3 SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTIONS RELATED TO PARTICIPATION AT THE ESCHATOLOGICAL MESSIANIC FEAST
DON’T SEEK PROMINENCE, PAYBACK OR PRIVILEGE
Christ is once again striking at the self-righteousness of the hypocritical Pharisees who think too highly of themselves, who try to work to earn God’s favor, and who are self-assured about their own standing in the kingdom of God. These 3 parables are closely tied together both by the setting of a major feast and by the motivations and ambitions of those invited or in attendance.
There is also much insight to be gained into the synergy between the sovereignty of God in salvation and human responsibility to respond to the call of the gospel.
I. (:7-11) HUMBLE YOURSELF RATHER THAN EXALTING YOURSELF –
DON’T SEEK PROMINENCE – Don’t think too highly of yourself
A. (:7) Scrambling for Positions of Prominence
“And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table; saying to them,”
B. (:8-10) Seating Protocol
1. (:8-9) Do Not Take the Place of Honor – Potential for Disgrace
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both shall come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place.”
MacArthur: Typically the table would be in the middle. It would be a long table. And around the table would be people seated in a U-shaped fashion. There was only one head of the table and then down both sides to the far end. It could be a long table or a series of tables so that it could be a long way. The host would sit in the middle at the head of the table and then in importance the guests would sit on his right and his left and then it would begin to flow all the way down to the least important people being way down at the other end.
That’s pretty much how it still is at important events. The places of honor were not marked with a sign. They were determined by the host. But the nearer you were to the host, the more honor you had. And honor was a big thing for them. I mean, they lived in an honor-shame kind of world and that was a part of the culture itself, but in particular was a part of their perspective because they were desperately desirous of being elevated in the eyes of men. . .
Reciprocity basically ruled the ethics and the action of the social structure of the Pharisees. It was a gift obligation system. It was a kind of currency as I said. Every gift had strings. To accept an invitation was to agree to an equal obligation, which controlled who was invited. You didn’t invite somebody who couldn’t reciprocate. Only those who could reciprocate were invited and the better and more lavish could be the reciprocation, the closer they sat to the host. And the lowly, my, the poor and the crippled, the lame and the blind had no capacity to reciprocate. And even if you invited them, they wouldn’t accept an invitation because they would know they would then be obligated and be unable to perform. And so it would be too embarrassing to ever accept that kind of invitation.
2. (:10) Taking the Last Place – Potential for Honor
“But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.”
Lenski: It was this worldly pride of the Jews, this unspiritual holiness superiority of the Pharisees especially, that made them despise a Messiah who was as humble as Jesus was. In spite of all the humiliation the Jews have suffered they to this day deem themselves the cream of the human race and attempt to come before God in this pride. And they have hosts of others who are as presumptuous and as arrogant as they are, especially over against the gospel and its way of salvation through repentance.
C. (:11) Spiritual Lesson = Exaltation Rather Than Humiliation
“For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled,
and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
Donald Miller: The “marriage feast” is a parable of the Messianic Feast, the time of salvation, when those delivered by God would banquet with the Messiah (14:15). The principle that he who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted, indicates that in the Kingdom of God all values of this present order will be completely upset (vs. 11; 1:52; 15:18-32; 18:9-14; I Peter 5:5-6). Those whom God delights to honor confess that they have no right to status before God, and cast themselves wholly on him for mercy.
Geldenhuys: a place of honour in the kingdom of heaven does not depend on self-assertiveness or on al man’s opinion of himself but on the righteous judgment of God.
J. C. Ryle: Humility may well be called the queen of the Christian graces. To know our own sinfulness and weakness and to feel our need of Christ is the very beginning of saving religion. It is a grace which has always been the distinguishing feature in the character of every true Christian. All do not have money to give away. All do not have time and opportunities for working directly for Christ. All do not have gifts of speech or tact or knowledge in order to do great good in this world. But all converted people should labor to adorn the doctrine they profess by humility. If they can do nothing else, they can strive to be humble. . .
