12.02.06 Lk. 14:15-24
PARABLE OF THE GREAT MESSIANIC BANQUET
Lk. 15 When one of those who reclined at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “The one who will eat bread in the kingdom of God is blessed!”
16 Then He told him: “A man was giving a large banquet and invited many. 17 At the time of the banquet, he sent his slave to tell those who were invited,
‘Come, because everything is now ready.’
18 “But without exception 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.’
21 “So the slave came back and reported these things to his master. Then in anger, the master of the house told his slave, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame!’
22 “‘Master,’ the slave said, ‘what you ordered has been done, and there’s still room.’
23 “Then the master told the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and lanes and make them come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will enjoy my banquet!’”
Literary Style Again Jesus taught a lesson in the form of a parable reflecting upon a story that the people already knew. This one in Luke has seven stanzas. The first four have similar ideas, whereas the last three are different, but are related. In each of the first four stanzas, there is an action, which is used as an excuse not to come to the banquet. Finally, after a disappointing response an invitation was given to the worldwide community to come and dine with the master.
In the biblical period, a wedding was one of the most joyous and festive celebrations. It came with two invitations, although the community already knew that a certain young man and lady were betrothed to be married. The first invitation came weeks prior to the wedding, and a second invitation came as a reminder, and that one was just a day or two prior to the special event.
In this parable, the two invitations to the Messianic banquet reflect the following:
- The first invitation was sent out by the Old Testament prophets.
- The second invitation was sent out personally by Jesus.
In the parable, no one had an excuse for not coming at the first invitation, but when the second invitation was presented some of the worst excuses imaginable were given. First a review of the characters is given before the question is asked as to why Jesus told this parable.
Cast of Characters
The Master = God
The original invited guests = The Jews
The poor people = The tax collectors and social outcasts
Those in streets and lanes = The Gentiles
It was the cultural norm that there were always two wedding invitations, but in this parable there are three. Scholars have often cited the third invitation to be the invitation of the Gentiles to come to the messianic banquet. Today’s readers have difficulty understanding the meaning of the wedding garments that are to be worn by the guests. In ancient times, persons of wealth or high rank showed their magnificence and generosity by providing the guests with wedding garments. In the parable, the garments represent God’s righteous character, and must be worn to attend the great Messianic banquet our Lord will one day have with His saints.
The messianic banquet will occur at the end of the Church Age when all the saints will dine with their Messiah and a new era will begin. When Isaiah first wrote of this event (25:6-9) six centuries before Christ, he said that among those present would include Gentiles from many nations. But during the Inter-Testamental Period the leading Jews were convinced that only God’s Chosen People would be present. Yet Jesus clearly invited those whom the religious leaders rejected.
The thought that Jesus said God had other plans was another point of consternation for them. His words were difficult for them to accept, as they believed they were God’s “Chosen People” and, therefore, His “only people,” regardless of what kind of garments they wore. The cultural meaning of righteousness has always been to hold the biblical code of ethics, such as giving to the poor or expressing kindness, especially in situations when it would not be expected. But Jesus introduced a new definition of righteousness – that is to have an ongoing relationship with God. Therefore, one “wears the garment” of righteousness.
The first messenger to announce the banquet was John the Baptist and the second was Jesus. Jesus, speaking in the form of a parable, said that a king made two invitation announcements for his son’s wedding. The first was several weeks in advance and the second, a few hours prior to the wedding. According to the rabbinical commentary Midrash, the double invitation was common practice in Jerusalem, because to miss anyone would have been a greater offense in a culture where politeness is held in high regard – with an unknown parallel in Western culture. The significance of cultural politeness and courtesies among the ancients has been lost in Western culture, thereby creating difficulties in understanding the passage.
The irony in the parable given by Jesus is that many refused to come to the wedding for ridiculous reasons, thereby conveying supreme insult upon the host. Note the following excuses in this parable:
- Jesus said that one invited guest refused to come because he had purchased a field and needed to see it. Who would buy a property without first looking at it? It was a poor excuse for not coming.
- A second man purchased five teams of oxen and needed to test them. Obviously, he was very wealthy and could have had his servants test them.
- A third man indicated that he just gotten married and, apparently, there was no need to give an excuse for not coming. Many preachers have said, with a sense of humor, that this excuse did not need an explanation. However it does. In fact, according to Deuteronomy 24:5, if anyone had a good reason to attend the celebration with his wife, this man was that person.
What is unique about the parable of Jesus is that there were those who made excuses not to attend – which was considered to be a gross insult to the host. The patter of excuses is repeated as follows:
- I just did this (“X”).
- As a result I must follow through to do this (“Y”).
