The Great Banquet and Discipleship’s Price Tag
[Luke 14, verses 15-34]
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For today’s study we’ll be moving on to the 2nd half of chapter 14 of Luke’s gospel, where Jesus is a guest at a banquet that has been given in his honor. Our Savior and Redeemer had noted how others who had been invited had taken their prearranged places of honor at the table(s). Jesus remarked to his host that, if it were up to him (at that place and time), those with the least social, political or economic standing, as well as the most vulnerable groups of people such as the disabled and the homeless, would have the places of honor currently occupied by the others. As we start today’s in-depth analysis of this portion of Luke’s Gospel, that same conversation takes up where it left off, beginning at verse 14.
“When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’ Jesus replied, ‘A certain man was giving a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready’. But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ The servant came back and reported this to his master. The owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the crippled, the poor, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir’, the servant replied, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and the country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (Luke 14, verses 15-24)
‘Blessed is the man (or lady)’, one of the guests who was seated near Jesus and his host at the luncheon, ‘who gets a seat at the banquet you just described.’ Then Jesus tells them a parable about another banquet – one far, far larger than the one they were presently attending. Jesus was talking about the wedding feast of the Bride of Christ (see Revelation 19, verses 6-10), although those attending the luncheon had no idea what our Savior was referring to because Jesus was speaking prophetically. The whole of humanity is invited to this wedding feast, but many will refuse to go. A lot of those already have, but it’s not too late for the rest of us. I find myself reaffirming my faith pretty much on a daily basis to ensure my own invitation remains intact. The reader would be well advised to do the same. Notice too, how Jesus alluded to the fact that our possessions are worthless compared to our being ready to be a part of the Bride at the great ‘wedding feast’. Even the guy with a new wife was shut out of the great banquet described by the Lord, and he had what many would regard as a legitimate reason for excusing himself. Jesus, it seems, is the groom for the Bride.
“Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the crippled, the poor, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir’, the servant replied, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room’.” What a huge difference there will be between the little luncheon Jesus was invited to and the great wedding feast of the Bride! At the luncheon with Christ that day were many people who held positions of prominence. But at the wedding feast of the Bride, those with positions of prominence will be those who were formerly considered to be of little or no account. I’m talking about the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, the homeless, the mentally ill, the outcast and all the others that so-called “respectable” people will have nothing to do with. These are the people who will be present at the wedding feast of the Bride. There may also be a sizable number of “religious” people who will be excluded from this Feast. “Go out to the roads and the country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.” Let all those who count themselves unworthy, as well as the nonreligious who showed much mercy and generosity towards others despite their own lack of faith, be let in. Those will be the ones who were obedient to the Lord even though they were not directly commanded to. And now let’s take on the 2nd half of this week’s study, beginning at verse 25.
“Large crowds were following Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and his mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not sit down first to estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ “ (Luke 14, verses 25-30)
As I have previously written, large crowds followed Jesus and the Twelve everywhere they went. This must have seemed somewhat annoying to the apostles, but Jesus simply took it all in stride. Yet at this moment Jesus abruptly turns and says to as many of the crowd as could hear him that none of them are truly followers of our Lord’s at all. Unless we value our relationship with Christ above and beyond all else – more than family, friends, business associates, church associates, or even our very lives – we’re not real followers. We are, in that case, merely wannabe apostles or followers. Those who value all their other relationships, their money and careers, and their other material goods such as their cars, houses and clothes, on an equal or greater footing relative to their faith in Christ – Jesus said those people aren’t real followers at all. I think Jesus was asking the crowd how sincere their faith was, and how genuine was their determination to serve the Lord no matter what! Jesus also warned them to count the cost before they begin to follow him, because being a real follower of Jesus is not an easy thing to do. I’ve been a believer for over 24 years, and I too sometimes have to inventory my own heart, mind and soul, lest I be found unworthy by the Lord to be at the wedding feast of the Bride. An now let’s conclude today’s study beginning at verse 31.
“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit for neither the soil or the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14, 31-35)
At first glance, this appears to be a retelling of the previous example Jesus had cited about building a tower, but let’s look closer to see the deeper meaning here. The king with 10,000 men in Jesus’ parable is humankind. The king with 20,000 men represents the Lord’s kingdom. Foolish people who think they can go it alone in life – that they don’t need God, nor do they want the slightest hint of religious or Spiritual faith or any kind of relationship with Jesus Christ – would be wise to count the cost before proceeding. Because if they did, those individuals would find themselves outnumbered and outclassed each and every time! “…he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” These two sentences symbolize embracing Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior combined with repenting of our sinful ways that are contrary to God, laying our sinful natures at the foot of the cross upon which Jesus died. This is the only way we can be saved, and it’s the only way to follow Christ and have an ongoing relationship with him. There is no such thing as an easy way out with the Lord!
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit for neither the soil or the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Salt that loses its salty flavor is no longer salt. In fact, it’s really not anything at all except something pretending to be salt. So it is with people and their alleged Christian faith – saying you’re a Christian is one thing, performing good works as evidence of our faith is still another. But the only way to be a genuine, authentic follower of Christ is to give up everything so Jesus can become your everything. He is the only replacement that exceeds all our expectations and results. Unless we are willing to give up family, friends, careers, and even spouses and children, we cannot call ourselves followers of Christ and really mean it. Although this does not necessarily mean we are all to become monks and hermits, nor do I think that is God’s will for our lives, Jesus made it abundantly clear that our relationship with him supersedes all others. And so we must cause it to always remain so. Enjoy your day/week!