Thursday, June 26, 2014

Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32 Teaching Outline)

Introduction: As I was studying to teach on this passage I came across this entry from Our Daily Bread:
A sociologist was writing a book about the difficulties of growing up in a large family, so he interviewed the mother of 13 children. After several questions, he asked, “Do you think all children deserve the full, impartial love and attention of a mother?”
“Of course,” said the mother.
“Well, which of your children do you love the most?” he asked, hoping to catch her in a contradiction.
She answered, “The one who is sick until he gets well, and the one who is away until he gets home.”
That mother's response reminds me of the shepherd who left 99 sheep to seek the one that was lost (Luke 15:4), the woman who searched for the one coin (v. 8), and the father who threw a party when his wayward son returned (vv. 22-24).
The religious leaders of Jesus' day resented the way He gave so much attention to sinners (vv. 1-2). So He told those stories to emphasize God's love for people who are lost in sin. God has more than enough love to go around. Besides, those who are “well” and are not “lost” experience the Father's love as fully as those to whom He gives special attention (v. 31).
Father, forgive us for feeling slighted when You shower Your love on needy sinners. Help us to see how needy we are and to abide in Your boundless love. (Mart De Haan, Who Gets the Love? September 23, 2004)
I think this gets the gist of this parable just about right, and I hope we will all want to utter a similar prayer by the time we are finished studying it today. But, as we prepare to examine this parable, we need to remember that it is the third parable in a trilogy and that the context of this parable is therefore the same as that of the preceding two parables in the trilogy. So let's read the opening verses of this chapter again in order to remind ourselves of this context:
NKJ  Luke 15:1-3 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying ….
And then Jesus tells three parables: the Parable of the Lost Sheep, the Parable of the Lost Coin, and, lastly, the Parable of the Lost Son. It is crucial, therefore, that we keep this context in mind as we study this parable, because it provides the key for understanding why Jesus told the parable and what He intended to communicate through it.

It is also helpful to study the parable in a way that highlights the structure given to it by Jesus, since He had a reason for structuring the parable the way He did. He wanted to compare and contrast the relationship of the father in the story with each of his two sons. For this reason, we will examine the parable under two primary headings: 1) The father's relationship to the younger son, and 2) The father's relationship to the older son.

I. The Father's Relationship the the Younger Son

This is the focus of well over half of the parable. In this section we see 1) the younger son's rebellion and repentance, and 2) the father's reaction to the younger son.

1. The Younger Son's Rebellion and Repentance

His rebellion is seen in verses 11-16, where we also see a progressive description of the serious ramifications of his rebellion:
NKJ  Luke 15:11-12a  Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give [Aorist Imperative > δίδωμι] me the portion of goods that falls to me.'”
There are a couple of things here that indicate a rebellious attitude in this younger son.

First, the son doesn't just ask his father for his inheritance, he demands it. The form of the Greek verb translated give is an imperative, a command, which in this context is a very disrespectful way to address his father.

Second, the very fact that this fellow demands his inheritance now rather than upon his father's death indicates his rebellious and disrespectful attitude in at least a couple of ways.
1) It communicates a lack of concern over his father's welfare. If he wants to take a large portion of his father's estate away from him and leave – which for the younger of two sons would have been about a third of his father's money and possessions – then he shows little or no concern for his father's future welfare.
2) It amounts to saying, “I'm really tired of living under your authority and waiting around for you to die.”
His lack of concern for His father is also reflected in his desire to get away from him s soon as possible, as we see in the next verse.
NKJ  Luke 15:13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal [ἀσώτως] living.
The Greek word translated prodigal here in the NKJV is an adverb that speaks of “living in a wild, abandoned manner” and has the idea of living “recklessly, riotously, [or] loosely” (Friberg # 3997, BibleWorks). It pertains to senseless or reckless behavior (Louw & Nida # 88.97, BibleWorks).

Thus, when his older brother later accuses him of having devoured his father's livelihood with harlots, he could have been correct. The point is that this young man got as far away from any familial accountability as he could and blew his entire inheritance on wasteful and ungodly living.
NKJ  Luke 15:14-16 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
Notice that the son's foolish and wasteful living had left him no recourse when famine came other than to become the slave of a foreigner, which is what is indicated by the statement that “he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country” (vs. 15a).

