Jesus tells a series of parables surrounding the theme of the end-time banquet. He addresses questions about who will be saved, about rewards for those who are saved, and about the relationship between Israel and the Gentile nations.
In the parable of the Narrow Door in the previous chapter, Jesus answered the question, "Will only a few be saved?" He went on to talk about the great end-time banquet in the kingdom of God, as prophesied in Isaiah 25:6-9. His response implied that many from the believing community who appear to be saved, will in fact be thrown out and excluded. So he has already partly answered the question of whether people make it into heaven or not? Here in this chapter, Jesus is a guest at a banquet hosted by a leader of the Pharisees (v1). He turns the occasion into a series of living parables.

Parable of Seats at a Banqueting Table (v7-14)
In this parable, Jesus addresses the question of rewards for those who are saved and do make it into heaven. He pictures people arriving for the banquet and taking their seats at the table. The guests represent people who are saved, for they attend the end-time banquet. In first century Judea, it mattered where you sat at a banqueting table. The host sat at the head of the table, and the most honoured guests sat closest to him. Jesus says not to choose the place of honour, because a more distinguished guest might have been invited. You will feel publicly humiliated if asked to move, and by that time you will have to take the least important place as all the others will have been taken. Instead, Jesus says to choose the least important place. When the host sees you sitting there, he will move you to a better place and you will be honoured in front of everyone. Jesus explains his point in verse 11, "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted".

At one level, Jesus is giving proverbial wisdom about the importance of humility and how it may benefit you in this life. But ultimately he is talking about its benefits in the age to come. Jesus is more likely to reward us with a position of honour in the age to come if we have lived humbly in this life. Those who have chased after positions of honour or power are likely to be humbled.

Parable of the Host of a Banquet (v12-14)
Jesus then uses the host of the banquet as another living parable. He says that when you host a banquet, you should not invite people who are able to invite you back, for then you will already have received your reward. Instead, you should invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. They cannot afford to invite you back, but instead 'you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous'. This is similar to the principle of storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth (Matthew 6:19-20). Also, relating this parable to the judgment of the sheep and the goats, the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind relate to 'the least of these brothers or sisters of mine' (Matthew 25:40).

The phrase 'resurrection of the righteous' is a significant one (v14). Today, Christians often talk about 'the Rapture', which gets its name from the word for 'caught up' in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. According to Paul, the resurrection of the righteous occurs first, and it seems from his description that the rapture of living believers follows immediately afterwards. If that is true then they are effectively the same event. 'Rapture' is not a word anyone would have used before Paul's description of it, so Jesus refers to this event as 'the resurrection of the righteous'. Jesus associates this event with the end-time banquet, which in turn he associates with the judgment of believers. Whether these four events all occur as part of the same event, or whether there are gaps of time between them is debatable. In Revelation, the announcement of the wedding celebration (i.e. the banquet) comes just before the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:6-9). Perhaps we should understand this as the announcement that the time has come, like when the invitations are sent out, but that there is still some time before it starts. The resurrection of the righteous and the judgment are both placed after the battle of Armageddon, at the beginning of the Millennium (Revelation 20:4-6). In that passage, the resurrection of the righteous is called 'the first resurrection'.

The Parable of the Great Banquet (v15-24)
While Jesus is still at the Pharisee's banquet, one of the guests says, "Blessed is everyone who will feast in the kingdom of God!" By this he is referring to the end-time banquet prophesied in Isaiah 25:6-9. Jesus responds with yet another parable about a banquet. By doing so, he is returning to the question of who will be invited and who will go to heaven, so-to-speak.

This same parable is recorded in Matthew 22, where Jesus describes it as a wedding banquet for the king's son. Luke's account omits that detail, and just describes it as a man giving a great banquet (v16). But we can be sure this is talking about the same occasion that is called the 'wedding celebration' in Revelation 19:7.

