THE GREAT BANQUET
Parables are brief stories using physical symbols to illustrate spiritual truths. Today, with the whole counsel of God, the Bible, in our hands, we have no excuse to be ignorant about the life-giving messages that are woven into the parables of our Lord. Through parables, Jesus illustrates the truth about God’s kingdom and the purpose for which He came into this world: to reconcile man with God.
Imagine a guest advising his host whom he should invite for dinner or luncheon, and whom he should not! But that is precisely what the Lord Jesus did while He and the other guests were dining in the house of a prominent Pharisee! “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Lk.14:12-14).
While Luke is silent on how the host and the others reacted to Jesus’ advice, he quotes the remarks of one of the guests who probably caught a glimpse of the future glory that awaited those who acted on the Lord’s advice. The guest remarked, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Then Jesus replied to him with the parable of the Great Banquet.
Dinner With A Difference
It was a Sabbath day. One of the guests was suffering from dropsy (an abnormal accumulation of fluid in bodily tissues). As was well-known then, the Pharisees and Sadducees were hell-bent on trapping Jesus into saying or doing something for which He could be arrested and put to death. This was another occasion chosen by the Pharisees to trap Jesus.
Knowing their evil intention, Jesus deliberately asked the Pharisees and experts in the Law whether or not it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath day. When they could not answer Him, He healed the sick man and sent him away. Then the Lord again turned to the Pharisees and experts in the Law and asked them, “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” Again they had no answer; but they got the message!
For Jesus, the party was another opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in their rigid observance of the Sabbath day, even at the cost of neglecting the sick and the needy around them, as also their false belief that they were among the few chosen by God as His representatives to interpret the Law and impose it on others. Although the identity of the guests is not revealed, it is evident (v.7) that they were mainly Pharisees and their followers who were in the habit of choosing places of honour wherever they were invited. (Read Matt.23:4-7). Discerning the hidden desire of some of the guests for recognition and honour, Jesus told them that the proud will be humbled and the humble will be honoured.
Having said that, He told the host that, rather than inviting his relatives and rich neighbours, he should invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind who could not repay him, so that he could receive God’s eternal rewards. “...and you will be blessed…”
Inasmuch as Jesus came into this world for the economically poor and the physically crippled, He also came for the spiritually crippled—to heal them and to give them life by His death and resurrection so that they could follow His example of humility and loving service, and finally share in the eternal glory of God’s kingdom.
On another occasion, when the Pharisees saw Jesus dining in the former tax collector Matthew’s house, along with the other tax collectors and ‘sinners,’ they asked His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus (not the disciples who were questioned) replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matt.9:12), meaning that Jesus came to seek and to save those who come to Him by faith, acknowledging their physical handicaps and spiritual poverty.
The parable of the banquet deals with three important issues: God’s initiative to redeem man from sin’s bondage; man’s response to God, demonstrated by faith and action; and God’s invitation to the redeemed man to enter into His glorious kingdom. In a nutshell, the great banquet, in the parable of our Lord, symbolises the eternal glory that awaits everyone who gives priority and prominence to God’s kingdom and His righteousness, while sojourning in this transient world.
The man preparing the great banquet and inviting many guests represents God. We see that two invitations were sent out, as was the Jewish custom: one at the time of preparation of the banquet and the second when the banquet was ready.
In Israel’s history, God’s first invitation came through Moses and the prophets. The second came through His Son Jesus Christ. Some of the religious leaders accepted the first invitation. They believed that God had called them to be His people. When the master in the parable sent his servant with the second invitation as the banquet was ready, the invited guests began to give excuses for not being able to make it for the banquet. This is a metaphor for God sending His Son Jesus Christ to redeem the world through His chosen people, the Jews, who refused to receive Him (Jn.1:11). This tragic rejection of God’s invitation by the Jews resulted in a great blessing to all the ‘poor,’ the ‘crippled,’ the ‘lame’ and the ‘blind,’ who accepted God’s invitation that came through the Son (Jn.1:12).
When the invited guests gave excuses, the master became angry and sent his servant out into the streets and alleys of the town and to the roads and lanes where the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame lived, inviting them for the banquet. Alas! The first invitees lost a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of sharing in the pleasure of the great banquet because none of them had the time to spare as they had ‘important’ business to do.
Dear friend, today God is inviting you for His banquet. Have you accepted His invitation, or are you excusing yourself for being too busy acquiring the treasures and comforts of this world? Is the world’s invitation to indulge in all that it offers, more attractive to you than God’s invitation which offers you the ‘narrow way,’ leading you into the great banquet hall, into the very presence of God? Jesus, the only Way to God and His kingdom, willingly walked the narrow way on this earth—the way of self-denial and loving service to everyone who came to Him by faith—and now wants us to walk with Him!
“Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” The great heavenly banquet is just one of the many glories awaiting the reconciled believer who willingly allows God’s kingdom to be established in his/her heart here on earth. However, the glories of God’s kingdom must be preceded by the reproaches that invariably accompany the believers when they serve their downtrodden fellow-humans with the compassion and love of Christ.
The narrow way that leads to the glorious kingdom of God begins with repentance—a U-turn from the broad way that leads to eternal separation from God to the narrow way that leads to eternal life and fellowship in God’s kingdom (Matt.7:13-14).
In his prophecy concerning the readiness of the Bride of Christ, the apostle John refers to the great banquet as “the wedding supper of the Lamb” and those who are ready to enter in as “blessed” (Rev.19:9). In His parable of the ten virgins, the Lord says about the five wise virgins who were ready for the banquet, “The virgins who were ready, went in with him (the bridegroom) for the wedding banquet, and the door was shut…”
Grab and honour the invitation before it is withdrawn and you are assigned a place in the outer darkness where there is endless weeping and gnashing of teeth! (Matt.8:11-12).
Invite Jesus Christ
God’s invitation is still open for you to accept by faith. You will be wise to ignore this world’s glamorous invitation and receive God’s loving invitation, being extended to you through His Son Jesus Christ. He wants you to admit that your sin, whatever it may be, has crippled you spiritually, preventing you from entering ‘the great banquet hall’ of God’s kingdom. Jesus wants to enter your heart and heal you from within. He wants to begin a relationship with you, a relationship that will culminate at the Great Banquet in the kingdom of God!
He says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me” (Rev.3:20). Won’t you open the door of your heart and invite Him in?”