And, if that wasn't bad enough, he ended up tending pigs (vs. 15b), which was a great disgrace for a Jewish man and would have rendered him unclean, just as the tax collectors and sinners in the context of this parable were viewed as unclean by the scribes and Pharisees.

But it got even worse! This young man ended up being treated so badly that he was willing – even glad (vs. 16) – to eat the same food the pigs were eating!

In the final words of verse 16 Jesus stresses just how bad it was for him when He says that “no one gave him anything.” Thankfully, however, this isn't the end of the story! Thankfully we see the younger son's repentance in verses 17-20a, where we see how he came to his senses.
NKJ  Luke 15:17 But when he came to himself [or, as we might say, “when he came to his senses”], he said, “How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!”
Suddenly living under his father's authority didn't seem such a bad idea!
NKJ  Luke 15:18-19 “I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.'”
Here we see that the younger son finally learned some humility. And not only was he now willing to be his father's son again, but he would gladly be one of his father's slaves, thinking himself unworthy of such a father as he now realized that he had.
NKJ  Luke 15:20a And he arose and came to his father.
Aren't you glad that this man didn't just think about repenting, but that he actually followed through in his actions. This will become even more clear when we look at the next portion of the parable.

2. The Father's Reaction to the Younger Son

What we see clearly in this parable is that the Father reacts with love toward the younger son.

First, we have already seen that the father's response to the younger son's rebellion had been a loving response from the beginning. Remember verse 12:
NKJ  Luke 15:12 And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” So he divided to them his livelihood.
The father could rightly have punished his son for such egregious disrespect, but instead he graciously and lovingly granted his demand and divided his livelihood between him and his older brother.

Second, then, we are not surprised to find that the father's response to the younger son's repentance is also a loving response.
NKJ  Luke 15:20b But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
Here we see that the father loved his son so much that he acted in what would have been regarded as a very undignified manner. He didn't make his son come groveling to him so that he might save face in front of everybody else. Instead, we get the idea that he just couldn't help himself when he saw his son on the horizon. No sooner had he recognized who it was than he went running out to him to embrace him and kiss him. His compassion was such that he was overcome with joy, as Jesus will go on to make more explicit.
NKJ  Luke 15:21-24 And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” 22 But the father said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” And they began to be merry.
The son says to his father just what he had felt and planned to say when he was at his lowest point, eating with the swine. And he clearly recognizes that his sin is ultimately sin against God, which is what it he means when he says, “I have sinned against heaven.” Thus his repentance is seen by the father to be genuine, since it shows clear understanding of having wronged God and since it has resulted in his return to his father.

But notice closely the father's response. He ordered the servants to “bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.” This was not the treatment of a slave, which is all the son had expected or now felt worthy of, but was a public acknowledgment that he was indeed to be regarded once again as the man's own son.

Notice also that the father had apparently given his younger son up for dead, but now that he saw he was alive and repentant, he couldn't help but celebrate! And he invited everyone else there to share in his joy and celebrate with him.

So, we find a son who ended up wishing he could be his father's slave, but who was treated even better by being accepted again as his son. This will be in stark contrast to his older brother, who felt that being his father's son was no better than being a slave. And this leads us to next portion of the parable and our second primary heading.

II. The Father's Relationship to the Older Son

This the the focus of the latter seciton of the parable. In this section we see 1) the older son's rage and resentment, and 2) the father's reaction to the older son.

1. The Older Son's Rage and Resentment

The older son's rage is seen in verses 25-28a:
NKJ  Luke 15:25-28a Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.” 28 But he was angry and would not go in.
Notice that his anger over the way his father has acted in receiving his younger brother has left him out of the celebration and joy he could have been experiencing. He too could have been enjoying the fatted calf and the joyful fellowship his father wanted to share with him and with everyone else, but his jealousy and anger robbed him of this opportunity.

The older son's resentment is seen in verses 29-30:
NKJ  Luke 15:29-30 So he answered and said to his father, “Lo, these many years I have been serving [δουλεύω, serve as a slave] you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.”
Notice how the older son resented not just his brother, but most notably his father! He clearly also had a bad attitude toward his father, an attitude that was really no better than the younger son had previously displayed. He had apparently just been hiding it!

Notice also that the older son wasn't as obedient as he claimed to be, because if he was, then he would not have refused to go inside for the celebration along with every one else!

