Blessed is Everyone Who Will Eat Bread in the Kingdom of God!

Sermon preached on Luke 14:1-24 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 06/12/2022 in Novato, CA.

Sermon Manuscript

Feasts are wonderful! While there are certainly pagan parties that are full of depravity, the Bible is not inherently against partying and celebrating. In fact, there are many positive examples of such in the Bible. And Jesus in today’s passage is at a feast of sorts – well, at least at a dinner invitation, a small feast, so to speak. There he spends much of his time teaching about feasts and banquets. Jesus’ teaching on such feasts has applications for here and now, but also for beyond this life. As Jesus touches on certain practical matters about both attending feasts and hosting them, he ultimately gets us to think beyond the feasts of this life to feasting we will do in glory. Verse 15 becomes thematic for today. That’s where someone rightly exclaims, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” I want to say a big amen to that. And while Jesus didn’t himself say amen, he turned to give a parable of a Great Banquet that clearly looks to the kind of feasting we will do in the kingdom of God when it comes in glory. So then, today we will talk a lot about feasting, here and now, and unto eternity.

Let us begin in our first point to consider verses 7-11 and see the lesson Jesus gives to those who are invited to attend this feast he is at. In other words, he’s speaking to the guests of a party. He’s at a party and he speaks to those in attendance. This certainly has application most immediately to people literally attending a feast here and now in this life. Verse 7 explains that Jesus gave a parable to teach to people who are invited guests to a feast. Sometimes Jesus’ parables are a lot more direct and to the point. This is surely one of them. What I mean is that often his parables are a made-up story about some completely unrelated topic but Jesus has a way to bring out a figurative application by way of analogy. But here, Jesus’ is teaching a lesson to party guests about how to pick seats and he gives them a parable about party guests picking seats! This is a pretty clear and direct parable as application goes!

So then, Jesus tells this parable in verse 8. Imagine you go to a wedding feast. When you go there, don’t just go and sit down in the place of honor. Jesus says it is better to pick one of the less honorable seats and then have the host honor you by telling you to move to a seat of higher honor. Otherwise, you might get publicly humiliated if you pick too honorable of a seat and the host comes over and asks you to give that seat up for a more honorable guest. This parable relies on that fact that back then, there were certain spots that were considered more honorable than others at a feast. And wedding receptions today still generally have the same thing. Today there is usually a table up front and center for the wedding party, and the couple are seated at the center. Then family will have the tables closest to the party, and then less distinguished guests will fan out from there. Now today, it is not uncommon to have preassigned seating that would resolve this dilemma. But if they don’t, you should not just presume the best seats. You should let someone else exalt you, and not exalt yourself.

Part of this is just practical wisdom. It literally is found in the book of Proverbs, and clearly Jesus drew his parable from there. Proverbs 25:6, “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.” Yes, Jesus’ parable is a slightly different setting, but clearly the same topic and point. This can fall under practical wisdom because no one wants to be humiliated and embarrassed in front of others. It is wiser to put yourself in a place where you might be publicly honored versus putting yourself in a place with a chance of being publicly shamed. There is practical wisdom here that if you will practice this, it will generally go better for you.

But there is also something more at the core here than just the practical wise advice. Jesus gets to that in verse 11. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” That is proverbial sounding itself, but it speaks to the heart of the matter. It speaks to the pride of man. It speaks to the selfishness and/or vanity of man that flows from such pride. Humans have struggled with pride down through the ages. It was an issue with Eve in the Garden when Satan told her she could be like God if she ate the forbidden fruit, Genesis 3:5. But she ended up cursed in that prideful disobedience. The Bible continues with various examples of how God humbles prideful people. Remember, King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 who gloried in his political achievements and exalted his heart, and God humbled him to teach him a lesson in humility by giving him a season of insanity. Or think of King Herod in Acts 12 whom people were calling a god, and when Herod didn’t correct them and give God the glory, God struck him with worms and he died. Or remember the young disciple Peter who so arrogantly claimed on the night of Jesus’ arrest that even if everyone else denied Jesus, he wouldn’t. But Jesus rightly predicted that Peter would end up denying him three times that very night. So, pride goes before a fall. As Jesus says, if you exalt yourself, you will be humbled. That is true if you are a guest going to a party or feast. But it is true in general. And it is especially true in the big picture in our relationship with God. God does not want us to arrogantly exalt ourselves, sinners that we are. If we try to exalt ourselves, Jesus’ proverbial words warn us that we may find ourselves in this life humbled by God. And certainly, in the grand scheme of eternity, that will be the case.

