The setting is so important for the parables and this one is no exception. The Lord has been invited to the home of a prominent Pharisee. Whilst there, he encounters a man with dropsy (a severe inflammation under the skin) and heals him on the Sabbath. There is every chance that the man was planted there is see the Lord’s reaction and since dropsy is not a life threatening condition, he could easily have arranged to see him after sunset but Jesus met the challenge head on and then challenged their teaching.
Having watched the guests jostling for the best places at the meal, Jesus calls people to humility. He then calls people to be hospitable in the way they host their feasts.
One of the guest calls “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” All of those present would have believed that they were going to enjoy the feast in the kingdom. The parable must have stopped them short.
There will be a feast. This a great feast, the guests were wealthy and a similar parable in Matthew’s Gospel describes a meal of oxen and a fattened calf. To be invited was a great privilege. Throughout the story, invitations are rejected and some who would never have expected to share the meal receive the invitation and accept it but the feast is never postponed or reduced. The feast is the constant element in the story. The host has set the time and it will take place.
The feast is a picture of being with Christ in heaven (Revelation 19:9) and to some extent being in relationship with God through Christ now. Today, there are many who would deny the very idea of a relationship with God or that heaven exists but there will be a feast.
“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)
There will be an invitation. In ancient times it was customary to send two invitations for a feast. The first before anything had been prepared to let everyone know the time and the second (remember this was a time before clocks) to let everyone know that it was time for the meal.
The invited guests would already have responded to a first invitation which makes their excuses even more of an insult. All of those listening to Jesus would have thought that they were guaranteed a place in the “feast in the Kingdom of God.”
What Jesus is saying in effect is that you have received the first invitation. In his preaching of the good news he is declaring everything is ready now. Jesus is the final invitation.
There will be excuses. Jesus said that they all “began to make excuses,” as if opinion turned in a similar way that public opinion turned against Christ.
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (John 6:66)
“Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!””(Luke 23:20-21)
We live in a society where opinion has largely turned against Christian values.
There is a pattern to the excuses, John writes;
“For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16)
We see the same pattern in the fall of man (Genesis 3:6), in the temptation of the Lord Jesus (Luke 4:1-13) and in the excuses used in the parable.
The activities were not sinful; it was simply a problem of priorities. Spiritual matters are the most important decisions that we make, yet these decisions are often crowded out by other things. In the parable of the sower, the seed that fell among thorns fell into good soil; it was just that the soil was full of other things. Jesus said “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful”
The invited guests were rich, to have five yoke of oxen was quite something. They must have been of high standing yet none of them tasted the banquet
The house will be full. Jesus had already said that his followers will be hospitable (Luke 14:13), now he reveals that God the Father is the ultimate generous host. When he hears of the excuses, the host commands that the lowest in the community are invited, poor people and beggars. When there is still room for more, the host commands the servants to look further afield, picking up travellers and people with no knowledge of the host.
What did the feast look like? The banquet was full with the people that no one wanted and in this it mirrors the Church. Jesus always made it clear that he came for the poor, the prisoners, the blind and the oppressed (Luke 4:18). He came to seek the lost (Luke 19:10). He was criticised as the friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19), intended as an insult but generations of believers have cling to the words.
The Church of Jesus Christ is not the middle class at prayer, it is people from all backgrounds but who have one thing in common, they recognise that Jesus is their only hope and receive the invitation with joy.
To close let point out two things. Firstly, there is still room, there is still an opportunity to respond to the invitation to join in the feast, or to put it another way to become a Christian. Secondly, the time is now, the feast will go ahead, there will be no delay. If you have heard the first invitation, that is, that you know that there is a God who has sent his son to win your salvation. Now hear the second invitation and act on it for as it says in the parable everything is now ready.