As John Piper observes in his treatment of this text:
There are several clues here that the way he relates to his father is dishonoring to his father and disuniting to his brother and destructive to himself. 
How does he see himself and his father relating? Answer: as master and slave. “Look! For so many years I have been serving you.” “Serving.” The word is for what a servant or a slave does. This is not the identity of a son, but of a slave. “For so many years I have been serving you.” 
Then he says, “And I have never neglected a command of yours.” How does he see his father? As an issuer of commands. He sees the father as a master giving commandments, and himself as a slave paying obedience. This is not the way the father wants his children to relate to him. This is a distortion of Christianity. It is not the Christian life. (The Blinding Effects of Serving God)
I think this gets the picture right. And as we shall see through the words of the father in this story, Jesus is lovingly confronting the attitude of anger and resentment toward God and Himself that He sees in the scribes and Pharisees.

2. The Father's Reaction to the Older Son

What we see clearly in this parable is that the Father reacts with love toward the older son also.

First, the father's response to the older son's rage is a loving response.
NKJ  Luke 15:28 But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded [παρακαλέω] with him.
We are not told what the father might have said to his older son at this point, but we can imagine from the reaction he has had to the younger son's repentance and from what we know he says later. We can imagine that he was trying to get him to forgive his brother even as he himself had done and to be glad that his brother was alright.

Second, the father's response to the older son's resentment is a loving response.
NKJ  Luke 15:31-32 And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right [δεῖ , literally “it was necessary,” ESV = “it was fitting”] that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”
Notice that the father reminds the older son that his own standing hasn't changed just because his brother has been received with forgiveness and joy.

Notice also that the father appeals to his son's professed focus on doing the right thing. His son has essentially told him that he has always done what is right, whereas his younger brother has not. So his father responds by basically saying, “Well, then, do what is right now! If you have always done what is necessary and proper, then why won't you do so now?”

Notice finally that the end of the parable seems to be missing! We are left to wonder what the older brother will do after he has received the correction of his father. This is because the older brother represents the scribes and Pharisees, who have just been corrected by Jesus via this parable and whose response has not yet been seen. I think Jesus leaves the story open-ended in this way in order indicate that the ending is up to them. Jesus is giving them a chance to change their attitudes and actions. Will they or won't they respond as they should?

And, if over that past three weeks you and I have discovered in ourselves a bit too much of the scribe and the Pharisee, what will our response be? How will we end this story as it applies to our own lives?

Conclusion: I began with an illustration from an issue of Our Daily Bread, so perhaps it is fitting that I finish with one:
Mr. Mactavish was gone. I wanted to wait until morning to see if he would come back on his own. But the look on the other family members' faces vetoed that idea. So we climbed into the car to begin looking for our wayward Scottish terrier.
As we drove down street after street, calling his name and peering intently into the darkness, even I became sentimental. What if he got hit by a car? What if someone else picked him up? What if we never saw him again?
We eventually found him. And by the time we did, I was as happy as the rest of the family to see him. Even though he was a mess—mud-soaked and foul-smelling—Mac was a sight for sore eyes. In fact, at that moment my family appeared to be far happier about finding and being with that dirty dog than we were about being with one another.
Does that mean we loved Mac more than we loved one another? Of course not. Neither does showing special affection for a repentant alcoholic, adulterer, or enemy indicate that we love others any less. It means that we have enough of God's love to celebrate with the kind of joy He feels when a dearly loved rebel comes home.
Is your heart full of love for the lost? (Mart De Haan, What Makes You Happy? July 26, 2001)
I think that is a very good question, don't you?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Toward a Biblical Perspective on Depression: Index of Posts

After discussing these articles with some of my church family yesterday, I felt it would be wise to provide an index of all my posts concerning depression so that they will be easier to find. The impetus for the series was my post concerning How the Lord Shepherded Me Through My Wife's Battle With Ovarian Cancer. In this post I spoke of my battles with depression, and the response to this post, together with a request by of the members of my church family at Immanuel Baptist Church, led to my teaching on the subject and to a whole series of blog posts entitled "Toward a Biblical Perspective on Depression." 

The series is essentially just a chronicle of my own journey through the Scriptures over the years as I have dealt with depression and have tried to help others who struggle with the same problem. Here is the list of posts in order:

Toward a Biblical Perspective on Depression: Introduction (This articles lays out the direction of the series and gives an important caveat.)

