1-8 The Call Of The Gospel
It was totally scandalous that the majority of guests refused an
invitation by the King (Mt. 22:9; Lk. 14:21-23), and that whilst
the dinner was cold on the table, a desperately urgent expedition
was sent to get people to come in and eat it. This is the urgency
of our Gospel proclamation. And no King or wealthy man would really
invite riff-raff off the street into his party; yet this is the
wonder of God’s grace in calling us through the Gospel. And such
is the tragedy of humanity's rejection of the Gospel. To reject
a royal invitation was tantamount to rejecting a royal command.
It was unheard of in the time of Jesus. Yet people just don't perceive
the honour of being invited by the King. Notice too how it is the
King Himself who makes all the arrangements- not, as the initial
hearers would have expected, a senior steward or his wife. But the
King Himself. And this reflects the extraordinary involvement of
God Almighty in personally inviting each of us to fellowship with
Him, through the call of the Gospel. Likewise that all
the girls should fall asleep whilst awaiting the bridegroom (Mt.
25:5) is unusual- they must have been a pretty lazy, switched off
bunch. And yet immediately we are led by the Lord to pass judgment
upon ourselves- which is quite a feature of the parables, e.g. Mt.
21:31; Lk. 7:43 [as it is elsewhere- consider 2 Sam. 12:5; 14:8;
1 Kings 20:40). Note how there is surely an element of unreality
in the Lord’s description of all those invited to the dinner
refusing the invitation (Lk. 14:18,24). Would really nobody
respond to such a gracious invitation? This was the obvious question
that He begged in the minds of His hearers. The intention being
that each hearer would reflect: “Is it I…?”…maybe at least I
could respond to the call of the Gospel…The parable of the wedding
feast has an inappropriacy in that for 'merely' rejecting the invitation
to the feast and beating the messengers, the King despatches an
army to attack them- whilst the meal is as it were hot on the table
ready to be eaten (Mt. 22:3-7). The point is that every rejection
of the invitation, every mockery of the preacher, elicits an amazing
anger in God.
That the King Himself invited beggars into His feast also stands
out as strange...what kind of king is this? And what fortunate beggars.
Immediately, we have the lesson powerfully brought home to us. And
why ever would a guest refuse the wedding garment offered to him
on entry to the feast (Mt. 22:11)? The element of unreality in the
story makes it stand out so clearly. And yet ask people why they
are not baptized, why they are refusing the righteous robes of Christ,
the call of the Gospel...and it is anything from clear and obvious
to them. The scandal of the parable hasn't struck them. And there's
another strange element to the story. Whilst the supper is still
getting cold, the King sends off a military expedition (Mt. 22:7,8),
but this is incidental to his desire to get on with the feast with
his guests. Surely the message is that what is all important for
the Father and Son is our response to their invitation, our desire
to be at that feast, our turning up there- and the punishment of
the wicked is not that significant on their agenda, even though
it has to be done.
Most commentators make the point that Middle Eastern banquets feature
two invitations. If a person responds to the first one, then animals
are killed in accordance with the number of expected guests, and
then at banquet time, a servant is sent to collect the guest and
bring them to the feast (1). It is this second invitation
which is rejected in the story. The people have all said 'yes' initially.
The meaning is clear. Christ our lamb has been slain- and now, we
are invited to actually sit down at the banquet, to partake in the
breaking of bread feast, typical as it is of the final 'supper'
of God's Kingdom. "Come, for all is now ready"
is a present imperative implying 'continue coming'. To refuse the
second invitation is therefore unreal in its rudeness and in the
sense of hurt and shock to the host. What is also unreal is that
all the guests refuse it. What's also unreal is the evidently
untrue and irrelevant nature of the excuses given. Banquets were
in the afternoon / evening- which was not when work was done. Lk.
17:8 refers to the meal happening after the day's work
has been done. One man said he had bought a field and had to go
check it out. But purchase of property in the East takes a huge
amount of time, every tree and wall is inspected with the utmost
care before the field is bought. It would be like saying 'I just
bought a house online which I've never seen in another country,
tonight I have to go and see it'. Moreover, time constraints in
Middle Eastern culture simply aren't what they are elsewhere. All
the things people said they just had to do there and then
could easily have been done another day. After all, they had agreed
to come to a banquet. The man who claimed to have bought five yoke
of oxen and had to rush to test them was likewise telling an obvious
untruth. Kenneth Bailey comments on how teams of oxen are sold in
Eastern villages: "The team is taken to the market place. At
the edge of the market there will be a small field where prospective
buyers may test the oxen... [or] the farmer owning a pair for sale
announces to his friends that he has a team available and that he
will be plowing with them on a given day... prospective buyers make
their way to the seller's field to watch the animals working and...
