It’s amazing to me how often feasting shows up in the Gospels. The many occasions of Jesus feasting with his disciples, sinners, or religious leaders form the backdrop and the substance of many of his teachings. And feasting even provided ammunition for his enemies! Remember that Jesus told the religious leaders, “The Son of Man . . . feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard!’” (Matt. 11:19). Luke records a lengthy part of his Gospel with Jesus feasting in the home of a Pharisee. Let’s see how Jesus uses this opportunity to expose hypocrisy, teach about humility, and anticipate the great reversal of those participating in the messianic feast. We’ll use some notes and an article from the NLT Study Bible.

Jesus Heals While Feasting on the Sabbath

One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely. There was a man there whose arms and legs were swollen. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in religious law, “Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?” When they refused to answer, Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him away.  Then he turned to them and said, “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son or your cow falls into a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?” Again they could not answer.

Luke 14:1–6

Study Notes

14:1: in the home of a leader of the Pharisees: In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus dines frequently.

14:2: whose arms and legs were swollen (or who had dropsy): Dropsy, medically known as edema, is an accumulation of fluid in tissues or a body cavity that causes swelling. It is usually a symptom of a more serious illness.

14:3: Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day? This rabbis frequently debated this question.

14:5: Jesus pointed out the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. They would rescue an animal on the Sabbath to protect their investment, but would not help a human being.

Jesus Uses a Wedding Feast to Teach about Humility

When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

“Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”

Luke 14:7–14

Study Notes

14:7: the seats of honor: Meals in the ancient world were rituals of social status. The place someone has at the table determines their place in the social pecking order. The quality of the food served to each guest also depended on their status. These guests were jockeying for the places of highest honor.

14:8: Jesus’ response was a commentary on Prov 25:6–7: “Don’t demand an audience with the king or push for a place among the great. It’s better to wait for an invitation to the head table than to be sent away in public disgrace.”

14:9: Then you will be embarrassed: Shame and honor were among the most important values in first century Jewish culture. This kind of humiliation would have been almost worse than death.

14:12-13: don’t invite your friends: Jesus challenged the prevailing use of banquets to flaunt and elevate one’s status in the community. The host would invite friends of equal status and a few who were higher. The expectation was for the honored guests to reciprocate, raising the first host’s social position and reputation. Jesus turned this hierarchy upside down by instructing his followers to invite those who had no social status and could not reciprocate. God invites sinful human beings to dine at his banquet table of salvation.

Parable of the Great Feast

Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”

Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I now have a wife, so I can’t come.’

“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”

Luke 14:15–24

Study Notes

14:15-24: This parable portrays what was happening in Jesus’ ministry. The rich, powerful, and elite rejected Jesus’ invitation to God’s salvation banquet and would be shut out. Meanwhile, poor people and outcasts responded to the invitation (see also 1:52–53; 6:21, 25; 10:15; 18:14).

14:15: to attend a banquet: Literally to eat bread.

14:17: Come, the banquet is ready: The invitations would have been sent much earlier; the guests were summoned when the meal was ready.

14:18: they all began making excuses: All such excuses would have been a great affront to the host, who had made a great investment in this important social event. These guests had previously accepted the invitation, and all of their excuses were weak. Clearly, they just didn’t want to attend the banquet. I have just bought a field and must inspect it: No one would buy a field without first inspecting it.

14:19: oxen, and I want to try them out: This is another weak excuse—no one would buy oxen without having seen them plow.

14:20: I now have a wife: Some see this as a legitimate excuse since the OT exempted men from military service in their first year of marriage (Deut 20:7; 24:5), but this feast was a local community event, not a distant war. Furthermore, in an Israelite village, a marriage and a banquet would never be planned at the same time, so there was no real conflict.

14:21: The poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame were the outcasts of Israel, to whom Jesus ministered.

14:23: Go out into the country lanes: These invitees might be a reference to the Gentiles to whom the Good News eventually went (cp. Acts 9:15; 13:46–48; 18:4–6; Rom 11:11–12).

The Messianic Banquet

Through his teaching and miracles, Jesus announced that God’s messianic banquet had arrived. All may come and feast at the table of salvation in God’s Kingdom.

Jesus described his ministry as a wedding feast, with himself as the groom (5:33–35) and the Kingdom of God as a great banquet. All received an invitation, but some refused to come (14:15–21). Jesus is often portrayed as eating with diverse people, from despised tax collectors to pious Pharisees (5:29–33; 7:36–50; 11:37–41; 14:1–6). Jesus also used imagery of feasting and banquets in his teaching and parables (5:33–35; 6:21; 12:35–40; 13:24–30; 14:7–14, 15–24; 17:8; 22:30). He fed vast multitudes with a few loaves and fishes (9:10–17).

The OT background to this feasting imagery is Isa 25:6, where God’s final salvation is described as a great feast for all people: “The LORD of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet, with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat” (see also Isa 65:13–14).

Jesus’ public ministry marked the invitation to the banquet and its inauguration. Through his death and resurrection, he achieved salvation. All people can now come to God’s banquet table and receive the spiritual blessings of the Kingdom. At the same time, this banquet awaits its final consummation in the future Kingdom, when Jesus’ disciples will “eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom” and “will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (22:30).

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