Toward a Biblical Perspective on Depression: Case Study #1 (This article examines the case of Cain.)

Toward a Biblical Perspective on Depression: Case Study #2 (This article examines the case of Job.)

Toward a Biblical Perspective on Depression: Case Study #3 (This article examines the case of Moses.)

Toward a Biblical Perspective on Depression: Case Study #4 (This article examines the case of David.)

Toward a Biblical Perspective on Depression: Case Study #5 (This article examines the case of Elijah.)

Toward a Biblical Perspective on Depression: Case Study #6 (This article examines the case of Jeremiah, assuming that he is the author of Lamentations, which is the focus of the discussion.)

Toward a Biblical Perspective on Depression: Case Study #7 (This article examines the case of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who endured depression as a part of the sufferings He underwent as our great High Priest.)







Here is the way I concluded my final article, which should give a sense of the focus of whole series: 
This brings us to the end of our attempt to discover a Scriptural framework within which to understand how believers should think about and react to depression. Along the way we have examined a number of Scriptural case studies of depressed people (whether they all would qualify as what we would refer to as "clinical depression" or not doesn't matter). We have examined a number of passages that speak directly to the issue of depression. We have examined a number of passages that teach about trials in the Christian life, among which depression in all its forms may be included. And, finally, we have examined a number of passages that teach about the joy God promises to believers even in the midst of the most difficult trials.

I hope it has become clear to all of us that depression is not viewed in Scripture as a problem that should rob us of our joy or even necessarily diminish our joy. Indeed, quite the opposite is true. Depression can actually be a tremendous opportunity for growth in our walk with Christ and for a greater and deeper experience of the joy of the Lord than we might otherwise have known. It is also thus a tremendous opportunity to be a better witness for Christ as people see in us a peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7) and a joy that is “inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8), one that does not depend upon our circumstances.
In fact, because we are created in God's image we are also at times capable of experiencing a number of emotions at once, such as when we experience a mixture of both sorrow and joy upon the death of a loved one in Christ. Because we do not sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13), we may experience the joy that such hope brings even in the midst of great sorrow. So it shouldn't surprise us that a depressed believer may know peace and joy in spite of or in the midst of his or her battle with depression.
Now, all of this will no doubt sound like nonsense to unbelievers – or perhaps even to believers who take their cues more from pop psychology than from Scripture – but it is true nonetheless. And the sooner believers begin to realize this the better it will be for them as individuals and for the Church as a whole.
*Note: I do not intend to imply that there is no proper role for medication when dealing with people who suffer from depression due to some physical problem, whether it be a physical problem with the brain or a chronic ailment which may bring depression in its wake (such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, for example). I am, however, suspicious of many diagnoses of depression and of the overuse of medication. And I do not believe that a Christian should ever substitute mood altering drugs for dependence upon the Spirit in any case. 
I hope the readers of this blog will continue to find these articles helpful as they seek to serve our Lord Jesus Christ more faithfully.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10 Teaching Outline)

Note: Read verses 1-10 in order to remind the congregation of the context of this parable. Verses 1-3 tell us that this parable is a part of Jesus' response to the complaints of the scribes and Pharisees about His interaction with tax collectors and sinners. So, as with the Parable of the Lost Sheep in verses 4-7, so with this parable Jesus contrasts His own attitude toward repentant sinners with that of the Jewish leaders. In the process, He shows that it is His own attitude that reflects the heart of God toward repentant sinners.

Introduction: The Parable of the Lost Coin is often forgotten, it seems to me, because it occurs between two more popular parables – the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Son(s). But this parable plays an important role in the trilogy, because it reinforces the essential point made in the first parable, and it prepares us for the third one. It also adds a couple of emphases that do not occur in the other two parables. We will see what both of these added emphases are as we make our way, verse by verse, through the parable today.
NKJ  Luke 15:8 Or what woman, having ten silver coins [δραχμή], if she loses one coin [δραχμή], does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully [ζητεῖ ἐπιμελῶς] until she finds it? 
As with the Parable of the Lost Sheep, so also with this parable, Jesus begins with a rhetorical question that expects a certain answer. He expects an answer something like, “Of course a woman who loses one of her ten silver coins will search carefully until she finds it.” But in order to fully understand the situation Jesus is describing here, let's focus our attention upon the basic elements of the scenario He presents.