Yet, the Bible is also clear that God exalts the humble. We’ll see later in Luke’s gospel, in Luke 18, Jesus’ parable about the tax collector praying to God, saying, “Have mercy on me a sinner.” Jesus says such is the attitude of whom God forgives and justifies. Likewise, as Jesus said in the beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” We find grace and mercy and forgiveness when we come with a humble and contrite heart to seek salvation through faith in Jesus and his atoning sacrifice on the cross for our sin. We mentioned how the disciple Peter learned the opposite lesson in his threefold denial of Jesus. But he also found himself restored by Christ as he returned humbly to Jesus. Peter himself, would later write, in 1 Pet. 5:6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” Again, we can think of how our humility in this life can lead to our being exalted in the context of picking a seat at a banquet. But Jesus would have us to also see the bigger picture and in the grand scheme of eternity to see the call to come humbly before God, sinners as we are, that he might forgive us and lift us up.

So then, in this first point we’ve seen a lesson to guests that has both an immediate application, but also a larger application for all of life and into eternity. Let us now turn to our second point and see a lesson Jesus then gives to hosts. This is verses 12-15. Verse 12 starts with Jesus addressing the host of the specific feast that he was attending that day. Notice how the host is described there. He’s described as the one inviting the guests. That’s the reverse of the lesson he had just given. In our first point he addressed the guests, in other words, those who were invited by the host. Now, he addresses those who are inviting the guests, in other words, the host. In a rather personal tone, his lesson to the current host is addressing him in the second person singular, not the second person plural. In other words, Jesus is talking very directly to him. Of course, we can take this lesson and apply it in general to anyone hosting such a party. But Jesus here speaks very personally to him, the host of that party he is at that day.

Jesus’ lesson then to hosts is basically to invite people who can’t pay you back. Don’t invite your friends and family or your rich neighbors. Invite the poor and crippled and the not well-off people. I think we should note that this is not some moral absolute command. In other words, I don’t think you are sinning if you get married and you invite your friends and family. In fact, I think ordinarily you should invite them! But Jesus uses this to teach a lesson about being rewarded for good deeds. If you throw a party for someone and they throw a party for in return, you really come away at a wash. As Jesus says elsewhere, you received your reward in this life. But if you do something good to others who are not able to reciprocate, then God will see that good deed and reward you.

But notice when Jesus says the reward will come. Verse 14 says you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just. And so unlike in the first point, this lesson is not so much about practical wisdom for here and now. While you likely will make some unlikely friends by generously blessing them with such a party, Jesus isn’t promising some utility here and now for doing this. That’s often how people want to think about godliness and good deeds. They want to think in terms of reward and blessing here and now. They think they will do good deeds right now, and that God will see them and bless them with a reward here and now. Now, sometimes God does do that. When King Solomon asked God for wisdom instead of riches and long life, God rewarded him with not only wisdom but also riches and honor. God then promised Solomon that if they keep living faithfully, that God would also bless him with long life. So, there are examples in the Bible of God rewarding good deeds even here and now. But the Bible also shows that often we don’t find that reward here and now. But Jesus here promises that the reward will ultimately come. Ultimately and especially such reward will come in the glory of the age to come in the resurrection life.

Let me add an important caveat and clarification here about God’s reward of our good deeds. We need to connect that with the previous point about humility. Whatever good deeds we do in this life are ultimately but our duty to God. And whatever good deeds that we do in this life, is ultimately because God’s Spirit has been working in our hearts to bear such fruit of godliness. And whatever good deeds we do in this life, we know that we still sin regularly in different ways. And whatever good deeds we do in this life, we know that no amount of good deeds can make up for all the bad deeds we have already done in our life. So, when thinking about our good deeds in this life and the reward that would come in the resurrection life, we should have great humility. We shouldn’t go to God boasting of our good deeds and demanding a reward. No, it is for us to come humbly before him, saying that at best we’ve done our duty, and in all we need mercy and the forgiveness of sins found in Jesus Christ. And yet, it is our gracious Heavenly Father’s good pleasure to reward you even for the imperfect good things you do in this life. In other words, in this category of good deeds, let us humble ourselves before God and leave it to him to exalt us.

So then, while we take this second point and connect it with the humility Jesus commended in the first point, let us not miss Jesus’ point here. Let us be growing in doing good deeds and showing generosity to others here and now, especially being intentional to do so to people who can’t reciprocate. Let us especially have this zeal because of the glory that awaits us in the age to come. There will come a day when the dead are raised. The wicked will be raised unto eternal damnation. But those accounted righteous in Christ will be raised unto eternal life into a kingdom of great glory.

