The Gospel Feast!
William Nicholson, 1862
"When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, 'Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God!'
Jesus replied: A certain man was preparing a great feast and invited many guests. At the time of the feast he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' But they all alike began to make excuses!" Luke 14:15-18
When Christ uttered this parable, he was dining at the table of a Pharisee of distinction, in a large company of the same description and character. One of the company observed what a blessed thing it would be to eat bread in the kingdom of God, to live in the times of the Messiah, and enjoy the blessings of his reign.
The design of Christ in this parable was to declare that though the remark was a very just one — yet multitudes among them had such mistaken carnal views of the nature of Messiah's kingdom, that when the blessings of it were laid before them, they would dislike and reject them, and make every excuse for the rejection of his favors. The effect of which would be their exclusion from the blessings of his kingdom, and the offer of those blessings to the very refuse of mankind, as they esteemed them. The familiar image of a great gospel feast refers to the intrinsic, inestimable blessings of the Gospel salvation.
"On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine — the best of meats and the finest of wines!" Isaiah 25:6
I. The Gospel Feast, or Banquet.
1. This Feast is necessary. No one deserves it, but all need it, and grace has provided it. The natural circumstances of man are those of guilt, condemnation, impotency, vile wretchedness, and misery!
2. This Feast has been graciously prepared by the God of grace. It is "of his own eternal purpose and grace, given in Christ Jesus before the world began." The Gospel comes from God, and he says, "Come, for all things are ready!" All the former dispensations were designed to prepare for the great final feast. All the great inspired characters who preceded Christ, the patriarchs and prophets, were sent and employed to collect materials and ingredients for the Gospel table.
The prophetic references to Messiah in early days;
the promises to Abraham, etc.;
the whole Mosaic ritual;
the types and ceremonies of the law;
the predictions of the prophets, etc., etc.,
are to be considered as preparatory ingredients of the Gospel Feast, to be put at last, in their mature, refined, complete state, on the Messiah's table, and compose the grand feast of eternal salvation!
Great entertainments upon a large scale, and intended for a vast number of guests, take a long time, and employ many hands in preparation, before the tables are spread, etc. So it was here. The whole series of preceding dispensations were a course of preparation for the great gospel banquet of salvation. But when Christ, the master of the feast, came, the state of preparation was complete; the entertainments fully ready; the tables spread and covered, and nothing remained, but that the guests should take their places, and partake of his bounty!
3. This provision is suitable to the needs of the sinner. It is quite applicable to his case; and this displays the wisdom of the Master of the feast. Here is . . .
a sufficient atonement for guilty man,
a full and free pardon,
deliverance from condemnation,
liberty for the captive,
light for the blind,
peace and comfort for the distressed,
strength for the weak,
victory for the tempted, and
hope of Heaven for the outcast.
Let the hungry, thirsty, diseased sinner come to this feast, and he shall find suitable blessings for his wants.
4. The provision of this feast is abundant. It is not like earthly provisions, which are soon exhausted by expenditure.
The Paschal Lamb;
the bread of life;
the wine of the kingdom;
the water of life —
shall never be exhausted. Our great High Priest has obtained an unchangeable priesthood. "He ever lives to make intercession for us." "In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." "We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ!" etc.
Look at his atonement, and see the abundance of the provision. "Behold the Lamb of God," etc. "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full!" John 10:10.
Look at the doctrine of divine influence — the Holy Spirit with all his enlightening, quickening, saving, and comforting power.
Look at those precious promises, suspended like clusters of richness and glory from the cross, the tree of life.
"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off." The holy people under the Old Testament tasted them like a few premature grapes, at the early part of the vintage. But when the great Lord of the vineyard came, the promises hung in all the richness of ripe clusters of pardon, acceptance, and salvation, ready for use and enjoyment.
Before it was said, "On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity!" Zechariah 13:1 When Christ came, that fountain was opened, "On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice: If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." John 7:37-38
What a privilege to have an abundance of that which we absolutely need and desire!
A miser loves gold, and eagerly pants for it, but he cannot have access to an inexhaustible mine.