First, we are told that the woman loses a “silver coin.” The word translated silver coin is drachmḗ, which was indeed a Greek coin made of silver that was worth about a denarius, which would make it equivalent to a day's wages. So it was no small amount.

Second, we are told that the woman would “light a lamp” to search for the coin. This fact doesn't necessarily mean that the woman was searching at night, because the typical house in Palestine in those days had small windows that were about six inches high and placed high up on the walls (Kenneth Baily, Finding the Lost: Cultural Keys to Luke 15, p. 101). This meant that the house would have been pretty dark even in the daytime, dark enough, at least, to need a lamp when searching for something small.

Third, we are told that the woman would “sweep the house” in her search for the coin. The reason for this had to do especially with the kind of floors such houses had. They were typically made of rock with deep, wide dirt cracks between them (Ibid).

Fourth, we are told that the woman would “search carefully” for the coin. When Jesus said that she would light a lamp and sweep the house in her search for the coin, He intended to communicate implicitly what He then said explicitly, namely that she would search carefully for it. 

* This emphasis upon the careful nature of the search is one point that distinguishes this parable from the ones preceding and following it, so we can see that it is a key point Jesus wants to make in this parable. The woman's search is a picture of God's searching for lost sinners, and she pictures Him as searching with great care.

Application: The application to us is at least twofold. First, we should be thankful for God's care in searching us out and bringing us to Himself. Think about where we would be of He hadn't carefully sought us out! As Paul told the Ephesians, we would be among those “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:2). Second, we see that, as His servants, we should take the same kind of care in seeking out lost sinners, the kind of care Jesus took with the tax collectors and sinners with whom He spent so much time. In fact, this parable is part of His explanation for why He took such care in seeking the lost. Jesus is searching for lost sinners just as He did for those first sinners in the garden of Eden:
NKJ   Genesis 3:6-9 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
Even so, God is still seeking lost sinners in order to bring them to repentance. And this is why Jesus was seeking them out. This should have brought great conviction to the scribes and Pharisees, whose lack of concern and lack of effort in seeking to restore sinners was being exposed as being against the purposes of God.

But what about us? Can we, too, sometimes think ourselves closer to God than others because we separate ourselves from certain sinners, while in reality we may be far from sharing God's own heart toward them? Sadly, this may be true of far too many Christians, which is why we need to hear the Word taught regularly and to help each other to be accountable. In fact, we should want to celebrate together whenever a sinner repents, as the next verse teaches.
NKJ  Luke 15:9 And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece [δραχμή] which I lost!”
The woman was so filled with joy that she couldn't contain herself! She just had to share it with her friends and neighbors! And since the parable is intended to show a higher reality, namely the joy of the Lord over lost sinners that have been found, we see that He wants to share His joy with us as well.

Application: This theme of joy over repentant sinners is shared by all three of the parables in this teaching of Jesus, so we should take special note of it. God rejoices when sinners repent, and so should we! Indeed, He wants to share His own joy over it with us! But just in case we might miss the point, Jesus spells it out clearly in the next verse.
NKJ  Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
* This explicit reference to the angels of God sharing in His joy over the repentance of sinners is another point that distinguishes this parable from the ones preceding and following it. So it is another key point Jesus is trying to make with this parable. It thus behooves us to stop and think about the role of the angels and their interest in what God does in our lives. Let's focus our attention, then, on some of the other passages of Scripture that might bear on this theme. For example:
NKJ  1 Corinthians 11:10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
Here Paul is speaking about how men and women should conduct themselves in church gatherings, and he apparently assumes that angels will be looking on. Thus he expects it to matter to the Corinthians and to us what the angels witness.
NKJ  Ephesians 3:8-10 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers [referring to angelic beings] in the heavenly places ….
Here Paul says that part of God's purpose in saving us was so that the angels in the heavenly places might see His multifaceted wisdom. And we know that they rejoice over it, as Jesus has indicated in the Parable of the Lost Coin.
NKJ  1 Timothy 5:21 I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.
Again Paul assumes that angels are present and watching as he charges Timothy to conduct his ministry without partiality. Thus he again expects it to matter to Timothy and to us what the angels witness in our lives.
NKJ  Hebrews 1:7, 13-14 And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.” … 13 But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
Here we see that angels serve the Lord by aiding us, so they play an important role in our lives and share in His concern for us and for our salvation. 
NKJ  Hebrews 12:22-23 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect ….
When we come to God in faith and in worship, we come also to “an innumerable company of angels,” who we know are watching us and care about what happens in our lives for God's glory. In fact, when we worship God, we are joining with them as they worship Him.
NKJ  Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
The author of Hebrews again assumes the role of angels in our lives will be so common that we might even entertain an angel who appears in human form without knowing it!
But, of course, we have already seen that angels are always around and looking on, especially when the churches are gathered.
NKJ  1 Peter 1:10-12 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-- things which angels desire to look into.
Here Peter tells us of the curiosity the angels have about what God is doing in saving His elect. They desire to look into what God is doing in our lives, and – as we have seen this morning – they share in the joy God has when we repent and trust in Him for forgiveness and when they see Him transforming us into the likeness of Christ.

