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In Luke 14 Jesus turned the dinner party into an occasion of much teaching. No doubt this happened often, but the biblical record is silent on most of those occasions. It seems likely that Luke had actually talked to one of the younger guests at this particular dinner, who had taken His words to heart.
It is likely that Luke did much of his research for this gospel while the Apostle Paul was being detained in Caesarea (Acts 24:27). Paul remained in prison from June of 58 to September of 60 A.D., but Luke was free during that time to talk to those disciples who had seen Jesus in person.
The fact that an entire chapter is devoted to a single dinner party suggests that Luke had received some firsthand information from an eyewitness. He included this information here in order to show the fruit of the Kingdom that Jesus searched for in His investigative visitation of Jerusalem. Such fruit, if it had been present in sufficient quantity, might have saved the city from destruction and many people from being violently killed in the coming war.
After speaking about humility and unconditional love, Luke 14:15 continues,
15 And when one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, “Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.”
Can we not assume that the man who spoke these words was Luke’s source of information? His comment about eating bread in the Kingdom has a double meaning. It can literally be about having dinner, but it also means to live your life and do your work. We see this in Gen. 3:19, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.” This was not just about the labor of plowing a field, but about all labor in life.
The man who said this was commenting on life in the Kingdom of God, not just having dinner there. In other words, those who bore the fruit of the Kingdom—that is, the overcomers—would inherit life in the first resurrection so that he could enjoy Kingdom life before the rest of humanity.
Yet Jesus used this comment to present another dinner parable whose theme was Faith. He addressed this parable specifically to the man who had spoken.
Luke 14:16-18 says,
16 But He said to him, “A certain man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; 17 and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused’.”
In that culture, it was common to invite guests ahead of time and then send a last-minute notice that the meal was ready for the guests to come. Towns were small, and so it did not take them long to walk to the house where the dinner was being prepared. This provides the setting for Jesus’ dinner parable.
The people “began to make excuses” and refused to come to the dinner. This parable was prophetic of the situation at that time. Jesus was the Host that was giving them opportunity to “eat bread in the Kingdom of God.” But these people had no interest in becoming overcomers that might inherit the first resurrection. They were too distracted by lesser things. The first insisted that he had to inspect his newly-purchased land. Does this indicate, perhaps, that the people were more interested in a land inheritance than in obtaining the character of an overcomer?
Man was formed of the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7), and in the law God claims to own all the land (Lev. 25:23) by right of creation. So we ought to be more concerned with the purchase or the redemption of our own “land,” than with external real estate. By extension, this is a prophecy about the Zionist obsession with the physical land mass on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. They ought to be more concerned with the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23), for that is the “land” which may enjoy life in the Kingdom.
Luke 14:19 continues,
19 “And another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused’.”
The first letter in the Hebrew alphabet is alef, “ox.” It denotes strength or the concept of being first (a priority). In this case it shows that the man’s priorities were wrong. An ox in biblical symbolism also represents a strong servant when contrasted to the donkey. In that sense, an ox is an overcomer (or an aspiring overcomer), while the stiff-necked donkey represents a servant whose “neck” (or will) needs to be broken.
A “yoke” was a pair of oxen, coming from the Greek word zeugos. Hence, five yoke would be ten oxen, capable of pulling five large plows or carts. Ten is the number of the law, indicating that this man was focused upon keeping the law. But of what use is it to keep the law and yet reject the Lawgiver who has invited us to dinner in the Kingdom?
An ox was a major tool of one’s trade (farming). The ox was the tractor of that day, which was used to bring forth fruit. If a man’s priority was the ox rather than the production of fruit, then his priority was all wrong. The ox was only the means to obtain fruit. In a New Covenant context, this also refers to those who consider the gifts of the Spirit to be the priority, rather than the fruit of the Spirit which those gifts were meant to bring forth.
Luke 14:20 says,
20 “And another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come’.”
Marriage is a good thing, but to use it as a reason not to eat bread in the Kingdom of God is foolish. This excuse is addressed more completely in the “wisdom” teaching later in this chapter (Luke 14:26). Again, the admonition is about priorities in life.
From a prophetic standpoint, we may view the “wife” to be the church (Eph. 5:23). From this perspective Jesus’ words indicate that some people are more devoted to the church than to Christ Himself. Hence, if they receive a word (invitation) from Christ but the church forbids them to obey Christ, they choose to obey the church rather than Christ. In so doing, they become servants of the church, rather than of Christ, and are part of the problem in Jesus’ parable.
Of course, keep in mind that Jesus was still dealing with the Old Covenant church, called in Acts 7:38 (KJV), “the church in the wilderness,” because it began with Israel’s exodus from Egypt and continued with their sojourn in the wilderness. In Jesus’ day most of the people were more devoted to their religious leaders and the temple than they were to Jesus Christ. Hence, the leaders were able to convince them that Jesus was not the Messiah, even though a large portion of them would have wanted Him to be the One.
