Living the Good News in the Gospel of Luke
Study 5

The invitation is for all:
gathering into the Kingdom
Luke 14:1-24

In this chapter Luke brings together a number of sayings of Jesus given at a banquet or about banquets. You may recall that in Luke 5:29-39 Jesus taught at a banquet at the home of Matthew Levi. In 7:36-50 Jesus’ feet were anointed by a woman as he dined in the house of a Pharisee. In 9:10-17 Jesus himself presided over a banquet for over 5,000. He was again invited to dine at the house of a Pharisee in 11:37-52. In 13:23-30 Jesus spoke of the heavenly banquet “where people will come from east and west, from north and south, and sit at table in the Kingdom of God.” It is important to note that the background for all these banquets and feasts is always the idea of the Kingdom being likened to a banquet celebration.

This celebration was often referred to as the messianic banquet by Pharisees and Essenes alike, as the time when the expected Messiah would come and usher in the Kingdom. Note that in all of the above occasions Jesus was speaking about the Kingdom of God. This whole idea originated in the Old Testament. Near the end of the Babylonian Exile, a prophet announced that God was about to redeem his people and they were invited to a banquet to celebrate God’s rule once again in their hearts and lives. It is into this Kingdom that we have been invited and invite others.
Read Isaiah 55:1-5 and then Isaiah 25:6-9
With this background in mind, read Luke 14:1-6. This meal takes place on the Sabbath, again at the invitation of a Pharisee. Jesus heals one of the invited guests, as he had done before on the Sabbath (see 6:1-11; 13:10-17).

1. Why does Jesus do this healing here? Why on the Sabbath? What does it imply about the Kingdom of God?

Read Luke 14:7-11.
The host has obviously invited an elitist group of lawyers and Pharisees (v. 3) to his dinner, men of power and prestige concerned about their status.

2. In this parable, what is Jesus implying about the Kingdom of God? What is the basis of honour and shame?

Read Luke 14:12-14. Cf. Luke 6:32-36; Matthew 5:46-48.
Jesus here contrasts four kinds of people who can return favours—friends, brothers, kinsmen, rich neighbours, with four kinds who cannot—poor, maimed, lame and blind (cf. v. 21; 7:22). While Luke emphasizes the socio-economic aspect here in the latter four for his Gentile readers, they had a more spiritual meaning in their Jewish context. They were the afflicted, oppressed, dispossessed and down-trodden who turned to God for help seeking spiritual healing and restoration in the Kingdom of God. Read Zephaniah 3:11-15; Isaiah 35:3-10;42:18-19; 43:8-10; 60:21-61:3.

3. Keeping both of these concepts in mind, what is Jesus telling his host about the Kingdom of God?

Read Luke 14:15-24.
One of the guests, hearing Jesus mention the “resurrection of the righteous” (v. 14) and still thinking in Pharisaic terms, comments on the blessedness of being able to participate in the messianic banquet. He has failed to see that the Kingdom has already come in Jesus the Messiah. So Jesus tells this parable as a stiff warning to these religious leaders that rejection can be fatal. They will be shut out from that blessedness unless they change their attitudes.

The picture Jesus paints in vv. 16-17 must be seen against its middle-east background. A host would first invite guests to a dinner and after having received their acceptances would then plan the banquet specifically for the number who had accepted. Because of warm climate and no refrigeration, the food prepared would have to be eaten on that same day. So in accepting an invitation one made a firm commitment to be there. As soon as the banquet had been prepared, a servant would then call on all the guests to let them know it was time to come.

4. What do you think Jesus was really saying to them about the Kingdom? What about us today: do we fit into this picture?

In vv. 18-20 those first invited all make excuses why they cannot come. Jesus gives three examples, and all are equally meaningless and absurd. No-one buys a field before he has inspected it thoroughly, no-one makes such a huge investment in five yoke of oxen before testing them to see if they could pull together, nor could marriage be used as an excuse. Every excuse is really a blatant insult, yet the group of guests Jesus was speaking to probably felt they had good excuses for not accepting Jesus’ invitation to the Kingdom.

5. Consider what Jesus has said in Matthew 6:31-34. Do you see a connection here to the Pharisees? To our society? To ourselves?

Now the servant is instructed to bring in those the host had been advised to invite in v. 13: “the poor and maimed and blind and lame” from the streets and lanes of the city. We know these are God’s people, but from the point of view of the Pharisaic guests they are the powerless, the ignorant, the blemished, the impure, the sinners of their community. However, the invitation now goes out even further. It is not limited to inhabitants of “the city,” that is, Israel. The servant is to bring in people from the “highways and hedges” outside the city, that is, the Gentile nations. The invitation is always a gracious invitation, but Jesus uses the word “compel” here. That does not mean that the servant was to use force. It simply meant that the meaning of this unexpected, generous invitation needed to be explained and its significance indicated to these “outsiders.”

6. What meaning does this story have for us today? Three different groups were invited to the banquet. Discuss who you think would fit into these categories today.

7. Who do you think was the servant in this parable? Who is that servant today?

As we reach out to others to bring them into God’s Kingdom, it is important to recall what Jesus has been telling us here about this Kingdom. In vv. 1-6 he told us it is not about rules and regulations, but about love and compassion, healing and restoring. In vv. 7-11 he showed us that it is not about status or hierarchy or self-worth, but about service, humility and divine grace. In vv. 12-14, Jesus indicated that the Kingdom is not elitist but egalitarian, not for gain but for giving as God has given to us. In these last verses (15-24) Jesus has shown that the Kingdom is not the exclusive reward of a few, but God’s gracious invitation reaching out to everyone. But there is an urgency to the Kingdom. It is here now. Isn’t that worth sharing?

The Banquet is waiting.

Remember, just let the grace of God reach out through you. You have so much to share!