An Infinite Willingness

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Jesus was never afraid to speak the truth or do what was right, even if it meant offending people. On Friday, we saw that he was invited to a banquet at a leading Pharisee’s house (Luke 14:1–6), where he immediately offended the religious leaders by healing on the Sabbath. Yesterday, we saw that he offended the guests by rebuking their pursuit of prominence (Luke 14:7–11). But he was not done yet.

In 14:12–14, he offended the host and then, in 14:15–24, he offended, by means of another parable, one particular guest who, it seems, was trying to salvage the entire offensive situation.

As he surveyed the guest list, he noticed that only prominent guests had been invited—those who might return the host’s hospitality by inviting them to a banquet of his own. He only invited those, in other words, who had something to offer him. Jesus rebuked his self-seeking invitation by encouraging him instead to invite those who had nothing to offer him (vv. 12–14).

One of the guests, hearing Jesus’ words, sought to salvage the situation by making a statement he assumed Jesus would agree with: “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God” (v. 15). The statement was true enough, but it betrayed the guest’s assumption that he would be at that eternal banquet. Jesus therefore delivered a parable (vv. 16–24) to highlight that the guest list at God’s eternal banquet might not quite be what the man expected.

In ancient Israel, two invitations were issued for a banquet. The first was a courtesy to ensure that the banquet did not conflict with another planned event. If the RSVP list showed no conflict, the host proceeded to plan the banquet and then issue a second invitation when everything was ready. Those who had RSVPed to the first invitation were expected to attend when the second invitation was issued. In the parable, however, those who had initially confirmed their intention to attend offered all sorts of excuses. The host therefore instructed that others be invited. He would not have an empty banquet, even if it meant that those initially invited would not be there.

In the context in which Jesus ministered, religious Jews had received an initial invitation to the eternal banquet by means of the old covenant. They had agreed to the invitation. Jesus was the second invitation. The banquet was now at hand and Jesus had been sent to inform those who had agreed to attend that the banquet was before them. Sadly, as Jesus’ ministry to Israel showed, guest after guest made excuse as to why they could not possibly attend. But God would not have an empty banquet. The rejected invitation would be extended to others to ensure a full guest list.

The guest making the statement to Jesus seems to have assumed that his place at the table was guaranteed because he had responded to the first invitation: the old covenant. Jesus warned him that the only way to secure a place at the table was to respond affirmatively to his invitation.

Far too many people today are like the first guest: They assume that they will be on the guest list at the eternal banquet. They are religious. They were raised in a Christian home. They attend church. They read their Bible. They pray. But they haven’t said yes to Jesus. They haven’t heeded his call to repentance and faith. In eternity, they will find themselves excluded.

As you reflect on this parable today, ask yourself, have I said yes to Jesus? The banquet is ready. The invitations are being issued. To refuse Jesus’ invitation is to find yourself excluded from God’s eternal banquet and to instead be left in the outer darkness where there is only sorrowful weeping and angry gnashing of teeth. Will you say yes to Jesus’ infinite willingness today?