Conclusion: Jesus has stressed quite strongly in this parable that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” But, as William Barclay has observed, the Pharisees had quite a different saying. They were known to have said, “'There will be joy in heaven over one sinner who is obliterated before God.' They looked sadistically forward not to the saving but to the destruction of the sinner” (Daily Study Bible, e-Sword).

I wonder if, when we are so quick to strongly speak out against the sin of our own culture, we might not sometimes give off the same impression. Perhaps like me you have known some sour Christians who sound as though they believe that God came through Jesus Christ on a seek and destroy mission rather than a seek and save mission. It is not that Jesus never spoke of judgment, for He most certainly did! But He did so most often as a warning in order to call people to repentance. Let us all remember to keep things in perspective by recalling the teaching of this parable along with other passages such as John 3:16-18:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kevin Swanson’s Church Removed Name From NCFIC Confession

Last Friday The Aquila Report posted an article entitled OPC Presbytery of the Dakotas Rules Kevin Swanson’s Church Must Remove Name from NCFIC Confession. Here is a portion of the article:
At the ruling of its presbytery, Reformation Church OPC in Elizabeth, Colorado, whose pastor is well-known family integrated church apologist, Kevin Swanson, has removed its name from the National Center for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC) confession. Reformation Orthodox Presbyterian Church has removed all references to the NCFIC on their website which means that Reformation is no longer willing to be publicly identified with the NCFIC as it has done since at least 2006.
At the April, 2014 meeting of the Presbytery of the Dakotas of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, a complaint was upheld against Reformation OPC for signing an NCFIC family integrated church confession that has “the effect of charging our own congregations, and many others of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, of error without employing the process prescribed in our Book of Discipline and thereby introducing schism into our broader Church.”
The Presbytery’s decision meant that Reformation OPC was required to remove their name from the list and within a week after the ruling, their name was quietly removed from the NCFIC confession. Specifically, it stated that “The Presbytery requested the Reformation session to act expeditiously to remove its name from the NCFIC website until the problems in the NCFIC ‘Biblical Confession for Uniting Church and Family’ are corrected.”
I recommend reading the article in its entirety for further information.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7 Teaching Outline)

Introduction: Today we are going to begin our examination of a trilogy of parables told by Jesus on a particular occasion and recorded for us here in Luke 15. Each of the parables has to do with the joy of the Lord over the salvation of the lost. The first of these parables is the Parable of the Lost Sheep, and we will follow a familiar pattern in seeking to understand this parable. We will begin by examining the context of the parable, a step which all too many teachers seem to ignore, leading to many misinterpretations. Next we will examine the communication of the parable by Jesus, focusing our attention especially on those details of the parable stressed by Him in the context. Then, finally, we will examine any explanation or application of the parable offered by Jesus Himself.

I. The Context of the Parable

In order to properly understand the teaching of this parable, it is important to understand both the broader and the immediate context.