What is the root and spring of humility? Where does humility come from? How do you get humble?
One word describes it. The root of humility is knowledge, right knowledge. The man who really knows himself and his own heart, who knows God and His infinite majesty and holiness, who knows Christ and the price at which He was redeemed, that man will never be a proud man. He will count himself like Jacob, unworthy of the least of all God’s mercies. He will say of himself like Job, ‘I am vile.’ He will cry like Paul, ‘I am a chief of sinners.’ He will think anything good enough for him and in lowliness of mind he will esteem everyone else at better than himself. Ignorance, nothing but sheer ignorance, ignorance of self, of God, of Christ, that is the real secret of pride. From that miserable self-ignorance, may we daily pray to be delivered. He is the wise man who knows himself, and he who knows himself will find nothing within him to make him proud.
II. (:12-14) SHOW HOSPITALITY TO THE NEEDY RATHER THAN FRIENDS –
DON’T SEEK PAYBACK – Don’t try to earn God’s favor
“And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him,”
A. (:12-13) Selection Criteria for Hospitality Invitations
1. (:12) Not Based on Reciprocation
“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you.”
2. (:13) Based on Real Need
“But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,”
Be unselfish and generous with your hospitality
Morris: Such people cannot repay their hosts. To give them a feast is an act of pure generosity. This kind of thing will be recognized at the resurrection of the just, not the conviviality that arises from celebrations among boon companions.
B. (:14) Spiritual Lesson = Eternal Reward for Blessing the Needy
“and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Donald Miller: Pharisaism was a religion of merit, of salvation by works. By dint of human effort one earned what Paul called “a righteousness of my own, based on law” (Phil. 3:9). Good works were presented to God for an equivalent reward. Offering entertainment to others that they might invite one in return and thus repay the kindness, was an illustration of the Pharisees’ relation to God. Jesus countered this by insisting that members of his Kingdom should act toward others as God had acted toward them (vss. 13-14). God gives to those who cannot requite him. His kindness goes out to those who can offer him nothing in return – but love. To act this way toward one’s fellow man is to enter into the spirit and purpose of God, and is to be richly blessed at the final Judgment (vs. 14).
III. (:15-24) THE DINNER PARTY MIGHT SURPRISE YOU –
DON’T SEEK PRIVILEGE – Don’t be self assured about your spiritual standing
A. (:15) Self Assured Can Be Self Deceived
“And when one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this,
he said to Him, ‘Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!’”
Donald Miller: The tone of his remark suggested that there was no doubt that he and his companions would be numbered among the guests! Jesus sought to shatter his complacency and self-righteousness by the parable of the Banquet.
Presumption about your spiritual state can be a dangerous thing
Steven Cole: The unstated question that lies behind our text is, “What sort of person will be in the kingdom of God?” The Jewish leaders assumed, “People just like us will be in the kingdom, of course: good Jews who keep the Law of Moses, who follow the traditions of the elders, who keep themselves from ceremonial defilement.” If you had asked them, “What sort of people will be excluded from the kingdom?” they would have responded, “Gentile dogs, the immoral, the greedy, dishonest tax collectors—those kinds of scum will not be in the kingdom.” But Jesus yanks the rug out from under their self-righteous assumptions by telling a parable.
B. (:16-18a) Spurning God’s Gracious Invitation
1. (:16) Invitations Initially Extended and Received
“But He said to him, ‘A certain man was giving a big dinner,
and he invited many;’”
2. (:17) Confirmation Attempted as Dinner Hour Draws Near
“and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’”
3. (:18a) Universal Pattern of Rejection
“But they all alike began to make excuses.”
Donald Miller: It was customary in the East to have two invitations, one announcing the occasion ahead of time, the other reminding the guests at the appointed hour. . . The first invitation given was that of God’s prophets, who had been announcing the coming of the Kingdom for generations. The final invitation, indicating that the Messianic Banquet was now ready, was the coming of Jesus.
