Monday, April 06, 2015

Luke 14:15-24: What It Means (part one)

Luke 14:15-24 reads:

15 And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. 16 Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: 17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. 18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. 19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. 20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. 21 So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. 22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. 23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

The Pharisees believed in resurrection, which they saw like a huge, lavish banquet where they would be invited along with all their big shot friends, the best social event any of them experienced in their own lifetimes and to what the Old Testament compared to the kingdom anyway (cf. Isaiah 25:6-9). Implied by the beatitude of one of them as a toast in v. 15, they assumed they'd be there.  Jesus intends His story in vv. 16-23 to correct that assumption.

First, an important lord prepares a giant banquet and when it's ready, he sends out a slave to invite many to attend (vv. 16-17).   Second, none of them came, but instead made ridiculous excuses (vv. 18-20).  Third, when the slave reports back that none of them are coming, the lord turns angry and dispatches him to fill the seats with implausible people, because this feast will go on (v. 21).   Fourth, still inadequate, the lord authorizes his slave to go further out into the country to get more and compel enough to fill up the hall (vv. 22-23).  Jesus applies the story in v. 24.

What's this about?  A man, God, sends a slave, His Old Testament prophets, to invite special guests, Israel, to His banquet, the kingdom of God or eternal life.  You notice earlier a kind of pre-invitation, before the dinner hour, "to them that were bidden."  Israel saw itself as God's chosen people, but even with that privilege, when the acceptable hour of the Lord came, Israel wouldn't receive the invitation.  Excuses relate to self-satisfaction with possessions and people -- temporal worldly stuff.  Jesus wanted to gather them into His kingdom, but they would not.  Because Israel would not respond to the offering, God turned to those who saw their spiritual poverty and would come into His kingdom.  The first wave is the Jewish remnant and the second, those outside of town, so to speak, are the Gentiles, those outside the nation.

Every usage (9 times) in the New Testament of the word translated "compel" (anagkazo) here is to urge or to press.   The Judaizers in Galatia compelled Gentiles to get circumcized and do Judaistic things (Gal 2:3, 14; 6:12).  Jesus compelled the disciples to get into a ship (Mk 6:45).  Before he was converted, Paul compelled people to blaspheme (Acts 26:11).  Paul was compelled to appeal to Caesar (Acts 28:19).  Paul was compelled to brag on himself because of the false teachers at Corinth (2 Cor 12:11).  In using the word, Jesus was emphasizing how serious God was about shifting away from Israel in His plan.

Verse 24 is explicit.  These people who thought they'd be in the kingdom, in heaven, possessors of eternal life, would not get in.  Only the Jewish remnant and receptive Gentiles would make it. Missing the kingdom comes from rejecting the gospel invitation.  This reminds me of the warning passages in Hebrews.  People can reach a point in this lifetime where it is too late for them to be saved.  How shall they escape if they neglect so great a salvation?

Compelling someone to come to the banquet is preaching the gospel.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  The banquet is salvation.  The gospel is the way into the kingdom.

The story Jesus told would expose the Pharisees.  It would warn them of exclusion from the kingdom. They thought they were the only possibility as God's people.  They wouldn't even be there.  Jesus was telling them he could get others -- those who understood their own spiritual poverty, the poor in spirit, and Gentiles outside the nation who would listen.  When you reject the gospel, because of pride, you are your own worst enemy.


When Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep in John 21, He wasn't telling Peter to give Jesus' sheep Peter's opinion or traditions.  The Pharisees were giving opinion and tradition.  Peter said that preaching that gives glory to God is preaching that is the Word of God (1 Pet 4:11).  You don't glorify God when you tell people a message other than what a passage means.  We live by every Word by understanding every Word. When Paul said "preach the Word" (2 Tim 4:2), he wasn't saying "use the Word," as if just using it could work instead of preaching what it actually says. Wresting the scriptures (2 Pet 3:16) is a very serious abuse of the Word of God.  The very idea of "preach" is to tell people what God says, not telling people what you are thinking and using God's Words in order to do that.

There is nothing worse for a preacher than perverting or twisting a passage for whatever reasons, which are either purposeful or careless.  When someone uses a passage to justify his own thinking, he's taking on an activity either identical to or very close to a false prophet.  Your responsibility, preacher, is to preach what the Bible says.  That starts with what it means.  If you miss that, then you've missed everything.  The Bible doesn't have power outside of what it actually means.

The only right response to missing what a passage does teach is repentance.  First, listen to what you've done wrong.  Second, admit you're wrong.  Third, get it right.  On the other hand, don't go into full court justification of false teaching.  Not getting it right is bad enough.  Don't make it worse by rabidly defending it when you're wrong.

If you hear something that isn't what the Bible is teaching, if you allow it, you're now responsible for it.  You're an accomplice to the crime.  You're now as guilty as the one doing it, when you know.  Do not go into all out defense, just because he's your guy.

Wednesday -- Luke 14:15-24:  What It Doesn't Mean -- part two

1 comment:

Jeff Voegtlin said...


I appreciate this a lot. I will be using it along with many of your other articles on this topic in my hermeneutics class. I think I know first hand where you are coming from, and I agree with you. For myself, it's hard to "get a blessing" from moral exhortation that is called "preaching," but isn't from the text in hand.