First, the broader context includes key passage both from the teaching of the prophets in the Old Testament and from the teaching of our Lord Jesus in the New Testament. For example, in the days of Ezekiel, God warned the leaders of Israel, who were supposed to have been shepherds of his people, but who had failed to protect and care for them. He also foretold a day when He Himself would come to seek and save the sheep:
NKJ Ezekiel 34:11-16 For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord GOD. 16 “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.”
The Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament deals perceptively with Jesus' application of the Ezekiel passage to Himself as He takes up the metaphor of the LORD as a Shepherd who seeks His lost sheep:
Jesus asserts that he does the work of God, whose love and mercy for sinful and weak people is reflected in Jesus' calling tax collectors and sinners (15:1) to repentance. As Jesus' audience consists of pharisees and scribes who complain about Jesus welcoming and eating with sinners (15:2), he challenges them to understand themselves as shepherds. The Pharisees' and scribes' lack of concern and mercy for sinners echoes Ezek. 34, in which Yahweh directs the prophet to speak against the leaders of the nation who neglect their duties and leave Israel scattered “like sheep without a shepherd,” announcing that Yahweh Himself will seek out, rescue, and care for the sheep. Jesus' parable indicts the scribes and Pharisees for their failure to be the faithful shepherds of Yahweh's flock and implies that Jesus' love and mercy for sinners is consistent with Yahweh's mercy and care for his sheep. (p.341)
That our Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of the Ezekiel prophecy is clear not only from this parable, however, but is also clearly indicated in other teachings of Jesus as well. For example, on several occasions Jesus made it quite plain to  His disciples that He was the promised coming of the LORD to seek and to save His sheep:
NKJ  Matthew 10:5-7 These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”
NKJ  Matthew 15:24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
NKJ  John 10:11-16 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
NKJ  John 10:24-28 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life [as the shepherd Jesus seeks and saves the sheep], and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand [as the Shepherd Jesus keeps the sheep from ever perishing]”
So, Jesus was sent first to seek the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but He would also seek the other sheep not of this fold, which that He will seek out the Gentiles. But the initial focus on the lost sheep of Israel will be especially helpful in our understanding the parable in Luke 15.

Anyway, such passages provide the broader context and proper background for understanding the parable before us today. It helps us to understand just how important this analogy would have been to Jesus and those to whom He was speaking. And it helps us to understand that the scribes and Pharisees would not have missed the points Jesus was making!

Second, the immediate context is found in the first three verses of the passage before us.
NKJ  Luke 15:1 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.
In order to get the point of the parable, we need to understand just who made up the two groups being referred to here. The “tax collectors” were those who collected taxes on behalf of the Roman government. Jews who were tax collectors were regarded as thieves and traitors, and, as such, they were regarded as especially heinous and extreme examples of sinners. And this leads to the next term. Those referred to as “sinners” certainly were such, but here the term doesn't refer to all who have sinned, which would include everyone, but rather is being used in a specialized sense. I think the ESV Study Bible captures the proper nuance of the term sinners:
Pharisees would have regarded as sinners anyone who failed to keep God's law as they interpreted it, and the term here seems to reflect a commonly understood meaning by which it included both people guilty of publicly known sin and others who did not keep the strict purity requirements of the Pharisees. (BibleWorks)
Thus the term sinners was used by the religious establishment to describe those who were regarded as outcasts not only because they were actually open sinners but also because they did not follow their own legalistic traditions. On the contrary, those who followed the Pharisaic way were regarded as righteous, a fact that will become crucial to our understanding of Jesus' application of the parable later on.

What is important to observe here is that these outcasts were flocking to Jesus, wanting to hear what He had to say. And Jesus was accepting them and teaching them, which is something no self-respecting – and self-righteous – Pharisee would ever do. And this leads us to the next verse.
NKJ  Luke 15:2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”
You see, the scribes and Pharisees not only viewed these people as sinners and outcasts, but also as unclean, and they believed that close interpersonal contact with such people – as would be involved in eating with them – would make them unclean as well. So they didn't like it at all when Jesus had meals with them!

In fact, this verse records a complaint about Jesus and His disciples that wasn't new. The same complaints were registered when Jesus called the tax collector Levi (also known as Matthew) to follow Him and then had dinner at his house:
NKJ  Luke 5:27-30 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him. 29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. 30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
We will look at this passage in chapter 5 again later, but for now we must realize that, even more than risking ritual impurity, when Jesus spent time with such people as tax collectors and sinners He was also plainly denying the legalistic standards that the Pharisees and scribes thought were so important. But Jesus thought there was something far more important, which is why He begins to teach them a series of parables, and these are introduced in the next verse.
NKJ  Luke 15:3 So [here δέ may have this sense] He spoke this parable to them, saying:
Although Luke uses the singular, introducing the first parable – the Parable of the Lost Sheep – we will see that Jesus adds two more parables – the Parable of the Lost Coin and the Parable of the Lost Son, which we will study over the next two weeks, Lord willing. Thus we have here the context not only for the first parable, but for all three parables in Luke 15. Let's begin today, then, by examine this first parable more closely.

