult places. It’s a picture of world evangelism.

And of course, Luke is very concerned with this. When you read Luke’s second volume, the book of Acts, you find that the gospel will be sent out from Jerusalem to the very ends of the earth. Far and near hear the call, worship Him Lord of all.

That’s what sang earlier, wasn’t it? That’s the mission that God is relentlessly on. And it is therefore the mission that the church should be relentlessly on. You know, the penny dropped for me this week.

I sort of remember others making this point previously, but it’s not so much that we’re on mission, it’s that God is on mission. The only question is whether we’re joining Him in the mission that He is about. And He is building His church.

And people are coming in from everywhere. And it’s sometimes hard for us to grasp that reality, that in the world, this gospel is growing and bearing fruit. The continent of Africa is where the gospel is growing at its fastest rate.

Did you know that? At the rate of 2.7% per year, the church is growing. In Asia, it’s 1.5% per year that the church is growing. There are over 100 million Christians in China right now.

(28:56 – 29:10)

They reckon there’s 1.75 in the UK. That number in China is massively growing. Even since 2019, when the government clamped down more heavily in the church, the church is continuing to grow.

(29:12 – 30:06)

Even some of what we’re hearing today about Ukraine, there are stories coming out of Ukraine of more and more people coming to Christ, and more and more people heading into Christian ministry all across Ukraine. Sometimes in the things that we think are disasters, and they are at one level, we need to see that at a deeper level, God is working in these things and through these things. And so this should challenge us whether our mission aligns with God, whether it’s evangelism into our immediate community, or whether it’s within the realm of your own personal community, because each of us has our own personal community, the places where you work, the family that you engage with, the friendship circle that you have, or whether it’s in supporting missions across the world.

(30:06 – 35:30)

Will we not only commit to this task, but will we keep committing to it? Or will we become content with the people we already have? Are we happy with the fact that our church is two-thirds full this morning? Or are we seeing that as a challenge like the host did here? Not because this full church matters, but because the full feast matters. Can I just ask you to wrestle with something a little bit here? I understand that each of us have preferences when it comes to the size of our local church. I understand that.

And we all have preferences when it comes to numbers about the size of church where we feel comfortable. And some people like small churches, and some people like just this perfect middle, medium-sized church that’s not too small and not too big. And then other people actually quite like a big church.

And there’s dynamics there. I get it. You know that some people don’t like it when things are just too relationally busy and overwhelming, and there’s too many names to understand and learn, and they feel overloaded.

And I get that on one level. But can I say on the basis of this passage that our personal comfort should not be our greatest concern? Our greatest concern should be that people are outside of the kingdom. And I’m not saying that we should be excited about transfer growth from other churches.

People move into our area, and they come to our church. We’re delighted to welcome them. We’re not shutting the doors.

They’re very welcome. But what I am saying is that we should be praying for conversion growth. What if we were to see at Greenview over the next 10 years, what if we were to see 40 people coming to faith in Jesus? And what if it meant that every single seat here was full, and we had a serious problem about what we’re going to do in terms of our services? That is a problem we should want to have, isn’t it? See, the danger is we can feel so comfortable because we’ve already got a seat.

But the Father is saying to us, go out there and bring in some more. Is our attitude, this is enough, or is it bring in more? I’m so challenged by that. I’m so challenged by the relentlessness of a host who says, get back out there because I’m not finished bringing people in.

And so this passage challenges us to share the heart of God and to hear the command to go. And yet this parable and passage lands with a challenge for those outside the church. And I want to finish on that briefly and hopefully impactfully.

Finally, this morning, notice with me the simplicity of the punchline. The simplicity of the punchline. It’s there in verse 24, and there’s something that might not be clear in English.

When Jesus says in verse 24, I tell you, the you there is plural. It’s all of you, each and every one of you. So in other words, the man in this parable is addressing every one of the people who rejected his invitation.

And therefore, this speaks to every person who was sitting around the table. He’s not just speaking to the one guy who said, blessed is the… He’s speaking to them all. And here’s the punchline to them all.

The punchline of this parable is not about mission. It’s a punchline about missing out. Look at it.

I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet. Not one of those people who made their excuses and thought it was legitimate will eat a bite at the table of the kingdom. You think you’re in? You think you’ll be one of the blessed at the banquet to come? If you reject God’s invitation now, then you will not be at the table then.

There was an article posted last week in the Times newspaper that was called Prepping for the End of the World. 15 Things You Need for the End of the World, I think was the subtitle. It includes a gas mask, an axe, and a winter sleeping bag.

(35:31 – 36:27)

Just what you need in the event of a nuclear holocaust. Actually, there’s only one thing you need for the end of the world, and that is faith in Christ. Because as awkward as it may feel, rather than us trying to deal with our sins ourselves in our own way and by our own efforts, the best thing we can do with that awkwardness is bring it to God in a moment of confession and repentance and to say, I am broken before you.

I have broken your laws. And as much as I’ve tried to honor you, I have failed. Please forgive me and give me through faith that forgiveness and grace that only comes through the cross of Jesus Christ, through the blood that he shed for me.

(36:29 – 37:38)

That’s the only sure way to be ready for the end of the world and to sit at that table. And so, very simply, I don’t want to belabor it this morning, but that’s the challenge for you. If you’re not a Christian today, if you’re here this morning, if you’ve never really taken that step, maybe you’ve been a churchgoer for many years, maybe you’ve come along with family, but you’ve never, you’ve felt awkward a number of times, but you’ve never done anything about it, there’s an opportunity to do that today.

You need to respond to an invitation. You have to reply. You’ve got to do something.

And there’s an opportunity to do that today, to come to pray and to put your faith in Jesus. And if you want to do that, there’ll be, I’ll be down the front, there’ll be others here who you can come and pray with. If you want to read more that will help you to respond, we’ve got some booklets and books that we can give you that will help you do that.

(37:40 – 37:45)

Let’s respond to God’s invitation and not delay this morning.