Luke 14:12–24

Read the passage.

Perhaps verses 12 through 14 should have been included in yesterday’s entry. They deal with the same theme as the previous verses, but they also serve as a transition point to the next parable. Just like a guest should have humility in deciding where he sits, a host should be humble in his guest list. That is, stop inviting only your rich friends and relatives because then you can expect an invitation of your own to their house. Instead, be hospitable to those who have nothing to feed you. Then God will reward you for your good deeds because He is just.

At that point, one of the other guests offers up a pious saying. “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (v. 15) This sounds nice, but there’s actually a problem hidden behind the words. Do you see it? The problem is that the speaker presumes that he will be there to eat bread in the kingdom of God. Jesus recognizes this attitude and tells a parable to explain the problem.

The story goes that a man throws a very large banquet. The custom is that you send out invitations well in advance, and then again a second time to those who accepted when everything is ready. This time, all of the invited guests had “excuses” for why they couldn’t be there. “I need to inspect this field I just bought.” “I have to examine my new oxen.” “Sorry, I just got married; I can’t come.” “Excuses” is in quotes because these are flimsy at best. No one completes purchase of land or a bunch of animals without looking at them first, and even if they did they could put it off until after the feast. And how did the host not know about his guest’s wedding? I’m all for honeymoons, but there should have been some communication between these people at the very least.

The man is justifiably angry, so he sends his servant back out to find people to fill his feast hall: the poor, lame, blind, and crippled. Even after this, there is still room for more guests, so the servant is sent out again, further afield. His instructions are to bring in anyone except those who declined the invitation in the first place.

Back to the dinner Jesus is attending. The man Jesus responded to presumes he will be in the kingdom of God because he is a faithful Jew: he keeps the Law of Moses, he attends synagogue, he gives to the poor, he offers the right sacrifices at the right time, he’s a descendant of Abraham and one of God’s chosen people. Except for having Abraham as an ancestor, that list sounds a lot like a bunch of people in churches today. They talk the talk, they show up to church every week, they give to charities. But they have the same problem: they haven’t really accepted the living Invitation into God’s kingdom by repenting of their sins and trusting Him to bring them in. They’re trying to get in on their own, through their own good deeds and intrinsic merit. They may even eat at the same Communion table with Jesus, and still say, “No thanks. I don’t need your help.”

We are unworthy sinners who cannot even see Your perfect holiness, much less reach it. Even accepting Your invitation is beyond our ability, so we beg Your forgiveness and grace.

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