Author: Ron Graham
The three Banquet Parables are our text for this lesson. Jesus told these parables at the house of a prominent Phraisee during a banquet to which he had been invited.
The parables of the Embarrassed Guest, the Luncheon for the Poor, and the Slighted Invitation relate to theme 1 of the parables, namely the grace of God. These parables emphasise the humility and lowliness of heart that we must show in receiving his grace (Luke 14:7-24).
This parable was spoken to the guests at the Pharisee's banquet. Jesus had noticed them picking out the places of honour for themselves, and this prompted the parable. Jesus presents to them an imaginary or hypothetical banquet scene in which they themselves figure. Suppose they presume to take the high place reserved for the guest of honour. Then they may be asked to move to a less honoured place, and thus be disgraced and embarrassed. However, if they choose to sit in the lowest place, they will likely be asked to take a more honoured position and this will reflect to their credit. This parable is disarmingly simple and sensible, and very true to life for those to whom it was told.
The parable of the Embarrassed Guest is not just a piece of practical advice, but is true at a spiritual level too. Jesus himself makes this application of the parable. He says, "For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted". This is true in the kingdom of God. It was even true of Christ the king —he humbled himself by dying on the cross, and God highly exalted him (Php 2:8-10).
This parable was spoken to the Pharisee himself who was hosting the banquet in his home. Jesus pictures this Pharisee giving a banquet for the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. None of his invited guests will be able to return the favour.
This short and simple parable has a profound message: if you would receive kindness from God, then give kindness to others without reward. When you do good to others, do not seek to be rewarded and praised for it by men. If you do seek reward from men, then you will receive no praise or reward from God. But when you do good to those who cannot give you anything in return, then in the resurrection of the righteous God will reward and bless you far more than any man ever could. This applies also to being unappreciated. You spoil your service if you allow yourself to feel bad just because those you serve don't appreciate you. The Lord appreciates you, and that's what counts..
The parable of the Luncheon for the Poor shows that the kindness of God is toward the humble and lowly of heart. God has no blessing for glory seekers. Humility is one of the conditions of God's grace being bestowed. The more humble we are, the more grace we receive.
Another obvious message in this parable is that God's invitation to us to enter his kingdom is just like that luncheon for the poor that Jesus described. God has invited us to come into his home and sup with him throughout all eternity. Yet who are we? We are the spiritually poor, crippled, lame, and blind. We can never repay the wonderful grace of God.
This parable is very like the parable about the Marriage of the King's Son (Matthew 22:1-14). The parable here in Luke 14 was spoken to one of the guests in response to a possibly oblique remark that this guest had made to Jesus.
Jesus describes a man who invites many to a big dinner, but they all make excuses as to why they don't want to come. So he angrily withdraws the invitation to them, and instead invites the poor, crippled, blind, and lame from off the streets. He keeps doing this until his house is filled with guests.
In the parable of the Slighted Invitation, it is easy enough to identify the snubbers as the Jewish religious leaders who thought they were righteous and important. Those in the streets and parks are easily identified as the poor and lowly, the despised and sinners, even the Samaritans and Gentiles —all the people whom the Scribes and Pharisees looked down on. This is no doubt what Jesus had in mind.
More broadly speaking, this parable shows that God doesn't like to be snubbed when he issues his kind invitation. It makes him angry. He is determined, however, to fill his house with guests, and he will. Now if we wish to be among them, we need to rid ourselves of our pride and self importance, for God seeks the humble to dine with him.