- Kindly excuse me, but I cannot come.
But there is no excuse: X + Y = Condemnation! Jesus clearly stated that each person desired to pursue his own selfish goal with total disrespect for the host. Materialism was as much of a problem in the first century as it is today. All too often the personal goals and pursuits overshadow the important eternal matters. At this point, the host sent out his servants a third time to invite anybody and everybody. The point of the story is that the Jews had been the invited guests of the Old Testament era and they pursued their own goals in life. Hence, the Gentiles received the blessings that were promised for the Jews. The imagery as to whom Jesus was speaking could not have been missed. The banquet was the messianic banquet prophesied by Isaiah (25:6-9). The first guests were the leaders of Israel who rejected Jesus. The poor and lame are the social outcasts within Israel, and those on the roads and country lanes are the Gentiles.
“Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor, maimed, blind, and lame!” In the ancient Middle East, everyone was invited to a wedding banquet because kindness and hospitality to the unfortunate was seen as righteousness. As stated previously, this narrative underscores an important point: Jesus told stories in various forms to explain His theology and, therefore, understanding the language and culture of the Storyteller is critical.
“Not one of those men who were invited will enjoy my banquet!” Jesus did not say that no Jew would be saved. In fact, the earliest church was comprised totally of Jews, who told other Jews the good news of Jesus, followed by the gospel going to the Gentiles (cf. Cornelius, Acts 10). The men in this context are the anti-Jesus leaders, who were constantly opposing Jesus.
Finally, one of the amazing discoveries of doing this study was to learn how many concepts and teachings of Jesus preceded Him during the Inter-Testamental Period. This writer feels these are part of the meaning of Galatians 4:4 where the Apostle Paul said that in the “fullness of time” Jesus came.
In the two short passages below are responses to invitations given by a monarch or other influential person. In the first, Jesus, the son of Sirach (Ben Sirach), described how the invited person should respond. In the second, the unknown author said that to decline an invitation offered by a king was seen as a supreme insult. On a side note, Josephus recorded two longer accounts where denying an invitation (not wedding related) by a king resulted in harsh punishment.
When an influential person invites you, be reserved, and he will invite you more insistently. Do not be forward, or you may be rebuffed, do not stand aloof, or you will be forgotten.
Ben Sirach 13:9-10
A parable: A king sent a proclamation to his country. What did the inhabitants of the country do with it? They took it, tore it up, and burned it. Then they said, “Woe unto us when the king hears this!”
Ruth Rabbah Proem 7
Three variations of the parable of the Great Messianic Banquet were well known to the listeners of Jesus. One of them is in the second century (B.C.) book of 1 Enoch. It says that Gentiles will be present at the Great Messianic Banquet. On the other hand, the Essenes said that only Jews would be there. The banquet narrative of 1 Enoch is as follows:
1 Thus the Lord commanded the kings, the governors, the high officials, and the landlords and said, “Open your eyes and lift up your eyebrows – if you are able to recognize the Elect One!” 2 The Lord of the Spirits has sat down on the throne of his glory, and the spirit of righteousness has been poured out upon him. The word of his mouth will do the sinners in; and all the oppressors shall be eliminated from before his face. 3 On the day of judgement, all the kings, the governors, the high officials, and the landlords shall see and recognize him – how he sits on the throne of his glory and righteousness is judged before him, and that no nonsensical talk shall be uttered in his presence. 4 The pain shall come upon them as on a woman in travail with birth pangs – when she is giving birth (the child) enters the mouth of the womb and she suffers from childbearing. 5 One half portion of them shall glance at the other half; they shall be terrified and dejected; and pain shall seize them when they see that Son of Man sitting on the throne of his glory. 6 (These) kings, governors, and all the landlords shall (try to) bless, glorify, extol him who rules over everything, him who has been concealed. 7 For the Son of Man was concealed from the beginning and the Most High One preserved him in the presence of his power; then he revealed him to the holy and the elect ones. 8 The congregation of the holy ones shall be planted, and all the elect ones shall stand before him. 9On that day, all the kings, the governors, the high officials, and those who rule the earth shall fall down before him on their faces, and worship and raise their hopes in that Son of Man; they shall beg and plead for mercy at his feet. 10 But the Lord of the Spirits himself will cause them to be frantic, so that they shall rush and depart from his presence. Their faces shall be filled with shame, and their countenances shall be crowned with darkness. 11 So he will deliver them to the angels for punishments in order that vengeance shall be executed on them – oppressors of his children and his elect ones.
