Parable of the Dinner - Luke 14:16-24

Parable of the Dinner - Luke 14:16-24

 

1.       Not long after Carol and I were married, we moved from Houston to Ft. Worth where I attended seminary.  We had been in Ft. Worth just a couple of months when I got an invitation to preach at a very small rural church in Parker County not far outside of Weatherford.  They invited me back a couple of more times and finally asked me to be their very part-time pastor.  Looking back on that, I now understand they called me not because of any ability I had but because Carol could play the piano, and they were in desperate need of a church pianist.

2.       It is a long way from the suburbs of Houston to rural Parker County.  We were at that church for four years and found the people to be wonderful, compassionate people.  However, some of them, living as they did, had much different standards of hygiene than Carol and I had.  There was one particular family who were the nicest people you could ever know but who lived in an environment that just made our skin crawl.  From time to time, they would invite Carol and me to their home for Sunday lunch.  That was always a tough day for us! 

3.       When we went to their home, I would stay out in the yard with the man of the house and Carol would go into the kitchen (and after shooing the animals out!) would help prepare lunch.  On one particular Sunday when we sat down with them to eat, I noticed that Carol ate nothing but mashed potatoes.  That kind of embarrassed me and as we were driving back to the seminary I asked her why she had done that.  Her explanation made perfect sense to me.  She told me that she had prepared the mashed potatoes, so she knew they were relatively clean.  After that, whenever we were invited to the home of that family, I watched Carol and ate what she ate!

4.       Looking back on that, I realize that was not a very gracious thing to do.  I am sure if our hosts noticed what we were doing (and I don’t see how they could have missed it!) they thought we were a little strange. 

5.      In this session I want to direct your attention back to Luke 14, at which we looked in our last meeting.  In Luke 14 Jesus is attending a dinner at the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees.  And at this dinner Jesus did and said some things that, no doubt, his host viewed as strange and offensive.  The very first verse of Luke 14 tells us something very significant about this dinner.  It tells us that “...they were watching Him closely.”  In other words, Jesus was invited to this dinner not because the host wanted to socialize with Him but because he wanted to scrutinize Him.  Perhaps the Pharisees were looking for some weakness in Jesus that they could use against Him.  It’s interesting that instead of shrinking from the challenge, Jesus took advantage of the setting to challenge the thinking of the Pharisees.

·         In verses 2-6, Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, doing something the Pharisees viewed as a sin.  By his action Jesus rebuked them for their lack of compassion.

·         In verses 7-11, on which we focused in our previous session, Jesus criticized them for their lack of humility which caused them to jockey for the seats of honor at such dinners.

·         In verses 12-14, criticized them for their selfishness which caused them to invite into their homes only those who could return the invitation.

6.      After that series of events, you can imagine the awkward silence that must have fallen over that dinner.  To break the silence, someone blurted out in verse 15, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”  To “...eat bread in the kingdom of God...” means to participate in God’s Kingdom.  The Kingdom of God means the reign of God, the rule of God in our hearts.  To participate in God’s Kingdom is the same thing as being saved, being born again, being a Christian.  And when that person blurted out that statement, Jesus took the opportunity to tell a story designed to remind those who heard it that day and those who hear it in our day, that it is possible to miss out on the Kingdom of God.  God has invited us to a great party, but we can turn down then invitation.  Listen to what Jesus said. (Text – Luke 14:16-24)

 

T.S. – What a great invitation we have all received.  We are invited into the very presence of God!  We are invited to live our lives in continuous relationship with the God of the universe, the One Who created us!  But the last verse of this paragraph where Jesus says, “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner...” reminds us that it is possible to be invited but to miss the banquet!  I want you to see in this story some things that will cause us to miss out on God’s invitation to genuine fellowship with Him

 

I.    We miss God’s invitation to fellowship with Him when we fail to understand that the invitation us is based on God’s grace, not our merit.

1.      Notice the very first thing Jesus said in verse 16 – “A man was giving a big dinner...”  We are likely, in our haste to get to the rest of the story, to skip right over that.  But we shouldn’t.  It is a very important statement.  The “man” in this parable obviously represents God.  The “dinner” represents the offer to live in fellowship with God.  It is significant that Jesus says the dinner was being given.  As the story unfolds, it is obvious that the guests were not invited based on their merit.  They were invited based on the graciousness of the man giving the dinner.

2.      That little statement reminds us of the most important thing we can know about salvation.  Salvation is not something we do; it is something God gives. 

·         We do not enter into fellowship with God because we deserve to do so. 

·         We do not have an on-going relationship with God because we, in some way, have earned that right.

·         We do not experience forgiveness of our sin and cleansing from our sin on the basis of merit.

Salvation is not based on what we do; it is based on the grace of God.  As it has often been said, “We do not achieve salvation; we receive salvation.”

