The Point: Hospitality is a practical way to share Christ with others.
The Parable of the Great Banquet: Luke 14:12-24.
 He said also to the man who had invited him, "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,  and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."  When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!"  But he said to him, "A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.  And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’  And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’  And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’  So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’  And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’  And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’" [ESV]
“Jesus taught about God’s banquet while He was at a Pharisee’s house one Sabbath for dinner. The dinner party began when Jesus walked in the door and healed a man’s disease. Then, as the guests scrambled to claim the best seats in the house, Jesus told them a parable about taking the lowest place instead of the highest place. According to the saving principles of God’s justice and mercy, people who exalt themselves will be humbled, while people who humble themselves for Christ will be exalted. The parable was mainly for the invited guests, but Jesus also had something important to say to their host in 14:12-14. Earlier Jesus had told people where to sit and where not to sit. Now He was telling them whom to invite, or not to invite, and He was putting it in the strongest possible terms. When you are having a dinner party, He said, do not invite your friends only, or your family members, or the richest family in town, because those people will probably return the invitation. The only selfless way to serve is to invite a guest who has nothing to offer except his need. Obviously Jesus was exaggerating to make a point. He loved His family and often ate with His friends. Such relationships need to be nurtured. But there is a place in the Christian community for reciprocal hospitality, which the command of Christ does not rule out. But for many people this is as far as hospitality ever goes. So Jesus put all of His emphasis on inviting people who are in no position to invite us back. Do not invite your friends only, He was saying, but also invite people who are down and out. Jesus was distinguishing here between charity, which is a selfless act of love, and mere civility, which is a lesser virtue because it is more in our self-interest. Civility has its place in life, but we should not make the mistake of thinking that we are being charitable when in fact we are only being civil. We should also be careful not to let our civility get in the way of true Christian charity. How easy it is to help people who will help us in return, and how hard it is to help people who will be nothing but trouble. If we are honest, we have to admit that many of our relationships are based on quid pro quo. There is nothing wrong with this kind of mutual assistance, but there is too much self-interest involved for it to be a full demonstration of the mercy of God. In order for our lives to show the love of Christ, we need to go beyond doing good to people who do good to us, which may simply be another way of loving ourselves. Instead, we need to give without any thought for what we might get in return. One good way to do this is to expand the guest list for our ministry and hospitality. Jesus tells us to serve people who are living in poverty or suffering from a disability. This means recognizing their dignity as people made in the image of God and caring for their practical needs. It means enabling them to participate in public life. It means developing meaningful relationships with people outside our community and welcoming awkward or difficult people into our fellowship. It also means doing all of this for people who do not seem to have anything to give us in return. This is a serious issue for self-examination. When was the last time you did something for someone who was not in any position to do something for you? Jesus would have us do this because He wants us to have His heart for people in need. The guest list that He gives us in this parable – the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame – is the guest list of His own grace. These are the very people Jesus came to save. If we receive them as our guests in Jesus’ name, then we will have God’s blessing. These people may not be able to repay us for what we give them, but God can repay us. He will repay us at the resurrection of the just . The Great Banquet. By this point in the meal, Jesus had offended just about everyone at the table: the Pharisees by healing a 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 for Him to offend? Socially, this must have been a very awkward situation. Yet one man tried to salvage the dinner party by taking what Jesus had just said about the resurrection and making a spiritual comment that everyone should agree with (or so he thought): Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God . This statement was true, as far as it went. However, the man who uttered this pious sentiment was making a potentially dangerous assumption. In his self-satisfaction, he assumed that he would be there for that great feast, along with all the other respectable religious people who deserve a place at God’s table. The man also assumed that Jesus would agree with what he had said, confirming God’s blessing. Many people make the same assumption today. They like to talk about heaven; they are confident that they deserve to go to that better place; and they assume that Jesus agrees with their assessment of their spiritual condition. Yet not everyone who talks about heaven is going there. On the contrary, as Jesus went on to explain in His parable of the great banquet, the only people who will ever sit down at God’s table are those who respond to His invitation by faith. There are five main parts to this parable: a gracious invitation [16-17], a rude rejection [18-20], a wider invitation , a compelling exhortation [22-23], and a final caution . The parable begins with a gracious invitation: A man once gave a great banquet and invited many . According to custom, a wealthy man hosting a banquet would have issued two invitations. The first invitation is the one mentioned in verse 16; it came a day or two before the great event. To say yes to this invitation was to make a firm commitment to attend, because once the host knew how many people were coming, he would start killing as many animals as he needed to feed meat to his hungry guests. Then, when everything was finally ready, a servant was sent to tell everyone that the time had come, and the guests were duty-bound to come. This parable was really about God’s plan of salvation and the coming of Christ. The banquet was an ancient symbol of salvation. God wants to have fellowship with His people and to satisfy them with good things. So in the parable, the man hosting the banquet represents God, and the banquet represents his kingdom – the greatest feast that any king has ever set before any guest. God first gave a free and gracious invitation to come to His banquet in the promises of the Old Testament. The many whom God invited were primarily the people of Israel. Now it was time for them to receive their second invitation. Therefore, Jesus was announcing that the kingdom had come. He Himself was the servant sent to tell Israel that God’s banquet was ready. He was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior. Soon He would finish the work of salvation by dying on the cross for sinners and rising again from the dead. The time for the banquet had finally arrived, so in His teaching ministry Jesus offered this gracious invitation: Come, for everything is now ready . Anyone who has ever attended a feast knows how wonderful it is to be invited. It is even more wonderful to