They did not have the right priorities in life.
Luke 14:21-24 gives the climactic solution to the problem.
21 “And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner’.”
In connection to this, Jesus said on another occasion to the chief priests and elders in Matt. 21:31, “Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you.”
There is little doubt that those whom Jesus had healed during His ministry formed a large part of the Christian community afterward. Yet the others who had been invited would be excluded from the dinner. It did not matter that they had been invited first, nor did their genealogical connection with Abraham matter. “None of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.” They will not eat bread in God’s Kingdom.
The root problem was their lack of faith in the Messiah. The religious leaders had taught the people to look for a messiah who would deliver them from the fourth beast empire—Rome—and turn Judea into the ruling world power. The underlying problem was their refusal to submit to those nations that God had told them to serve. They were “evil figs” (Jer. 24:2).
Jesus, however, complied with the divine judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem, which had been imposed upon them in the days of Jeremiah. He was a “good fig,” submitting cheerfully to the decree of the divine court; but many of the people had been indoctrinated with a nationalistic doctrine that made them resent the rule of Rome.
Hence, Jesus did not fit the description of a Messiah that the leaders had presented to the people. They wanted a conquering Messiah, but He came as the Suffering Messiah.
Jesus came of the tribe of Judah to be the Lion that would crouch down in death and then be raised up again, as prophesied in Gen. 49:9,
9 Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up?
The answer to this question is found in Rom. 8:11,
11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.
In the story of Samson, the dead lion brings forth honey (Judges 14:8). In other words, out of the death of the Lion of the tribe of Judah would flow the land flowing with milk and honey. In that story, the lion became the occasion of the riddle of Passover during the seven days of the wedding feast. It represents the seven days of Unleavened Bread which began at Passover each year. The riddle was the secret of salvation—faith in the Lion whose death would bring forth life in the Kingdom.
Jesus came to fulfill these prophecies, but the religious leaders from the temple were like the Philistines in Samson’s day who could not figure out this riddle. The Philistine carnal mind was duplicated in the minds of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. In either case, all they could do was to threaten to burn the house with fire (Judges 14:15).
So we see that the main purpose of Jesus’ dinner parable was to advocate Faith, which was shown by those who responded to the invitation. Faith was one of the fruits that the Chief Investigator was looking for in this visitation. He came looking for delicious figs, not rotten figs, as Jer. 24:2 had prophesied. The visitation, as we have already shown, was begun by John the Baptist, who said in Luke 3:8,
8 Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
The dinner parable set forth the same truth in a different way, saying that the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame would be invited to replace those who had refused the invitation. God’s table in the Kingdom will indeed be filled, but probably not with people that would normally be expected.
Scripture is full of examples where the first ones called are disqualified, leaving the calling open to another. The overall pattern is explained in Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 15:46,
46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.
Paul was speaking primarily of the first and last Adam, but we also see this with Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Israel, Reuben and Joseph, the two covenants, the two Jerusalems, the two temples (physical and spiritual), and all the fleshly types and spiritual fulfillments of prophecy. In each case, the fleshly came first in order to allow the flesh to fail, and then God called the spiritual inheritor to receive the promise.
When Jesus called new guests to replace those who had refused His invitation, He was referring on one level to the chief priests who had rejected Him as Messiah, and how the second invitation was sent out to the street people. On a greater level, he spoke prophetically of His own nation as a whole which rejected Him, as John 1:11-13 says,
11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right [exousia, “authority”] to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born [“begotten”] not of blood(line), nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
In other words, the first Adam sinned and thereby disqualified all of his children as “children of God.” Physical begetting does not create sons of God through genealogy, but those who are begotten by the Spirit are indeed the children of God.
In Matt. 22:1-14 Jesus told a similar parable to the dinner feast of Luke 14. This may be a more detailed version of the one in Luke, but it seems different enough to be from another occasion. Luke’s is just a regular feast, while the one in Matthew is a wedding feast.
2 The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. 3 And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. 4 Again he sent out other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited, ‘Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.’ 5 But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 6 and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them.
Verse 6 gives us the added detail that the king’s slaves were mistreated and killed, proving that this invitation had been given during the days of Israel’s prophets. The prophets, of course, were often killed and always mistreated. Jesus’ verdict is found in verse 7,
7 But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire.
This was fulfilled when the Roman armies “destroyed those murderers” and set Jerusalem on fire in 70 A.D. Jesus’ parable shows that the Roman armies executed God’s judgment upon Jerusalem. This is the warning, and both dinner parables present the way to avoid such judgment: Do not refuse Christ’s invitation; have faith in Him, and you will receive a good reward.