An Eternal Thanksgiving Feast

Have you shopped for your Thanksgiving food yet? Some of us will bring something to share, like a potluck, to make the work easier. Others will single-handedly prepare everything for dinner, from turkey to dessert, which can be a monumental task. In our town, more than a few restaurants offer a carry-out Thanksgiving meal or an elaborate feast that will satisfy even the pickiest eaters. Still, others will serve meals to those who are homeless or unable to afford the prices of goods now, especially as inflation has done its work in our grocery stores. What do you look forward to most, the food, fellowship, or service to others? Thanksgiving unites people in that it is considered a non-religious holiday, to eat and watch football together. But is that how God would have us view and enjoy Thanksgiving? Our passage from Luke’s gospel concerns a parable about feasting. Luke 14 opens this way: “One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully” (Luke 14:1). After Jesus healed a man of dropsy, he used two parables about feasting to teach the Pharisees about the true kingdom of God, to correct their notions about the character of true eternal life. But, “the Jews had entertained very gross notions…concerning feasting in the world to come, in the kingdom of the Messiah…They suppose that God will make a splendid feast, a sumptuous entertainment; in which…there will be great variety of flesh, fish, and fowl, plenty of generous wine, and all sorts of delicious fruit: particularly they speak of a large ox, and old wine kept in the grape from the creation of the world, which will then be drank; and of the rich fruits of the garden of Eden, that will then be served up: such gross and carnal notions have they entertained of the world to come.” (1) But, in God’s kingdom, Christ blesses everyone and anyone who receives him with spiritual feasting. As we prepare for Thanksgiving, let’s also feast on Christ’s gospel, blessed with eternal, spiritual food far superior to any earthly food.

The Believers’ Feast

Jesus used a parable of a great wedding feast to teach humility to the Jewish rulers sitting in places of honor at the ruler’s house. Before he told the next feasting parable, he said, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:15) “‘Blessed is everyone who will eat’ seems to be a common saying, possibly intended here to change the uncomfortable subject—i.e., to shift the focus away from the need to care for the poor and the infirm. ‘In the kingdom of God’ points to the future messianic banquet, to which the people of Jesus’ day would have understood only godly Jews would be invited. Jesus, however, uses the [following] parable to teach his listeners, contrary to their expectations, that the guests invited originally will miss the banquet and will be replaced instead by ‘the poor and crippled and blind and lame’ and the outsiders (the Gentiles) found in the ‘highways and hedges.’” (2) Here’s the parable: “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 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.’ 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.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 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.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 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. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.'” (Luke 16-24) “Two invitations would have been involved. The first would have concerned reservations for the banquet and would have been given well in advance. The second invitation would have been given on the day of the banquet, announcing that the time for the banquet had come and everything was ready. Although the guests had been invited well in advance, they began to make excuses—failing to see that the kingdom is now here, and that God is inviting people to participate in its great blessings.” (3) Unlike our “save the date” notices for events, the original guests RSVP’ed to the first invitation indicating that they would attend the feast and then changed their minds at the last minute, making other things a priority. “If a person accepted the first invitation, but, when the second invitation was given, then declined, this was considered to be a grave insult. Grave enough to be grounds for waging war…[But] Jesus isn’t just talking about oriental protocol or about invitations to feasts. He is talking to the leaders of the Jewish nation, who have just rejected him. God had been pleading with Israel for centuries. The first invitation had gone out years previously to enter into the feast of heaven. And now the servant of God, God’s Son himself, comes with that second invitation to say that the feast is ready and it is time to attend. But the response of the Pharisees was to make flimsy excuses as to why they could not embrace the kingdom of God.” (4)

Regarding Christ’s Invitation Rightly

Hopefully, we will spend next week’s holiday giving thanks to God for blessings in 2022, along with feasting, fellowship, and football. As believers who will feast with Christ in his kingdom, we should also give thanks for God’s grace rightly, not lightly, with appropriate appreciation and thanksgiving. James Boice points out that “God must be honored…The persons who came to the wedding were more grateful than the first invited might have been if they had come. The richer sort had a good dinner every day. Those farmers could always kill a fat sheep, and those merchants could always buy a calf. ‘Thank you for nothing,’ they would have said to the king if they had accepted his invitation. But these poor beggars picked off the streets…welcomed the fatlings. How glad they were! One of them said to the other, ‘It’s a long time since you and I last sat down to such a joint as this,’ and the other answered, ‘I can hardly believe that I am really in a palace dining with a king. Why, yesterday I begged all the day and only had twopence at night. Long live the king, say I, and blessings on the prince and his bride!’ The joy that day was much more expressed than it would have been had others come. Those ladies and gentlemen who were first invited, if they had come to the wedding, would have seated themselves there in a very stiff and proper manner…But these beggars! They make a merry clatter; they are not muzzled by propriety; they are glad at the sight of every dish…And, the occasion became more famous than it would otherwise have been. If the feast had gone on as usual it would have been only one among many such things; but now this royal banquet was the only one of its kind, unique, unparalleled…Everybody talked of it. There were songs made about it, and these were sung in the King’s honor where none honored kings before…Dear friends, when the Lord saved some of us by his grace, it was no common event. When he brought us great sinners to his feet, and washed us, and clothed us, and fed us, and made us his own, it was a wonder to be talked of for ever and ever. We will never leave off praising his name throughout eternity. That which looked as though it would defame the King turned out to his honor, and ‘the wedding was furnished with guests’…[in] the Book of Revelation…the redeemed people of God engage in holy, hearty, heartfelt praise to him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb forever.” (5) We are among those whom Christ blesses with spiritual feasting, blessed to have eternal, spiritual food far superior to any earthly food. “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:9)

Related Scripture: Proverbs 9:3-6; Isaiah 25:6; Matthew 22:2-14; Luke 13:29-30; 22:28-30.

Notes:

1. Gill, John, John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Luke 14:15, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/geb/luke-14.html

2. English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Luke 14:15, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.

3. ESV Study Bible, Ibid, Luke 14:16-24.

4. Sproul, R. C., A Walk with God—An Exposition of Luke’s Gospel, Luke 14:15-25, Revised Edition, Christian Focus, 2011.

5. Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Matthew 22:1-10, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.

November 10, 2022

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: