Click here for the reading: Luke 14:15–24.
Luke 14 places us in the house of a ruler of the Pharisees (14:1) with Jesus under great scrutiny. He, however, takes the opportunity to turn the examination on its head. A question about healing on the Sabbath is at stake along with questions about bestowing and receiving honor. “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (14:11). This maxim, as applied to giving dinners and banquets, is the background for the parable in our pericope. There is honor bestowed and received in the daily lives of men, but that honor pales in comparison with the honor of eating bread in the kingdom of God.
The folly of this world is manifest in the striving and scraping after honor bestowed by men. Compare that effort with the complete neglect of the honor bestowed by God. It is the sensible, worldly excuses of those invited to the feast that keep them from tasting the banquet of the master. They are excuses that would be passable if the invitation were to some impromptu or informal gathering of folks, or even if the call were to military service. But the shamefulness of those first invited mounts as we consider the preparation of the master. This is a banquet long-prepared for the honor of those guests.
They show not only their disinterest in the beneficence of the master, but they go above and beyond in showing disdain for him. His sincerity and goodwill are met with scoffing. They choose the trivial over the profound. They choose the temporal over the eternal. They choose folly over wisdom, and death over life. They are as those Israelites who spit in God’s face as they lusted after the fleshpots of Egypt, despising the daily provision of their Savior, not to mention the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey. But their refusal and spite are masked in the appearance of sensibility. They sin by doing what only appears right, a sin that is more grievous than open blasphemy. Whitewashed tombs are full of lies on top of the wicked desires hidden within.
There is yet something to say about the gracious master. While none of those scoffers will taste the banquet, he has generosity to bestow. On whom should he bestow it? He finds ready recipients in those who cannot refuse because, in their infirmity, they cannot but perceive wisdom. It is in the lowly and despised, the outcast and degenerate that the master’s invitation finds ready hearts as the kindness of the master softens and warms them.