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A Seat at the Table

November 6, 2022

A Seat at the Table

Passage: Luke 14:1-24
Service Type:

The Banquet

LUKE 14:1-24

Main Point


1 One Sabbath, when he went in to eat at the house of one of the leading Pharisees, they were watching him closely. 


Luke does a pretty good job of setting the scene for us here in just one or two sentences. Jesus is invited to a dinner party at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, which would have been the religious conservatives of the day. For them, religion and worship is all about following law and order. God gave us the law for a reason, so we do everything we can to keep it. No exceptions. 


As we’ve seen before, they are already out to get Jesus. He colors outside the lines WAAAY too much for their comfort. He pushes back on their authority, which they don’t appreciate. He calls out their hypocrisy, which humiliates them in front of the public. 


They figure the best way forward is to shut him down. But since the crowd loves Jesus, they can’t just make him disappear. They have to catch him in the act or in his words, doing something that violates the Law of Moses so they have a valid reason to put him away AND tarnish his name in the process. They are watching his every move at this dinner party to see, “what’s he going to do this time?” (Bock, 1256)


2 (And behold, says the ESV translation) There in front of him was a man whose body was swollen with fluid. Before Jesus even takes a seat at the table, this guy whose body is swollen with fluid shows up. Some of your translations might call it dropsy. It’s edema of the worst kind. There is a chance this man has come of his own accord to see Jesus and be healed, but more likely, these Pharisees have heard about Jesus healing on the Sabbath, and they have planted this poor guy in the party to see if Jesus will do it again or not.


Well, Jesus takes the opportunity to do a little teaching, like he often does. 3 In response, Jesus asked the law experts and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not? ”


Based on how you were raised, you may have your own traditions about what is “legal” to do on the Sabbath. But Jesus’ question is: “Is  it legal to heal on the Sabbath?” In any other setting, this is a softball question for these folks. They are law experts! This is like asking a truck driver about the cost of diesel fuel. They would know! This is like asking a farmer about the price of corn or beans. They know! This is like asking a nurse what numbers constitute a healthy blood pressure – they are precisely the people you should ask. So Jesus asks the law experts a legal question about the Law of Moses… not because he is doing research and he really wants to know, but because he knows what they are doing.


But they are stuck. If they say “Yes, it is legal,” then Jesus might ask them why they haven’t helped this man themselves. If they say it is legal, it raises a lot of problems about how they have treated the Law and the Sabbath up to this point. 


If they say “No, it’s not legal,” they have exposed their sinister motives in bringing this man to the dinner, and it sort of implies that the Sabbath is the one day of the week you cannot show goodness or compassion to someone. 


4 [So] they kept silent. The “experts” in the law are stuck in their own trap. Add insult to injury for these leaders – in ancient legal discussions like this, to be silent is to imply your approval with events continuing as they are! 


So here in verse 4, Jesus does a good work on the Sabbath, as He took the man, healed him, and sent him away.  And, then, instead of saying, “Okay, great – let’s eat!” Jesus defends his own actions with another question in verse 5. 


If your own son or daughter fell into a well on the Sabbath, you wouldn’t think about saying, “Hang in there, I’ll be back tomorrow when it’s legal for me to pull you out.” You would jump over any no trespassing signs, you would break down a fence – you would do anything to help them. Same for your cattle. So why does your ox deserve more compassion and mercy than this man? 


6 They could find no answer to these things. I just picture various people trying to start a sentence, but just not being able to even form a word. I mean, you talk about an awkward start to dinner! 


The Lord spoke through the prophet Hosea many years before this moment, and said, “...I desire [mercy] and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. 


Jesus was saying, You have kept the letter of the Law but missed the heart of it. The heart of the Law is love for God which is displayed by love for people; showing mercy. . 


