What are you doing with God’s invitation?
by Joseph Franks
In Luke 14, Jesus is dining at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, and he is simultaneously loving and offending one and all. He first offends his legalistic friends by performing another Sabbath-day healing. (vs. 1-6)
He then offends his fellow invited guests who were arrogantly striving for the most honorable seats. They should be humble. (vs. 7-11)
Then Jesus proves to be an equal-opportunity lover and offender; after troubling all the guests he turns to address the host. This ruler of the Pharisees shouldn’t have invited only those who were pleasurable and profitable. He should also have included the poor, crippled, lame, and blind — people who nothing to give in return. (vs. 12-14)
At this point, a fellow guest sees the small group Sabbath luncheon heading in the wrong direction. Therefore, he speaks forth wishing to break the tension and change the subject. He reasons, “Can’t we be done talking about healing and Sabbath laws? Can we be over the subject of who gets this seat and who gets that seat? And who really cares right now who is on and who is off the invitation list. Let’s talk about that which we can all agree on. Then he declares, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (vs. 15) He reasons, “That should get this party kicked off in the right direction again.”
Jesus sees this man seeing to divert and go down a different road. However, he does not object, Jesus goes down that road with the fellow, and he tells this parable:
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. (Luke 14:16-23)
I. He comments on the unfathomable opportunity (vs. 16)
For centuries, Jewish worshipers have been looking forward to the great banquet of the Messiah. In their Ceremonial worship, earthly feasts point to the eternal feast over the horizon.
Throughout the Psalms, worshipers of God focus upon of the festivities yet to come.
Isaiah proclaims, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined … He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain ….” (Is. 25:6-11)
This is the feast mentioned by the dinner guests of Jesus when he proclaimed, “Blessed is everyone who eats bread in the Kingdom of God.” (vs. 15)
This is also the Great Banquet of the Great Master in view as Jesus presents his parable. (vs. 16)
Friends, Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand; it is present; it is in our hearts; it is in our midst. Oh, it will get much more glorious when sin is no more, but do not doubt the declaration made by Jesus – the Kingdom of God is at hand.
Many of us are enjoying the Great Banquet of the Great Master on earth. Consider our present-day blessings: Our sins have been covered, forgiven and forgotten. We are considered blameless saints who walk about in the positional righteousness of Jesus. We are filled with the Holy Spirit, and consequently he fruits us from within. With great joy we see ourselves advancing in Christ-like sanctification and progressive righteousness. In addition to the Spirit’s presence and fruit, we also received spiritual gifts to use in God’s service. Then we also are blessed by being included in the local family of faith. There we and our children are shepherded, discipled, equipped, and encouraged. Because we have God’s Spirit, we can commune with him in prayer, we can be nourished by his Word, and we get to approach the Father’s table with confident intimacy. It is true, “How blessed are we who get to eat in the current Kingdom of God.”
Many of us will enjoy the Great Banquet of the Great Master with even greater joy in heaven. As good as it is now, it is not as good as it gets. Life in the Kingdom of God improves with time. Like saints who have gone on before us, we too will avoid hell and experience the New Heavens and Earth. We will have a new body, and we will never battle with sin again. Fellowship with our loved ones will be sweet, and how much fun will it be to make loud and festive music alongside the celestial choir and orchestra. There we will dine with Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Zipporah, Boaz and Ruth, and David and Bathsheba, and our greatest honor will be dining with Jesus, as his bride, at the table of honor. Yes, further delight awaits us. Blessed is everyone who eats bread in the Kingdom of God. With this statement, Jesus agrees. For this purpose, Jesus dies.
II. He comments on the universal invitation (vs. 16)
Who is invited to this banquet? The answer is “many.” The invitation list is very long.
In the early chapters of Scripture, God sends special invitations to the Patriarchs. They and their households received personally delivered invites.
God then focuses specifically upon Abraham and his ethnic descendants. Through prophets and priests, the Jewish people were invited to the table of the Lord with greater clarity and frequency. They were privileged to receive invites like none other.
God then intended that the Jews were to invite the nations, for God desired to have a multiethnic feast in his multicultural house. Therefore, honorable Jews throughout the Old Testament, shared God’s truth with friends such as Rahab, Uriah, Ruth, and Darius. Consistently, God invited wicked people from other nations such as Jericho, Babylon, and Nineveh to become citizens of his Kingdom; they were invited to his banquet.
Now, in Luke 14, the Jews are being invited yet again. They have heard the ministry of John the Baptist. They have seen the miracle working power of Jesus. They are being invited to recognize the King and his Kingdom. He is right there in their midst.
Friends, God is still inviting “many” to his feast. His invitation is universal. Human logic screams of an Initial Cause. Art presents of a Beautiful Painter. Science tells of a Technical Designer. Anthology proclaims the inner hunger for worship found in all men. Every person’s conscience tells them of a Moral Leader and code. Every man knows there is a God; this is the inspired declaration of the Apostle Paul. (Rom. 1-2) All men are invited to take the revelation they have received and search for more, and those who search are promised to find that which they are looking for. Even now, through his church and through this blog, God is inviting men and women today. Can’t we hear him scream, “Come into the house; come dine with me; come join the party?” God is still inviting all to see their sin, see their satanic oppressor, see their Savior, submit and be saved.