hear the happy news that dinner is served. This is what Jesus was announcing to the people of God. Everything we need for salvation is ready because God has prepared it all for us in Christ: forgiveness through the cross, and life through the empty tomb. We have been invited to God’s invitation-only banquet, so all we need to do now is come. The complete readiness of the feast is a strong inducement for us to come without delay. Are you willing to be saved? God has given you a gracious invitation. He wants you to come. Everything is ready for you in Christ. But you need to do something more than just talk about how nice it would be to go to heaven; you need to respond to God in faith. To be saved is to say yes to God’s gracious invitation in Jesus Christ. Tragically, many people who get invited never come, including some who said that they would come. This is the second part of the parable: a rude rejection [18-20]. When the servant came with a second invitation to dinner, the guests were obligated to come without delay: But they all alike began to make excuses . Each of them offered come kind of excuse but they were all equally absurd. These people simply did not want to come to the banquet. There is no other explanation for what they did. They were busy pursuing their own interests and thought they had something better to do. Each invited guest had a different excuse, but on this they were all agreed: they would not come to the banquet. In the culture of Jesus’ day, such a deliberate refusal was unthinkably rude. No one ever rejected a second invitation. To accept a first invitation and then fail to come to a party was an unconscionable and probably intentional insult. It could only mean that the invited guests had the utmost disdain for their would-be host. Jesus was saying that this was exactly what Israel’s religious leaders were doing to Him. They had received God’s first invitation in the promises of the Old Testament, so they were committed to come. But when God’s servant summoned them to the great banquet, they deliberately insulted Him by refusing to come by faith. Many people treat Jesus the same way today. They have been invited to receive the free gift of eternal life by trusting in His cross and the empty tomb, yet they will not come. Some of them say that they will, but they never do. They offer the same lame excuses that people made in the parable. God is not as important to them as their own interests. They are too busy pursuing their earthly entertainments. They are tied up with their commitments at work. They have family and friends that pull them away from church. They say they do not have time for God, at least not right now. But whatever excuses they come up with, the real reason for their rude rejection is that they simply will not come to Christ. A wider invitation . When none of his guests showed up for dinner, the host was extremely angry, and rightly so. Yet in the righteousness of his wrath he also remembered to show mercy: Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame . Here was a wider invitation. The master’s hospitality had been spurned, but he still had a feast to give away, so he opened his doors to the outcasts in his community. He expanded his guest list to include the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. In other words, he invited exactly the kinds of people that Jesus had been talking about earlier: people who would never have the resources to return his invitation. This wider invitation was a rebuke to the Pharisees and Israel’s other religious leaders. They were the invited guests, the men who had received God’s initial invitation in the Old Testament. But when Jesus came and summoned them to salvation, they refused to come. So now Jesus was taking the gospel out to all the lost sinners of Israel, including the homeless unbelievers that the Pharisees were too proud to have over for dinner. God’s invitation to salvation was not just for religious insiders; it was also for poor, broken-down sinners who had never been religious at all. Unless the religious people came to Christ, they would never be saved. A compelling exhortation. But that is not all. The invitation goes wider, because there is still more room at God’s table, and even more people that Jesus is calling to save. First the master invited his friends to dinner. When they rudely refused to come, he sent his servant out to invite people in off the streets. Even after that, he still had plenty of empty seats at his table. So his servant came and said, Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room . To which the master replied with this compelling exhortation: Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled . This time the servant would go outside the city to the surrounding roadsides. There he would give his master’s gracious invitation to anyone he could find, including whatever dubious characters might be lurking in the highways and byways. It would take some doing to get them to come to dinner. Presumably these people did not know the master. According to the social conventions of the Middle East, strangers like this were expected to refuse the master’s invitation, especially if they belonged to a lower social class. If the servant was going to get these people to the banquet, he was going to have to persuade them by any means possible. Hence the urgency of his master’s command: compel people to come in. This parable proves that God wants His house to be full for dinner. It also shows that His invitation is not just for the Jewish leaders, or for the Jewish people in general, but also for the Gentile nations of the world. The banquet of his salvation has been set for all peoples. It would be hard for many people to believe, but it was true: God was welcoming everyone, even people who had never had any connection with Him before at all. This is our Great Commission: to go into all the world and preach the gospel – or, as Jesus put it in this parable, to go out to the highways and byways and compel people to come in. Are you going out into the world with the gospel? People are dying outside of Christ, and we must go and invite them to come in. Answer God’s call to missions and evangelism. Share the gospel on whatever highways you travel. Take advantage of the spiritual opportunities you have in the byways of your own community. By your words and witness, compel people to come in. Deal earnestly with people about their spiritual situation until they come to Christ. People need to be persuaded; otherwise, they will not come to Christ. There is no question here of coercion, but only the sweet compulsion of a heart that is persuaded of gospel truth and therefore is persuasive in the way it shares the truth of the gospel. A final caution. Jesus gave a final word of caution at the end of His parable: For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet . Right at the end of the parable Jesus speaks in the first person, making it clear that the banquet is His banquet. Jesus is the host of the great supper and the master of all its invitations. Here He says very plainly that people like the Pharisees, who refuse to come to Him by faith, will never taste His salvation. If you are so foolish as to refuse His open invitation – no matter what excuse you make – it is not just dinner that you will miss, but your very salvation. Do not miss out on what Jesus wants to give you, but come when you are called!” [Ryken, pp. 75-87].
Questions for Discussion:
1. What are the five main parts to this parable? Ryken writes: “This parable was really about God’s plan of salvation and the coming of Christ.” How do you see this parable teaching these truths? Be specific.
2. What does this passage teach concerning true Christian hospitality? Do you see anything in your life that needs changing in order for you to be a more hospitable person?
Luke, volume 2, Darrell Bock, Baker.
Luke, volume 2, Philip Ryken, REC, P & R Publishing.