But the afternoon was just getting started. Lesson #2 was about to begin. As the host tells people to take their places, Jesus noticed a mad scramble to sit nearest the host. He noticed certain leaders jostling for position, based on rank and seniority or whatever, because in those days, the honored guests sat next to the host. The most important on his left, the next highest on his right. 


7 He told a parable to those who were invited so he’s talking to the other guests now, when he noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t sit in the place of honor, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. 9 The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. 10 “But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 


Jesus isn’t teaching reverse psychology, like – “listen, you really want the good seat here’s how you get it.” He’s saying, look, when you put yourself in the place of honor, it’s all downhill from there. You are looking around the room, going, “Yeah, I’m probably the most important person here, this is obviously my seat,” but you don’t know if all the guests are there or not. 


And there is a chance that someone more important than you shows up, and when they do, you’ll have to take the walk of shame all the way to the last seat at the table. That’s what happens when you appoint yourself as the most important person in the room. You’ll be humbled.


On the other hand, if you take the worst spot on the bench on purpose, the host has the opportunity to call you out in front of the entire party and say, come on FRIEND, come closer to me. He calls you his friend in front of everyone! 


And I think for most of us, we’re like, “yeah, we get the concept for the most part”, but this is where pride creeps in is where we go, “yeah, but what if the host doesn’t call me up!?” What if I get stuck in the bad seat the whole time?! What if no one ever acknowledges me, what if no one ever appreciates me, or recognizes me?! I don’t think I’m proud – I just feel like I’m pulling pretty hard over here and I’d like someone to at least thank me for what I’m doing. 


Being exalted or recognized isn’t the problem. It’s who does the exalting that is the problem.


  • 1 Peter 5:6-8 – Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, SO THAT he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you. Then he goes on to say, “be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him…”


If you are in Christ – your life is hidden with him – we don’t have to put ourselves in the best seats. We don’t have to play the importance card. Why? Because our Heavenly Father, the one who owns the world, cares about us! He loves us! He is for us! We are free to take the low seat, because our Father will give us everything we need in this life right now, and he’ll give us the entire kingdom one day! So we are free to take the low seat now because we’re looking ahead to the future when he will exalt the humble. 


That doesn’t mean you don’t put in for the promotion at work; that doesn’t mean you don’t show up for your own birthday party; that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for a raise, or try to increase your business’s bottom line – it just means your identity, your happiness, your peace, your security in life, does not have to be wrapped up in whether you get it or not. 


That’s why Peter warns us to watch out – the devil will throw the book at you to tell you that you have to get yours here and now in this life because God won’t come through in the end. So, part of true humility is resisting the devil, and killing your pride. 


Jesus still isn’t finished.

12 He also said to the one who had invited him now Jesus addresses the host,“When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. 13 On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”


Jesus is calling out the motives of the host here. He has invited only people who are able to pay him back. So he might invest $1000 in this meal, putting on a good spread, getting good caterers, the best wine… but he knows his return on this investment is that he gets invited to 30 meals that are trying to match or outdo this meal. That’s a lot of free steak and wine! 


And Jesus calls him out and says this meal earns you points with people, probably a better seat at the next banquet, but zero points with God. All you’re doing is trying to earn yourself a better seat at the other tables you get invited to. 


So Jesus says, sure, eat with your friends once in a while, but if you want to store up treasure in heaven, you should have brought in more people with dropsy. You should have brought in the blind, the maimed, the lame, the poor – those are the ones who really need all this food. Those are the ones who really need to be shown love and appreciation. Those are the ones who really need your invitation. Instead, what you’ve done is created a spiritual hierarchy of who is in and who is out based on how great of a party they throw, while people who are really in need go hungry.


So, you may not get invited to as many parties now, but you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous – or, another way the Jews would talk about the fully realized kingdom of God, you will be repaid with a seat at the banquet table in the kingdom of God. 