  1. Martin Luther, the great reformer was a man  of great intellect, but Luther had a way of reducing great theological truths to simple statements.  Luther summed up all of Christian theology in three simple, yet profound, statements:

·         “sola scriptura” – Scripture alone (What we believe must be based upon Scripture.)

·         “sola gratias” – Grace alone (Our salvation is not dependent on what we do but what God has done for us in Christ.)

·         ”sola fide” – Faith alone (Our response to what God, in His grace, has done for us is simply to accept or believe.) [Richard Foster, Freedom of Simplicity, pp. 61-61]

  1. And until we understand that God’s invitation to us comes from His grace and not our merit, we will always miss the life to which He invites us.

 

II.  We miss God’s invitation to fellowship with Him when we fail to understand that the invitation is not exclusive but inclusive.

1.   Look at the rest of that statement in verse 16.  “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many...”  And as the story unfolds, it is quite clear that no one was left out or excluded from this invitation. 

2.   Three distinct groups of people were invited to this dinner.

·         The first group, introduced in verses 16 & 17, was made up of those who had been informed of the dinner in advance.  This reflects a common custom in the 1st century.  Guests were invited and accepted a dinner invitation days in advance, not knowing the precise time of the dinner.  On the day of the dinner, when everything was ready, the host would send for those who had promised to come.  When the host sent word that it was time for the meal, those who had previously accepted the invitation all began to make excuses about why they could not come.  Many commentators interpret this group as being the nation Israel.  Through the prophets God told Israel of the coming Messiah.  When the Messiah came, He first came to Israel.  However, by and large Israel rejected Him.

·         The second group, introduced in verse 21, was made up of those in the “streets and lanes of the city.”  While these people may have been Jewish, because they were “...poor and crippled and blind and lame...” they were excluded from full participation in the religious community of the 1st century.  They were looked down upon as being inferior and unworthy.

·         The third group, introduced in verse 23, was made up of those in “...the highways and hedges...”  This was outside the city and probably is a reference to travelers of all sorts, including non-Jews.

  1. It has been suggested that this parable is a foreshadowing of the command Jesus gave the church in Acts 1:8 when He said, “...you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and all Judea (Jewish people), and Samaria (those considered outcasts and unclean), and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (those in the highways and hedges)
  2. And the point is that all people are invited to God’s banquet table, to fellowship with God.  No one is left out.  No one is excluded.  The invitation is open to all.  And until we understand that, we will miss the life to which He invites us.

 

III. We miss God’s invitation to fellowship with Him when we fail to respond personally to the invitation.

1.   To enter the Kingdom, to experience the rich, full, abundant life of fellowship with Him that begins in this world and extends throughout all eternity, requires a personal response from us.  This is not a life you can enter into by proxy.  Someone else cannot make the decision for you.  You must come to the point in your life of saying “yes” to God’s invitation.

2.   There is a little phrase in this parable that in the history of the church has been grossly misinterpreted and misused.  I’m referring to the phrase in verse 23, “...and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled...”  That statement has been interpreted by some that phrase as a command that we are to coerce people, force people into becoming followers of Jesus.  But that is not at all what Jesus is saying here.  If you look carefully at the ministry of Jesus, you will see that He never used forced to get anyone to follow Him.  The decision to follow was always a voluntary decision.  As a matter of fact, Jesus often stressed the difficulty of following and warned people that there is a cost in following.  What did He say?  “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)

3.   Actually, this parable reminds us of some things we must leave behind to follow Christ.

·         The man who refused the invitation because he had bought some land allowed possessions to keep him from the party.

·         The man who refused the invitation because he had bought some oxen (the tools of his trade) allowed profession to keep him from the party.

·         The man who refused the invitation because he had married a wife allowed a person to keep him from the party.

And the point of all that is nothing—not what we have, not what we do, not who we know—must be more important to us than relationship with God.

4.   We will miss God’s great invitation to live in fellowship with Him if we refuse to make the decision of laying all that we are and all that we have at His feet.  We do that by-

·         Admitting our need for God (The Bible calls that confession.)

·         Turning from self to God (The Bible calls that repentance.)

·         Accepting Jesus into our lives (The Bible calls that believing.)

  1. And until we make that personal response to God, we will miss the party.

Conclusion

1.   I remember reading some time ago about a small Episcopal church in the mountains of North Carolina known as The Church of the Frescoes.  A fresco is a mural done in plaster, and this little church contains several outstanding frescoes.  One stretches across the entire back wall of the sanctuary and it is a depiction of the Last Supper.  You would think the focus of the painting would be Jesus, but in this case it is not.  While Jesus is prominently displayed, the central object in the fresco is a stool—an empty stool—which is directly across the table from Jesus.  The stool beckons to all who look at the painting to come and take their place in the loving fellowship of Jesus.

2.   That’s the message of this parable of the dinner on Luke 14.  Through His grace God has made it possible for any person who responds in faith to His Son to live in eternal fellowship with Him.

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