Geldenhuys: these 3 excuses were merely “pretexts”. They do not adduce any real reasons why they are unable to go. Their excuses are false and valueless – for one does not first buy a piece of ground and only afterwards goes to see what it looks like; and if one has already bought a yoke of oxen it is useless to go only then to try them (for the sale is completed); the fact that one has got married is certainly not a sound reason why he should not go to the supper to which he has been invites. In the same way the Pharisees and most of the other Jews also make all kinds of excuses for not accepting Jesus’ invitation to become true members of His kingdom. They are too much attached to worldly and visible things, and therefore they reject Him. Through the cares of this world and the temptation of riches (Matt. xiii.22) and the pleasures of life (Luke viii.14), they are deaf to the invitation of God which He brings.
C. (:18b-20) Specific Excuses Reflecting Priority Decisions
1. (:18b) Priority of Possessions
“The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land
and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’”
2. (:19) Priority of Business
“And another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen,
and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’”
3. (:20) Priority of Relationships
“And another one said, ‘I have married a wife,
and for that reason I cannot come.’”
1. (:21a) Disappointing Report of Rejection
“And the slave came back and reported this to his master.”
2. (:21b) Replacements Solicited
“Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave,
‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here
the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’”
Anyabwile: The broken enter the kingdom, not the healthy. The more we admit our brokenness and need, the closer we get to the kingdom of God. The more we deny our brokenness and need, the further away we get from the kingdom of God.
MacArthur: So he came back, reports, the household head is angry. God has been dishonored. God has been scorned. God has been affronted. His goodness and His generosity and His kindness have been treated with contempt. This is a righteous, just anger and they know it. They would have said it in their minds. Whoa, that man has every right to be angry, and so does God have every right to be angry with those who reject His Son. The story seemed, at first, to be ridiculous, but the very ones amused by it were the ones who now see themselves under the anger of God. John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life. He who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on Him.”
3. (:22) More Room Available
“And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done,
and still there is room.’”
Matthew Henry: Though many have been brought in to partake of the benefits of the gospel, yet still there is room for more; for the riches of Christ are unsearchable and inexhaustible; there is in him enough for all, and enough for each; and the gospel excludes none that do not exclude themselves.
4. (:23) Drastic Measures to Ensure Full Capacity
“And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.’”
The streets and lanes of the city might refer to extending the invitation to the common Jewish people (as opposed to the religious elite like the Pharisees). Then the highways and byways would reference extending the invitation to Gentiles as well.
Geldenhuys: Because such persons consider themselves unworthy and unprepared to go to the feast, they must be “compelled” to go – not by outward violence but by the instant urgency of the invitation. The master of the house demands that every place at the feast shall be filled.
J. Ligon Duncan: So what’s Jesus saying in the passage? He’s saying, “Don’t miss the party. Don’t miss the party.” Those who are invited missed the party because they cared about their own party more than the party that God is going to throw in His kingdom. And the people that ended up being there, frankly they didn’t deserve to have an invitation to the party, but they cared more about God’s party than anything else.
E. (:24) Spiritual Lesson – Kingdom Focus Switching to the Non-Privileged
“For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.”
Morris: The parable concludes with a somber verdict on those who were first invited and who made their excuses. There would be no second chance for them. They had squandered their opportunity and they would get no other. Once again we see Jesus stressing the urgency of the situation. God is gracious and will receive all who come to Him. But men may not dilly-dally. Those first invited might not take up the invitation but others would both Jew and Gentile. God’s purpose may be resisted, but it cannot be overthrown.
Manson: The two essential points in His teaching are that no man can enter the Kingdom without the invitation of God, and that no man can remain outside it but by his own deliberate choice. Man cannot save himself; but he can damn himself. And it is this latter fact that makes the preaching of Jesus so urgent.”