15 When one of those who reclined at the table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is the one who will eat bread in the kingdom of God! ”


Sounds like a pretty good statement on the surface, and true – Whoever eats at that table is blessed in the most ultimate of blessing. But, culturally it was implied by virtue of their dedication to the law that every Pharisee would no doubt be sitting at the table of God in heaven. So effectively, this guy is looking at Jesus and saying, “Good stuff there about inviting the poor to this banquet, and how Thaddeus here should not have invited us – whatever. At least we know one banquet we will be invited to, amiright? At least we know we’ll be there at the table when the Messiah returns. We’re not working on the Sabbath, I’m not poor, I’m not sick, You don’t see my body swollen with fluid because I sinned, so I’m obviously #blessed over here.”


16 Then Jesus told him, “A man was giving a large banquet and invited many. This is like sending out a save the date card. Gonna have a banquet in December sometime. RSVP yes or no. Protocol was that if you said yes to the first invitation, but then backed out, it was insulting enough that you could go to war with that family. 


17 At the time of the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’ So now, it's December sometime, and a person shows up at your door and says, hey remember that banquet you RSVP'd back in October, saying you would be there? Well, it’s ready! Let’s go! 


18 “But without exception they all began to make excuses. 

  • The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. I ask you to excuse me.’
  • 19 “Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m going to try them out. I ask you to excuse me.’
  • 20 “And another said, ‘I just got married, and therefore I’m unable to come.’


These people aren’t even uber-religious. They are just ordinary people going about their ordinary lives, doing business, working the farm, starting their families - all ordinary people letting the ordinary things of life take priority over being ready for that banquet. They  knew it was coming, and didn’t do anything to prepare for it. If you already bought the field, you could look at it a week from now. If you already bought the oxen, you could try them out a week from now. If you knew the party was coming up in December, you could have planned the wedding around it. Even though only 3 examples are given, every single person invited, verse 18, without exception, simply didn’t want to come. This is a major offense to the host. 


21 “So the servant came back and told the master that all the name tags he put around the table were useless. Those people weren’t coming. That all the money he spent on the meal was wasted, no one was coming. That barbequing the prized calf or whatever was in vain. No one was coming.


Then in anger (naturally), the master of the house told his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame.’ 22 “ ‘Master,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’ 23 “Then the master told the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, not one of those people who were invited will enjoy my banquet.’ ”


Jesus is not teaching a lesson about event planning. This is not a parable about how to plan and execute a good party – 5 easy steps to get a full house when the people you invited don’t show up. 


Jesus is talking about the nation of Israel again, especially her leaders. All through the Old Testament, they have received an invitation to the banquet of God, the words of God, the presence of God in the Temple, the Law were all invitations to know and serve and worship Yahweh. But their hearts were far from God. All through the prophets, they have been warned again and again and again about their idolatry and their wickedness. Every single warning was another invitation to come, repent, and enjoy the presence of God – but they killed the prophets and refused to repent. 


Now, Jesus, the Anointed Servant of Yahweh, the Messiah himself, is on the scene with the final invitation, saying “the kingdom of God is here! The banquet table is set…Salvation is here, now! I’m the Narrow Door that leads to eternal life! Come on, Israel – repent of your sins, come to me and believe so that you can have life!” And instead of coming to him, all he is getting from Israel, especially her leaders, are just more excuses. 


Jesus’ story is a reply to one Jewish person, but in the story he is warning all of these Jews that if they do not repent, God will throw open the door to Gentiles, outcasts, the oppressed, the poor, the people you won’t associate with, and the gospel is about to go into all the nations, to all tribes, all languages, all races, people of all walks of life – those who you kept at arm's length before and had written off as sinners and outcasts – this dude with dropsy will be sitting in your seat at the table where your nametag is. 


“No wonder the Pharisees plotted Jesus’ death. No wonder he was killed. He had just told them, face to face, that they were not going to make it to the banquet feast. Not only would they not be in the highest seats, but they would not be at the feast at all, because they had rejected the second invitation; the invitation that was given by the Son of God himself” (Sproul, 294–295).


