THE DANGER OF HAVING DINNER WITH JESUS
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 24, 2018
1 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. 2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4 But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5 And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 6 And they could not reply to these things.
7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
— Luke 14:1-24, ESV
When profiles of people appear in newspapers or websites, a common question is asked. If you could have dinner with any person from any time, who would you invite? Appearing on most lists are the names of movie stars, famous athletes, U.S. presidents, and once in a while, Jesus Christ.
But you’d better think twice before asking Jesus to your dinner party. The Pharisees did, and our Lord proved to be a most unruly guest. He offended the hosts and insulted the invitees, all to make salient points about the kingdom of God. See for yourself, and learn, the dangers and joys of having dinner with Jesus.
Jesus Broke The House Rules
You should know by now that among Christ’s enemies, the Pharisees were chief. Yet when they extended a dinner party invitation to our Lord, He accepted. Servants of Christ must be willing to go just about anywhere, anytime, to talk to anybody about the gospel. Jesus the rule-breaker breaks ground on one of His new rules for His followers here. Love your enemies.
But do not be intimidated by them. On this occasion, Jesus also could not resist breaking one of their many man-made rules. The Pharisees had taken Sabbath keeping to ridiculous extremes, even denying help and healing to people because such activity was considered by them unlawful work on the Sabbath. Jesus scoffed at the Pharisees, healed a sick man, then dared them to complain about it. Course one was served.
We cannot go around breaking rules just because they are not God’s. But we should smash to smithereens rules that are patently offensive to God and harmful to people. In our right hands should be love for God and His word, and in our left hands compassion for people and their problems. Get a grip on this and your life will be Christ-like and well spent, even though there may be the occasional embarrassing situation at dinner.
Jesus Embarrassed The Guests
After offending the hosts, the second course of the meal finds Jesus insulting the guests. The Lord had arrived early, then watched the other guests as they came in and scrambled for the best seats. After everyone was seated, Jesus told them a story that exposed their pride and promoted godly humility.
John Calvin said, “The human heart is an idol factory.” Indeed it is, and the supreme idol is self. We want the best for ourselves, the best clothes, the best car, the best seat at the table. But sometimes the way to the top is found at the bottom.
General admission tickets were sold for an infamous Who concert in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1979. In a rush to get the best seats, eleven people were crushed or trampled to death. Would you rather be last and live, or insist on being first, and die?
With all due respect to the relative innocents at the rock concert and the guilty diners at the Pharisees’ party, Jesus’ serving of the second course is a summary of Christianity. High is low, low is high. Christianity is not about getting (hello out there, all you televangelists), but about giving.
What have you given up so that other people can have a seat at Jesus’ table? A career, a few dollars, a little swallowing of pride, a little embarrassment at the risk of extending and invitation to someone to come to Christ or His church? Such are subtle ways to take the back seats, which may eventually place you on the front row, according to Jesus.
Jesus Criticized the Guest List
Now that Jesus has offended everybody, we move on to the third course of the meal. This time the criticism is aimed at the head Pharisee, the man whose home Jesus had come to dine. This is getting very awkward.
Christ’s lesson for the leader was pointed. Quit doing good deeds with bad motives. It is a good thing to make dinner for others, so just do it. But don’t do it in order that you may gain something in return. Quid pro quo is the motif for modern life, but it is maxim unfit for the kingdom of God.
This barb also highlights another principle of kingdom life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Society in Jesus’ day had turned a blind eye to “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” Jesus said we should put both eyes upon them and invite them to dinner. And even in our jaded age and welfare state, doing something for some is better than doing nothing for all.
We do not have to risk our safety by picking up hitchhikers or get bamboozled by the panhandler on the corner, but we cannot leave ministry to our misguided government. There are good ways and fine organizations that bring poor people to the table, and Christians must take their place in the kitchen that serves them with food, clothing, shelter, and especially the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Boasted of a Better Dinner Party
Now that everyone is equally uncomfortable, it is time for dessert. Jesus saves the ultimate insult for last. This dinner party is okay, Jesus said, but mine is much better! Then, He goes on to point out why most people won’t get in.
God loves the whole world, and for two thousand years He has been inviting everyone to attend His banquet, the marriage supper of the Lamb (ref. Revelation 19:9). In the short parable that closes this dinner party, Jesus crushes the excuses made by lost people and tells them they will only have themselves to blame for being shut out of Heaven.
Some people won’t come to Christ because of their land, or other earthly possessions. Who buys land without checking it out first? It was just a lame excuse. People make similar excuses on Sundays, and everyday, instead of whole-heartedly following Jesus. People who love their stuff more than the kingdom of God will perish with the former and be shut out of the latter.
Some people won’t come to Christ because of their oxen, or other earthly means of position or power. Oxen are necessary for work, and this man put his work before Christ and His kingdom. So do most people in our present world. Statistics show were are working more and more hours, while church attendance is adhered to less and less. Going to church won’t necessarily get you to heaven, but one cannot inherit the kingdom of God without responsible membership in Christ’s church.
Some people won’t come to Christ because of their husband or wife, children, or other people. At least this is a better excuse than the other two, but it is the saddest story of all. I love humanitarians, because humanitarians love people. They sacrifice their own lives for the sake of family, friends, even strangers. But without the grace of God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the noblest of all family life and charity work is in vain. We know there will be evil people in Hell, but there will also be a multitude of really good husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brother and sisters, who had their priorities in order, except for number one.
There is a great danger in having dinner with Jesus, if you have not repented and believed the gospel. There is great joy, however, at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Eternal life, the new Heaven and new earth, the kingdom of God is for fully devoted followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. This good news has been served at this dinner party, and it will be made even plainer in the next paragraph in Luke’s Gospel.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org