1 Enoch 62:1-11
Prior to the time as Jesus told His parable the Essenes in Qumran were writing about their Banquet in a scroll known as The Messianic Rule. Of course, some of their ideas were hardly in agreement with Him but they did write an interesting opinion concerning that future event. One of their Dead Sea Scrolls reveals that they anticipated a messianic banquet and, therefore, must have understood His message.
When God will have engendered (the Priest-) Messiah, he shall come [at] the head of the whole congregation of Israel with all [his brethren, the sons] of Aaron the Priests, [those called] to the assembly, the men of renown; and they shall sit [before him, each man] in the order of his dignity. And then [the Mess]iah of Israel shall [come], and the chiefs of the [clans of Israel] shall sit before him, [each] in the order of his dignity, according to [his place] in their camps and marches. And before them shall sit all the heads of [family of the congreg]ation, and the wise men of [the holy congregation,] each in the order of his dignity.
And [when] they shall gather for the common
Dead Sea Scroll 1Q28a, Column 2
Obviously there are two very different opinions of a Wedding/Messianic Banquet.
- Some believed it will include Jews and Gentiles
- Others believed only certain Jewish people will attend while all Gentiles will be condemned
In the Middle Eastern culture, not to attend a banquet is highly insulting no matter how well the words of an excuse are crafted. It would have been a different matter if one was seriously ill or injured. But in the parable Jesus presented, it was clearly evident that those who were invited, did not want to come. The parable is also a reflection of the words of Isaiah and the three kinds of people the prophet described.
- Isaiah 56:1 The pious Jews of Israel who claim to be faithful to the Mosaic law.
- Isaiah 56:2 The outcasts of Israel; those who were despised by society and the religious leaders.
- Isaiah 56:8 “Others” in addition to those already attending.
So when Jesus presented His version of the Banquet, He definitely had everyone’s attention. After all, anyone who could heal people, perform miracles of bread and fish, cast out demons, walk on water, and raise the dead, must know what He’s talking about. Whatever He said about the future Banquet carried considerable weight.
Finally, when Jesus and the disciples were finishing their last Passover together, Jesus picked up a cup of wine and said that He would not drink of this again until the Great Messianic Banquet. Clearly the imagery of this parable points toward that future event that will include everyone, from all levels of society, who placed their faith and hope in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
. The significance of the messianic banquet was very important to Jesus (Heb. Yeshua). The wedding imagery between Himself and His church as it was reflected in a first century Jewish wedding is discussed by Dr. John Fischer, a messianic scholar and rabbi at 09.03.04.V1. See the following as well: Wedding garments needed at the wedding in Mt. 22:1-14 (13.03.07); discussion of the “best place” in Lk. 14:7-14 (12.02.05); the wise and foolish virgins in Mt. 25:1-13 (14.01.07); only the father knew Mt. 24:36 (14.01.05); the preparation of a new home in Jn. 14:1-4 (14.02.14). See also14.02.05.V2 where Professor John Metzger discusses the purity of the (L)lamb during the Passion Week and the related imagery of the bride and groom to the Messianic Wedding Banquet.
. Bailey, Poet and Peasant. Part II. 93.
. Ryken, Wilhoit, and Longman, eds., “Banquet.” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. 71-72.
. See video 09.03.04.V1 by Messianic Rabbi John Fischer who discusses first century wedding imagery, and video 14.02.05.V2 by Professor John Metzger who discusses the Passover, the Last Supper and its implications to the Messianic Banquet.
. Vine, “Garment.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:261, and “Marriage, Marry.” 2:394-95.
. This opinion is seen in the Dead Sea Scroll known as The Messianic Rule, which states that no Gentiles will be present. In addition, the second century (B.C.) Book of Enoch, states that Gentiles will be present, but then the angel of death will kill them.
. Midrash. Lamentations, 4:2.
. Some older translations, such as the King James Version, read “compel them to come in.” That phrase, unfortunately, has been used to justify persecution of Jewish people, unbelievers, and heretics over the centuries.
. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 127.
. Josephus, Antiquities 9.13.2 (263-267) and Wars 2.17.10 (449-456).
. Both quotations cited by Bock and Herrick, Jesus in Context. 156.
. Parenthesis by Charlesworth in Charlesworth, “1 Enoch” in Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. 1:43.
. Translation by Stephen D. Ricks of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Provo, Utah. Because the Dead Sea Scrolls are 2,000 years old or older, portions of papyrus are at times missing and the translators attempt to insert the lost letters and words which are in brackets.
http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=120&chapid=1438 Retrieved October 10, 2013. See also Dead Sea Scroll 1QSa 2:5-10 as referenced by Kenneth Bailey in Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. 321, citing Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English. (1975 ed.) 121.
. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. 319.