GOSPEL - take it home!


See, God the Father held nothing back when he prepared this kingdom banquet for us – he didn’t even spare his own Son, but willingly gave him up for us all. Jesus wasn’t forced or manipulated or tricked into going to the cross – he willingly and even joyfully accepted his role as the ultimate sacrifice for mankind, so that many would be saved. And he will make sure that the Father’s house is full - that every seat at the table is filled. 


And church, based on what Jesus is saying here, can you imagine this banquet scene? I mean, these people who were sleeping under bushes along the highway come walking into the banquet, eyes as wide as saucers. The person at the door says, why should I let you in here, and Jesus speaks up – they are with me – and he shows them to their seats.


I imagine everyone around this table is the most ragtag bunch of people with their jaws on the floor going, how in the world did I get here? Ten minutes ago, I was sleeping under a bridge with no life, wearing nasty clothes, smelling like something died,  and now I’m here around this table, clean and wearing new clothes… what happened!?! Can you imagine the gratitude of those people when someone came around and brought them refills? When someone served them appetizers? When someone loaded up their plate with the best food they’ve ever seen? 


Isn’t that what the kingdom is!? David thought so in psalm 23 - You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. 

Isn’t that what Jesus is saying?! It’s been a theme of Luke’s gospel ever since chapter 1, when the angel came to Mary and told her that she would be the mother of Jesus, she sang about this kind of gospel surprise: 


Luke 1:49… the Mighty One has done great things for me, and his name is holy. 50 His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear him. 51 He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. 53 He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.


He topples the mighty, and exalts the lowly. The gospel of grace is shocking! I know we shouldn’t look at parables and try to draw too many conclusions from them, but I’m going to make a big statement here, that I think is true based on Jesus’ words at this dinner party and that is this: 


If you are not at least a little bit surprised, shocked, or amazed that Jesus would choose to die for you and invite you to a seat at the table in his kingdom, you might not be saved yet.  


If the gospel doesn’t seem at least a little bit wild to you, where you would say, “who, me?” you haven’t seen it yet. That was the problem of the Pharisees, wasn’t it? They didn’t find Jesus to be very good news at all because they didn’t need it! They could get to the banquet without it! 


On the other hand, if you’re the person who thinks you have no chance of getting into heaven because you don’t “do things right,” you’re much closer than you think. It’s the same idea as last week’s sermon from the end of chapter 13 – the ticket into the kingdom is to drop the spiritual resume, and bring your sin to Jesus instead.  And that is not something we need to wait for until after we die. The kingdom banquet is serving appetizers right now, here on earth. We can already start receiving from him, through his word, prayer, worship, fellowship, meeting the needs of those in the room, and those who are not here. 


Every day Jesus holds out the invitation to come and eat. If you have not responded to that invitation yet, God the Father says in Isaiah 65:2, “I spread out my hands all day long to a rebellious people who walk in the path that is not good, following their own thoughts.”


Right now, the Father is spreading out his hands to you, no matter how rebellious you have been, no matter how far you have walked down the path that is not good, no matter how many of your own thoughts you have followed, no matter how righteous you think you have been, no matter how many times you let something else become priority in your life… he holds out his hands to you and says NOW! THE PARTY IS READY NOW! The kingdom is ready NOW! 


Jesus himself is the last invitation you will get to the banquet in the kingdom of heaven. There are no more invitations. The banquet is ready now. The kingdom is already here now. Not in its full reality, but it’s already started. And if you refuse Jesus now, there are no more invitations. 


For those of you who have received the invitation from Jesus, you have heard the gospel, you’ve recognized your need for Jesus, you’ve received his gift of salvation by faith, let’s enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise, writes King David in Psalm 100. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. We will close out with a song that celebrates this amazing grace that we’ve been shown. 


First, let’s pray


Klyne Snodgrass, Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Group, 2018)


  1. C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1999)


Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 9:51–24:53, vol. 2, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996)