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Conversations at the Dinner Table with Jesus

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Luke 14:1–24

Our relationship to the Lord can be measured by the compassion, humility, and grace we exhibit in our daily lives.


Martin Luther, the reformer, was not only bold and brilliant, but at the same time he was down to earth—he made the Bible understandable. His dining room table was typically surrounded with religious leaders, political leaders, university students, and neighbors. His conversations with them were interesting, convicting, and encouraging. They were also dangerous because he challenged the religious traditions of his day.

Many of his conversations were written down and were eventually published in 1624, 78 years after he died. The book is simply called, The Table Talk of Martin Luther. It’s been republished many times during the past 400 years. In fact, I opened my copy and read through some of his statements there at his dinner table—like this one:

We have neglected . . . the pure and clear Word [of God], and have . . . gone from the clear fountain to the foul puddle [of] filthy water [taught by] monks and friars.[1]

You can imagine the problem this little book created for the Catholic Church. Pope Gregory XIII ordered Table Talk to be burned as heresy and anyone hiding a copy of it was to be burned to death, right along with the book.[2]

Martin Luther was simply doing what the Lord Jesus was doing at the dinner table—reintroducing the clean water of biblical truth.

Jesus is now eating with religious leaders, disciples, and neighbors. Here in Luke chapter 14, the Lord has accepted a dinner invitation to a meal. Luke writes in verse 1 that it was at the “house of a ruler of the Pharisees.” There is a man suffering from a disease who is evidently near the front door. This suggests that he was planted there to see if the Lord would heal him and, in the opinion of the Pharisees, violate the Sabbath day. The man is described in verse 2 as having “dropsy.” This is a condition in which the body swells with excess fluids.[3]

While everyone watches, sure enough, the Lord heals this man and sends him on his way. Jesus then turns to the religious leaders and says 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?” (verse 5).

Well, the answer is obvious. They would do everything in their power to save their son and their farm animals. Verse 6 says, “They could not reply to these things.” Of course they can’t, but they are not going to admit Jesus is right either.

Well, now that He has got their attention, Jesus takes the opportunity to teach them something else. He had observed that when they arrived at this dinner banquet, they had all scrambled for places of honor, which would have been near the host of this meal.

So, Jesus now tells a parable about a wedding feast. To summarize it, Jesus says the one who sits down in a place of honor might end up being humiliated when the host asks him to give up his seat when a more distinguished guest arrives. On the other hand, the one who chooses a seat in the back is going to be honored before everyone if the host invites him to move to a more honorable location.

Jesus knows where the sensitive nerve is—and, quite frankly, He pokes it with this parable. Jesus concludes the parable in verse 11, saying, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Listen, beloved, this principle is not just for them; it is also for you and me. God will humble those who seek to honor themselves. Those who humble themselves before the Lord will be exalted before Him.

Now in verse 12, the Lord speaks to the man hosting this dinner party. Jesus points out that inviting important friends and guests will certainly get him invitations to their dinner parties in the future. However, if he truly wants the blessing of God, Jesus tells him, “Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you” (verses 13-14). In other words, they will never be able to invite you over and effectively pay you back.

This kind of invitation list reveals someone who demonstrates the heart of God, someone who is humble and compassionate. Jesus then promises that at the coming resurrection, God will reward that kind of attitude toward others.

Somebody at this dinner party speaks up and says, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (verse 15). He is basically assuming that all these religious leaders—if not every member of the nation of Israel—is going to enjoy eating dinner in the kingdom.

Jesus answers that wrong assumption by telling another parable. He says in verse 16, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.” Now let me stop here and tell you that a feast in these days was quite an undertaking. Invitations were sent out far in advance, and normally the day of the event was announced, but not the exact time. Once the host heard back who planned on attending, his household spent several days preparing the food.

So, when those steaks were just about ready to take off the grill and those mashed potatoes were about ready for a spoonful of butter—by the way, this is the kind of meal I would have attended—the host would send out a servant to all who had accepted the invitation and tell them it was time to start making their way to his home.

But Jesus describes the host’s servant coming back from running around the village and telling his master, “You won’t believe it! All those who said they were coming, aren’t coming. One fellow said, ‘I have bought a field, and I have to go see it.’ Another said, ‘I’ve bought some oxen I need to examine,” and still another, “I just got married!”

All of these were not only terrible excuses; they were essentially lies. You don’t buy a field without looking at it first; you don’t buy oxen and then go take a look at them. And you don’t say, “Well, I just got married,” as if to imply your wife will not let you leave the house—it’s all her fault.

These lame excuses indicate they really do not care about the banquet, and—worse—they really do not care about the host. They show absolutely no respect for him.

With that, the host in Jesus’ parable sends his servant out to invite others—namely, “the poor and crippled and blind and lame” (verse 21). As for those people who were originally invited, the host says in verse 24, “None of those men . . . shall taste my banquet.”

Now this parable happens to be a national warning not to reject the grace of God. God invited Israel to repent and trust Him. But these religious leaders—and the nation as a whole—are ignoring the invitation and have no respect for the Son of God. They have nothing but lame excuses.

Let me ask you something: Are you rejecting the invitation of God to come to the banquet table of salvation? If so, what is your excuse?

  • I’m too young; I want to live my life for a while.
  • I’m too old; it’s too late to admit I have been wrong.
  • I’m going to have to give up sinful pleasures if I follow Christ.
  • I don’t need saving; I’m better than a lot of people I know who go to church.[4]

All terrible excuses for rejecting God’s gracious invitation.

Will you one day sit at the table of feasting and joy in the Lord’s coming kingdom? I hope you will—you have been invited, by the way. Let me encourage you to accept His invitation today. Send in your RSVP by faith in Christ alone—and do that today.

[1] Martin Luther, Table Talk, trans. William Hazlitt (Christian Classics Ethereal Library, n.d.), 37-38.

[2] Ibid., 2.

[4] Ivor Powell, Luke’s Thrilling Gospel (Kregel, 1984), 325.

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