But sadly, notice how men respond to the unfathomable opportunity and the universal invitation. They do so with a very unwise response.
III. He comments on the unwise response (vs. 17-21, 24)
Though many are invited, and many show initial interest, when the day of acceptance comes, all the invited decline. They all alike make excuses and refuse to come. Some overvalue possessions and profitability and undervalue the feast. Others state they cannot come because of their fascination with people and pleasure. But these are merely representative responses. All alike make excuses, and though many are invited, none of the many come.
Therefore, the Master responds. He is angry, and then he promises exclusion. None of those dismissing his invite shall enjoy the pleasure of his King, his Kingdom, and his Feast.
Friends, this is the response of those in Jesus’ contemporary audience. All those around the table had sung songs of the Kingdom. They had all been invited. But at the present time, they were devaluing the King and his Kingdom. They were making the Father angry, and if they persisted in doing so, they would be eternally excluded. They would not enjoy the earthly Kingdom. They would not enjoy the eternal Kingdom. They would be banished to the pit of hell forever.
Sadly, this is the normative response of men today. Even though the light has come into the world, men prefer darkness. (John 3:18-19) Even though God has made knowledge of himself plain to men, unrighteous people suppress and substitute the truth. (Romans 1:18-32) Even though God seeks worshipers, no men naturally seek God; all turn aside. (Romans 3:9-10) Natural men do not accept invites from the Spirit of God; they are folly to them. (1 Cor. 2:14) God stands at the door knocking and knocking, and men are too preoccupied with possessions, profitability, people, and pleasure to let him in. And left in this condition, they are doomed to experience God’s wrath and exclusion.
However, there is good news. Though man’s rebellion is great, and God’s anger is kindled, and exclusion is promised over the horizon, the Great Master is one with great patience, great compassion, great power, and an unquenchable passion.
IV. He comments on the unquenchable passion of God (vs. 21-23)
The Great Master tells his faithful servant to go to the streets and lanes. He is to find the poor, crippled, blind, and lame. Then he is to go to the highways and hedges. Dirty people without homes and clean clothes are to come to the feast. It will be a banquet for deplorables.
The Great Master does not tell them to “invite” but to “bring them in.” He does not tell his faithful servant to “invite” but to “compel people to come.” The servant is to persuade strongly, to urge, to compel, or even to constrain. He is not to take “no” for an answer.
The Great Master said to his servant, “Go out quickly ….”
Why the urgency? Because the Great Master is determined that his “house will be filled.” There will not be one seat left vacant at his table of delight. This is what the Master desires; it is his unquenchable passion.
And this is what we see happening through Jesus Christ, his Holy Spirit, and his faithful church. Ragamuffins are still being invited, compelled, and brought in to the banquet. Though many arrogant religious folk are being excluded, many sinful vagabonds are being brought into the household of faith. The Kingdom of God is family of beloved deplorables.
Two different but identical questions:
Friends, what are you doing with the invitation of the Great Master and his Faithful Servant? An unfathomable opportunity is before you. An invitation has been sent with your name engraved upon it. Yes, you have refused to come over and over again, but God has not yet revoked his invitation. He has not yet returned. You still have breath in your lungs. Do we see the free invitation? He has paid all the bills; all you have to do is say “Yes” to the RSVP and show up. The crippled and lame man cannot say, “I can’t get anyone to carry me there.” God says, “I will here to carry you.” The blind cannot say, “I can’t see to find my way.” God says, “I am the One who gives sight to the blind; I’ve got you by the hand.” The street people along the highways and hedges cannot say, “I haven’t had a bath in days and my clothes are dirty and ragged.” God says, “I am He who washes and makes clean.” The poor man cannot say, “I have nothing decent to wear to such a feast.” God says, “I have a robe for you.” Oh deplorable friend, is God compelling you? Is this blog compelling to you? Are you done making excuses? Give up worshiping possessions, profitability, people, and pleasure. You can be seated at the table of the Lord before this day is through. Do not suffer God’s anger any longer. Do not be excluded. Please, come into the house, embrace, be embraced, and dine.
Friends, what are you doing with the invitation of the Great Master and his Faithful Servant? Are you being faithful servants of the Faithful Servant? Have you forgotten the unquenchable passion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Have you neglected your Great Commission? What are you doing with God’s universal invitation? When was the last time you invited someone to repent and be saved? Is it because you have forgotten hell, or is it because you have a lack-luster interest in that which delights God, his angels, and his saints? Or is it because you have fallen pray to overvaluing possessions, profitability, people, and pleasure. My friends, let’s go … quickly. Let’s compel. Let’s urge. Let’s not take “no” for an answer. More and more let us labor as Jesus. He is the friend of sinners, and so we must be as well. It is time for us to be in the world but not of the world. Why not pray that God will give you one person, before the end of this week, with whom you can share God’s invitation? Like the Great Master, the Faithful Servant, the Holy Spirit, and your church fathers and mothers, let us be boldly evangelistic. God has an unquenchable passion, and his passion should more and more be ours.