In this parable, the host represents God. The guests who receive the original invitations represent the people of Israel, or more specifically, the leaders of Israel (this becomes clear later). The slave who gives out the invitations represents anyone who proclaims the message of the Gospel. One by one, the invited guests make excuses as to why they cannot come (v18-20). The excuses are all of a kind such that they could have come, but attending the banquet was clearly not a high enough priority, and they each chose not to. The host of the banquet is understandably insulted and furious. So he sends his slave out again to invite the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame instead (v21). These represent the kind of people who responded positively to Jesus' ministry. They were still Jews, but not the leaders of the Jews. The leaders received invitations in the first place but declined to come. The slave then tells the host that his orders have been carried out, but there is still room for more guests (v22). So the host sends his slave out a third time because he wants his house to be full. In other words, God wants as many as possible to be saved. This time he sends him to the highways and country roads to invite anyone and everyone. These guests represent the Gentiles. The host then declares that not one of those who were first invited (and by implication turned down the invitation) will taste his banquet. Jesus was warning the Pharisees that their salvation was at stake if they rejected his message.

This idea that the Jewish leaders' rejection of Jesus made room for the Gentiles is continued by Paul in Romans 9-11. Paul uses a different metaphor to explain the same idea. He likens the people of Israel to branches on a vine. Some of these branches (not all) are broken off, and in their place branches of a wild olive are grafted in. The wild olive represents the Gentiles. After saying this, Paul warns the Gentiles not to boast or see themselves as better than the Jews. For he warns that the Jewish branches will one day be grafted back in, and that if the Gentile branches should boast they also risk being broken off (Romans 11:17-24).

Counting the Cost
This chapter ends with Jesus talking about the cost of following him. Having likened the Gospel to an invitation to a banquet, the Gospel sounds easy and attractive. Jesus wants to point out that it is not so easy to be one of his disciples. In particular, he focusses on our attitude to possessions, saying, "…not one of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his own possessions" (v33). In the parable of the banquet, Jesus addressed the issue of priorities. The invited guests chose not to come because it was too low on their list of priorities, and they were more concerned about their possessions. One had bought a field, and another some oxen. Another had found himself a wife. I don't think Jesus meant literally that every Christian must give away all their possessions. He uses hyperbole to make his point that the Gospel must be a disciple's highest priority.
Symbols: Banquet, Feast, Wedding
Tags: Parables, Wedding feast, Banquet, Judgments and rewards, Life after death, The Gospel, Gospel to the Gentiles, Israel and the Church, Resurrection of the righteous, Rapture, Day of Judgment, Humility, Priorities
14 Now one Sabbath when Jesus went to dine at the house of a leader of the Pharisees, they were watching him closely.
2 There right in front of him was a man whose body was swollen with fluid.
3 So Jesus asked the experts in religious law and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?”
4 But they remained silent. So Jesus took hold of the man, healed him, and sent him away.
5 Then he said to them, “Which of you, if you have a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?”
6 But they could not reply to this.

On Seeking Seats of Honor
7 Then when Jesus noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. He said to them,
8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, because a person more distinguished than you may have been invited by your host.
9 So the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your place.’ Then, ashamed, you will begin to move to the least important place.
10 But when you are invited, go and take the least important place, so that when your host approaches he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up here to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who share the meal with you.
11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you host a dinner or a banquet, don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors so you can be invited by them in return and get repaid.
13 But when you host an elaborate meal, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
14 Then you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

The Parable of the Great Banquet
15 When one of those at the meal with Jesus heard this, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will feast in the kingdom of God!”
16 But Jesus said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many guests.
17 At the time for the banquet he sent his slave to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’
18 But one after another they all began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going out to examine them. Please excuse me.’
20 Another said, ‘I just got married, and I cannot come.’
21 So the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the master of the household was furious and said to his slave, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’
22 Then the slave said, ‘Sir, what you instructed has been done, and there is still room.’
23 So the master said to his slave, ‘Go out to the highways and country roads and urge people to come in, so that my house will be filled.
24 For I tell you, not one of those individuals who were invited will taste my banquet!’”

Counting the Cost
25 Now large crowds were accompanying Jesus, and turning to them he said,
26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
28 For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?
29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish the tower, all who see it will begin to make fun of him.
30 They will say, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish!’
31 Or what king, going out to confront another king in battle, will not sit down first and determine whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?
32 If he cannot succeed, he will send a representative while the other is still a long way off and ask for terms of peace.
33 In the same way therefore not one of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his own possessions.
34 “Salt is good, but if salt loses its flavor, how can its flavor be restored?
35 It is of no value for the soil or for the manure pile; it is to be thrown out. The one who has ears to hear had better listen!”