The epicure loves delicacies, but he lacks abundance.
5. This feast has been provided at an infinite expense. What did it cost the Savior? "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect!" 1 Peter 1:18-19
6. Nevertheless it is freely offered. What is the Gospel, but a system of grace and mercy to sinners, freely offered. It is "by grace you are saved." We are not obliged to get rid of our sin, before we can hope for forgiveness and acceptance; for, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst!" 1 Timothy 1:15
We are not to weigh ourselves, and to determine how bad we are, how guilty, how depraved, and whether we have sinned so far as to consider ourselves past all hope. "And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men," etc. "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them!" Hebrews 7:25.
We are not to stay from Christ, until we have made ourselves new creatures and new characters, and have got a better heart, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh!" Ezekiel 36:26
We are not to sit and pore over ourselves to discover any good qualities to recommend us to Christ. "Him who comes unto me, I will never cast away!" "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost!" Isaiah 55:1
And we are not to burden and harass ourselves with attempting to collect or procure anything like an equivalent for the blessings accepted. "The gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus." All the language of Scripture runs in this strain: "I give," "I bestow," "accept," "receive."
II. The Invitation Given to Come and Partake of the Feast.God wills the happiness of his creatures; and nothing can give substantial happiness but a participation of this Gospel feast. Hence he says, "Come, for all things are ready!"
1. This invitation is given ministerially. "He gave to some apostles, prophets teachers" etc., Ephesians 4:11. He has chosen human instruments; they are to declare the whole counsel of God in reference to fallen man, and to exhibit to them the suitability, abundance, etc., of the Gospel feast — inviting them to come.
2. This invitation is to be given to sinners — the Gospel is to be preached to every creature. The Jews were the first objects of invitation — and then the Gentiles. "The same Lord over all is rich unto all," Romans 10:12-13. All are guilty, condemned, and starving. Convince them of their need, and invite them to come.
3. The design of the invitation is the compliance of the sinner. "Come."
What is meant by coming to the feast?
It bespeaks a sense of the necessity and value of the blessings. Coming implies an advancing mind towards the blessings. This is beautifully expressed, "Look unto me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth!" etc. "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life!" John 3:14-15. As the dying Israelites were cured by looking at the brazen serpent — we see in them a type of our looking unto Jesus for salvation.
It also implies persevering application. To accept an invitation to a feast is actually to come and knock at the door for admission to it, and this is, from the nature of the case, connected with acceptance. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7-8. "Jesus answered her: If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." John 4:10
Coming is asking, applying for the blessings, putting in a humble claim for them, pleading the nature of the relief, the promises, the grace of the Gospel. It is faith in Christ.
III. The Rejection of This Invitation."But they all alike began to make excuses!" This rejection arises,
1. From the depravity of the heart. It is opposed to that which is spiritual. "The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so!" Romans 8:7. "A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised!"1 Corinthians 2:14.
2. It arises from ignorance. Ignorance of the need of such gracious provision — of the rich value, suitability, abundance, and blessed effects of such provision.
3. The mind is preoccupied with other things, to which it gives a decided preference. "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'" Luke 14:18-20
They rejected Christ's gracious offer, because of the business of the world, the love of the creature, etc. The mind idolizes these things, regards them as supreme — while the glorious and substantial realities of the Gospel are rejected. Awful delusion! How many act in the same way!
Some plead youth, etc. etc.,
Some intend to come shortly, etc. etc.
"But they all alike began to make excuses!"
4. Such excuses frequently end in final rejection by God, and absolute loss of Gospel blessings. "But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you — when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. "Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes!" Proverbs 1:24-31
5. And such rejection will incur the displeasure and wrath of the great Master of the feast. "I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet!" Luke 14:24
1. Admire the love of God in appointing and inviting to such a gospel feast.
2. See wherein the whole essence of the Christian life may be said to consist. In a constant series of applications for Gospel blessings, as the free and sovereign gifts of God, and acceptance of them over and over, day by day.
3. The dreadful consequences of rejecting the Gospel, should cause the sinner to tremble.