This leads then to our third point to consider Jesus’ parable of the Great Banquet in verses 15-24. Hopefully you can appreciate the development here through the day at this party that Jesus was attending. Jesus began talking in our first point especially about here and now, but hinting at the future. In the second point he didn’t just hint, he turned to explicitly say to live here and now in light of the future. That this leads in verse 15 for someone at the party to exclaim, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” So, the guests there at that party were getting the message. Jesus got people to look ahead to a future time of glory. Whether they fully appreciated yet when and how that would look like, we don’t know. Then again, we ourselves only have a partial understanding of what that future will look like. But one day, when Christ returns, then he will raise everyone from the dead. Then there will be that final judgment. Those saved in Christ will be ushered into the consummate kingdom of God in the new creation. There we will be in a wonderful paradise with God forever. We can say a number of things of what such glory will look like. Surely, there will be lots of worshipping of God going on. But we are reminded here in this passage that there will also be lots of partying. Holy, godly, wonderful, and joyous partying. Not the pagan, bad kind. But some wonderful righteous feasting and celebrating with our Lord. Every one of the old covenant feasts looks ahead to such feasting in glory. Every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper under the new covenant also does as well. Isn’t it exciting to think about having such fellowship in the future? And God will be the host.

Notice then how Jesus responds to the man who makes this joyous exclamation in verse 15. In classic Jesus fashion, he doesn’t just give a simple answer, like “Amen”, or “Yes, you are right, it will be wonderful.” Instead, he turns it into a teaching moment with this parable of the Great Banquet. Again, a very straightforward parable, meaning that he gives a banqueting parable to teach about banqueting, albeit a heavenly banqueting.

So then, Jesus describes a host who is planning a great banquet. This is going to be some big party! The host gives the customary invitations and following custom then later lets them know when it everything is all ready. But then, one by one, everyone gives their excuses for why they can’t now come at the last minute. If you’ve ever thrown a big party, hopefully you’ve never had all your guests cancel at the last minute. But you probably have had some people cancel on you at the last minute, and even when they have a good excuse it can still be frustrating. If you go to a lot of trouble to throw a big party for people, planning and prepping for days, or maybe even weeks, or maybe even longer, and then the day finally comes and everyone starts cancelling, you will be disappointed, frustrated, or maybe both.

So that is what Jesus envisions in this parable. The host then has a plan. He invites all the poor and crippled and needy people to the party – you know the kind Jesus was talking about in our second point, the kind who could never pay you back. The host does that, but there is still room. So he calls for an even further search out on the highways and hedges to bring them to the party too. These probably should be understood as the undesirables. People you wouldn’t probably want to come over to your house. The host says bring even them too! Fill my party!

Verse 24 is key then here. A reason the host is so zealous to fill his party is a judgment against all those people who were invited and spurned the invitation. Should they later realize how amazing of a party it really is, and want to end up trying to come, they will be turned away. There won’t be any room left for them.

It’s interesting that this last parable that day at that party again spoke to the guests — those who would be invited to a feast. It calls them to recognize a good invitation when it comes and not to neglect it. Jesus is speaking now of a heavenly banquet, as we’ve said. Who then are those people Jesus might be trying to warn? Well, we can think that this is a message that has universal application. That to whomever God calls unto Christ, may you not reject him and his kingdom that he invites you into. But at the time you might especially think of how he speaks to the Jewish people who really were the first invited people in a sense. Yet when many of them reject Jesus’ invitation, he will bring his invitation into his kingdom to all the nations. We might also point out that the New Testament records that many of the rich and well-off people, tended to be those who rejected Jesus’ invitation, while often it was the poor and needy who were glad to receive it. Ultimately, it will be the poor in spirit, who recognize their need for Jesus and his heavenly kingdom with its treasures, that will heed that invitation.

Trinity Presbyterian Church, there is still room today to come into the kingdom and be a part of the heavenly banquet of feasting in the future. We have only begun to know what glory will look like. I look forward to the worship, for sure. I suspect there even will be still be opportunities to work and labor in good ways that aren’t the burden like they are now. But there will also be feasting and celebrating and much joy. How it will all work out, I don’t know. But I look forward to it. May each feast you enjoy in this life call you to look to such eschatological feasting. And that means, may you in faith receive Christ and live life here and now in preparation for the glory of the coming kingdom.


Copyright © 2022 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.


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