Post Series on Luke 14:12-24:
- Do You Want to Be Repaid at the Resurrection of the Just? (Luke 14:12-14)
- Do You Want to Eat Bread in the Kingdom of God? (Luke 14:15)
- Do You Want to Taste God’s Banquet? (Luke 14:16-24)
In response to the dinner guest’s statement, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”, Jesus tells a parable to illustrate the question that we explored yesterday: Do you want to eat bread in the kingdom of God?. Luke narrates the story this way:
16But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18But 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.’ 19And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21So 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.’ 22And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23And 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. 24For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” (Luke 14:16-24)
The general thrust of the parable is to prompt us to think through how well we actually want to eat bread in the kingdom of God—or, as Jesus puts it here, to “taste God’s banquet.” But the way Jesus tells the story opens up a fascinating reflection on Jesus’ own ministry.
War and Inheritance
The three excuses that those invited to the party give boil down to two general issues: the first two people have just taken new property, and the third person has taken a new wife. The fact that they are citing these issues specifically as reasons to be excused from tasting God’s banquet are very deliberately chosen, because the Old Testament Law gives these exact excuses as two of the possible excuses for an Israelite’s not going to war.
In Deuteronomy 20, we read the following:
1“When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. 2And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people 3and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, 4for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’ 5Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying, ‘Is there any man who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. 6And is there any man who has planted a vineyard and has not enjoyed its fruit? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man enjoy its fruit. 7And is there any man who has betrothed a wife and has not taken her? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man take her.’” (Deuteronomy 20:1-7)
In this passage, God gives two reasons for an Israelite not to go to war. Either he has new property (v. 5-6), or he has a new wife (v. 7). (For what it’s worth, v. 8 also allows those who are too afraid to go to war stay back, lest they become a liability on the battlefield—but this issue doesn’t arise in Jesus’ parable, so we’ll leave it aside for the moment.)
So, what’s the connection between Jesus’ banquet and ancient Israelite warfare? Well, it’s critical to understand that Israel went to war only for one purpose: claiming/defending their inheritance. They marched into the Promise Land to lay hold to what God had promised them, and they fought off other peoples who tried to take the Promised Land away from them, or to subjugate them in the land.
The inheritance was a critical piece of Israelite identity, so inheritance-related war was an extremely important event. But, God was gracious enough to provide major exceptions to limit those who had to go to war at any given time. Even claiming their inheritance was not so important for them to neglect taking a new piece of property, a new wife, or avoiding pure terror.
In the New Testament, though, the inheritance of God’s people is no longer a small sliver of land in the Middle East. Instead, the New Testament people of God get a much better inheritance: Christ himself, along with all of creation. Paul writes in Ephesians 1:11 that “In him we have obtained an inheritance”; Christ himself is our inheritance. Then, in Romans 8:15-17, Paul explains that by the Spirit of adoption (through whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”) we have been made children of God, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” Our inheritance is that we gain Christ himself, and that we inherit the whole world as a fellow heir with Christ.
How to Taste God’s Banquet
The shocking thing about this parable, though, is that the stakes have been raised. If you wanted a share of the inheritance, there were still excuses that you could use that would get you out of the war. But now that Jesus has come, and now that “everything is now ready”—now that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh—there are no more excuses. Even the very legitimate escape clauses of the law no longer apply here. No one who turns down an offer of Christ will taste God’s banquet.
You see, Jesus was telling this parable to Israelites, to whom “belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises” (Rom. 9:4). And as such, they were the first to receive invitations to the banquet. Jesus was issuing them a warning not to turn down his offer of himself.
But they did. And not only did they reject him, but they orchestrated his execution. And even when he rose from the dead, vindicating himself as the Son of the Most High, they still rejected the gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins proclaimed in Jesus’ name.
And so the invitation was then extended to the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame—those in the hedges, the highways, and the byways. In other words, the gospel was then extended to all the nations of the earth, so that Gentiles like us could come in to taste God’s banquet.
But here is the warning: the gospel of Jesus still comes to us today, demanding a response. Either we repent from our sins and believe upon Jesus for entering into the eternal banquet, or, for whatever underlying reason, we choose something else—even, perhaps, a very legitimate thing to choose—and we miss the feast entirely.
So, do you want to taste God’s banquet, or not?