to drive them back and forth across the field to be assured of their
strength and evenness of pull. All of this obviously takes place
before the buyer even begins to negotiate a price" (2). Further,
this farmer claims to have bought five yoke of oxen. This was a
huge investment for a peasant farmer. He surely wouldn't buy them
without testing them first, particularly given the long drawn out
process of buying and negotiating prices which is part of Palestinian
culture. Another point to note is that animals were all seen as
rather unclean; to make an excuse for absence on the basis of animals
is effectively saying that the animals are more important to the
invited guest than the host. Likewise the excuse to have just married
a bride holds no water- because weddings were planned well in advance,
it was obvious that there would be a conflict between the banquet
and the wedding. Why, therefore, accept the initial invitation?
The host's reaction as we've noted earlier is also unusual. Instead
of giving up, he allows himself to be even further humiliated in
the eyes of the village by inviting yet more people- the beggars,
the despised ones. He had invited people from his town- but now
he invites people unknown to him, and finally, people from outside
his immediate area, living under hedges. This desperate appeal,
with all the mocking and shame which it would've brought with it,
is surely Luke's preparation for announcing to us at the end of
the Gospel our duty to now go out into all the world and invite
all to God's Banquet. What we can easily fail to understand is that
for those beggars, there would be a huge cultural barrier to refusing
the invitation. The beggar would be amazed that he as an unknown
person, from out of the host's area, was being invited to this great
banquet. He'd have figured that something ain't right here, that
this person can't be for real. 'What have I ever done for him? What
does he expect of me? I can't pay him back in any form...'. And
of course, they wouldn't have received the first invitation. They
were being invited to immediately go into a great banquet with no
prior invitation. And in all this, in this unreality, we have the
strangeness and difficulty of acceptance of pure grace. Hence the
host commanded the servants to grab them by the arm and pull them
in to the banquet.
"None of those men who were invited shall taste of my banquet"
may seem an obvious and even redundant thing to say- until we realize
the practive of sending portions of the banquet food to those who
were 'unavoidably absent' (3). They thought they could participate
at a distance, not be serious about the actual feast. They thought
just saying yes to the invitation and making dumb excuses was OK...
that the host was so insensitive he wouldn't notice the obvious
contradictions. They didn't stop to think of his pain at their rejection.
But the point is, they had accepted the initial invitation, they
wanted some part in all this, and the implication is that they expected
to be sent their share in the banquet. Now all this becomes of biting
relevance to us who have accepted the invitation to God's Kingdom.
We all have a tendency to think that God somehow doesn't notice,
doesn't feel, can put up with our dumb excuses for our lack of serious
response. In a sense, 'All you gotta do is say yes'. I read a few
sentences of T.W.Manson which just summed up my own conclusions
from studying the parables, especially those in Lk. 15 which speak
of the 'repentant' person as someone who is 'found' rather than
does anything much: "The two essential points in [Christ's]
teaching are that no man can enter the Kingdom without the invitation
of God, and that no man can remain outside it but by his own deliberate
choice. Man cannot save himself, but he can damn himself... Jesus
sees the deepest tragedy of human life, not in the many wrong and
foolish things that men do, or the many good and wise things that
they fail to accomplish, but in their rejection of God's greatest
We're not only the invited guests, we're also symbolized by the
servants. Notice how the guests address the servant as the master,
and ask him directly to be excused. As we've pointed out elsewhere,
in our preaching of the Gospel we are the face of Christ to this
world. We should be urging those who have accepted the invitation
to enter in to the Master's supper, appealing to them, feeling His
hurt at their rejection. To reject those who have accepted the invitation
on our initiative, i.e. to ban this one and that one from
the memorial feast because of our personal politics with them, is
therefore so awful. The parable ends with the house not yet full-
begging the question, will it ever fill up? Will the beggars believe
in grace enough? How persuasive will the servants be? All of which
questions we have to answer.
(1) The many references to this are listed in I.H.Marshall The
Gospel Of Luke (Exeter: Paternoster, 1978) p. 587.
(2) Kenneth Bailey, Through Peasant Eyes (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1980) p. 97.
(3) J.D.M. Derrett, Law In The New Testament (London:
Darton, Longman & Todd, 1970) p. 141.
(4) T.W. Manson, The Sayings Of Jesus (London: SCM, 1937)