Responding to God’s invitation

Then the master said to his servant, Go out into all the roads and paths and force the people who are there to come in, for my house must be full. For I tell you, none of those who have been invited will enjoy my banquet.” Luke 14:23-24

Once upon a time there was a man holding a big banquet and he invited many people. Just before the banquet began, he ordered his servant to summon the guests. But those who had been invited all refused to come. Some said he had just bought a field and had to go see it. Another said that he had bought five pairs of cows and had to go try them out in the fields. And yet another said that he was newly married and therefore could not come. The servant then went home and conveyed all this to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and ordered his servants to go out into all the streets and alleys of the city and take the poor and the crippled and the blind and the lame. The host wanted his house to be full.

Here Jesus describes the offer of the gospel, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. The Jews emphatically rejected the offer God made to them through His prophets. This parable shows that the Kingdom of God is open to everyone, not just the Jews.

Those who ended up coming to the banquet were people outside the Jewish nation, who were considered inferior. They are the sick, the weak, and the suffering. They are people in need of salvation, and without God’s grace will not be able to meet God. It was only because of God’s freely offered gift that they were chosen to enter the banquet.

What did Jesus mean by “None of those who have been invited will enjoy my banquet”? Jesus invites His listeners to repent and believe in the good news preached by Him. But many Jews refused His invitation. It is possible for us to refuse His invitation, as many Jews do. In this case, Jesus declared that those who refused God’s invitation to receive salvation were guilty of rejecting it and would not be able to meet Him.

Who are those who respond to the call and accept Christ in faith? Jesus c “forced” to come. These are all that the Father has chosen in Christ since before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:4). Only these elect will be the crowd of the redeemed when Christ returns in glory. God’s eternal choice ensures they will respond to the call with humility.

What is the main lesson Jesus has for us in this shocking and disturbing parable? First, not a few people reject God’s call through His messenger. Those who do not want to hear the news of salvation delivered by the servant of God. Those who go to church just to socialize, or those who completely reject Christian teachings. God will hold accountable those who reject the call on the day of judgment.

Second, Jesus wants us to realize that there are more subtle ways to reject the call. A person may just make small talk to accept Jesus’ call but never really pay attention to what the call has to offer. What will happen to us if this happens? The bad news is that we don’t have the power within ourselves to change our resisting heart. The good news is that God is willing to change the hearts of rebellious people by the invincible power of His Spirit. In this case, it is God who determines who He chooses, in the way and at the time He has determined.

For those of us who are not Jews, from the verse above we know why we are given the privilege to enter into the blessings that God promised to His chosen people, Israel. However, this is not a verse that mocks the Jews for their unbelief and that praises the Gentiles for their greater intelligence, as evidenced by their faith in Jesus. The Gentiles were those who were forced to come, from the highways and lanes. They are, as it were, “bums” along the way.

We can see the interaction between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. The above verse links the failure of the Israelites to enter into the blessings of God’s kingdom with their refusal to accept the invitation given to them. Luke does not tell us that the Jews were kept out of the kingdom by God’s choice, but by their own choice. On the other hand,the salvation of the Gentiles was not linked to their choice, but to divine decree. The sovereignty of God is thus emphasized with regard to salvation, and the responsibility of man with regard to judgment.

In the verse above, God gives us an invitation to “come to dine at His house,” as it were, to become members of His kingdom, to sit at His table forever. We are forgiven of our sins and justified before Him through the work of Christ, and with that we are free to enjoy intimate fellowship with Him. Accepting Jesus at His invitation means gaining the right to enter. On the other hand, rejecting Jesus, or even delaying the decision to accept Him, is the cause of eternal separation from Him and His kingdom.

If we have responded to Jesus’ call with repentance and faith, it is not because of our efforts. It happens only because God has first worked in us to transform us into His people in Christ. Without God’s grace we can only reject all of God’s calls and choose worldly pleasures that lead to death. Salvation is really only by the grace of God. This truth can make us uneasy, but Jesus wants to make us think deeply about our lives for a reason. He wants us to find salvation and live in Him alone, which is by grace alone. And only in Christ can we find eternal and unshakable salvation.

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