II. The Communication of the Parable

The communication of the parable is found in verses 4-7.
NKJ  Luke 15:4 What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness [ἔρημος], and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
There are a couple of observations worth noting about the situation being described here.

First, the NKJV translation of the Greek word here as wilderness is a bit misleading in this passage, since it might indicate that the sheep were all in an unsafe place. I think it would be better here to translate it as open country (as in the ESV) or open pasture (as in the NASB). Jesus was simply referring to an uninhabited area with places for sheep to graze.

Second, this is a rhetorical question which expects the answer, “No man among us wouldn't leave the ninety-nine safe sheep to go seek the one lost sheep.” Some think it odd that Jesus would ask such a question and seriously expect such an answer. Who, they wonder, will look after the ninety-nine sheep left behind? Well, Jesus doesn't concern Himself with this, and He doesn't expect His disciples to be concerned about it either. This is no doubt because what He is describing is a realistic situation, in which it would be expected that more than one shepherd would be looking after one hundred sheep.

The point is that the ninety-nine sheep are safe and in no need of being sought out. The emphasis for the moment is thus on the fact that the shepherd cares so much about the one lost sheep that he personally goes to find it.
NKJ  Luke 15:5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
Notice the two things which happen when the shepherd finds the one lost sheep.

First, the shepherd “lays it on his shoulders,” which indicates the great care the shepherd takes in bringing the sheep back to the flock. He treats the sheep with tenderness and protects it. This probably also indicates that the sheep is too weak to return on its own. This scene clearly portrays the care Jesus has for sinners as He seeks to restore them.

Notice also that the sheep is lost until the shepherd finds it and that the sheep cannot restore itself. The shepherd must find the sheep and restore it. What a beautiful picture of our inability to save ourselves and the initiative Jesus takes on our behalf! He seeks us out and saves us!

This is what the Psalmist understood so well when he cried out to God, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments” (Psalm 119:176). Those of us who have been saved by Jesus know that we are always so dependent upon Him!

Second, the shepherd starts “rejoicing,” which shows the happiness that it brings the shepherd when the sheep is found. This clearly portrays the attitude Jesus has when the tax collectors and sinners are brought to repentance. He is filled with joy!

But notice the way both of these reactions are the opposite of the Pharisees' and scribes' reactions. They do not care for these sinners, and they do not rejoice to see them repent. In fact, they just complain that Jesus even interacts with them at all!
NKJ  Luke 15:6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!”
Here we see pictured the kind of joy that one can't help but share with others. It is not just that Jesus Himself has joy over a lost sinner that is saved; it is that we should all feel this way! And this leads us to our final point.

III. The Explanation of the Parable

The explanation of the parable is found in verse 7.
NKJ  Luke 15:7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
Let us return again to Luke chapter 5, where we earlier saw a very similar situation to that described here:
NKJ  Luke 5:27-32 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him. 29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. 30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Notice here the reference by Jesus to those who are called “righteous” and those who are called “sinners.” This also reflects the way in which the terms are used in the Parable of the Lost Sheep and its explanation. He is using the terminology the way they understood it in order to challenge them.

Jesus understood that there is “none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10, citing Psalm 14:1-2), and He often openly accused the Pharisees of sins like pride and hypocrisy. Indeed, the very parable we are studying here implies an accusation of sin against them, for they do not care for sinners the way that God does or as shepherds of the people of Israel should.

The point is that we know Jesus wasn't saying here that they were truly righteous. Rather He was indicating that only those who understand that they are sick will see their need for a Physician, and only those who understand that they are sinners will see their need to repent. We could almost paraphrase Jesus statements in Luke 5:31-32 this way: “Those who think they are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick and know it. I have not come to call the self-righteous, but those who know they are sinners, to repentance.”

Similarly, we could understand Jesus' statement here in 15:7 this way: “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who think they need no repentance.”

The implication is clear! Heaven – and therefore God – will rejoice over the tax collectors and sinners coming to Jesus, but He will not rejoice over the Pharisees and scribes who think they already know Him!

But this bring us to the thrice repeated emphasis upon joy, first in verse 5, then in verse 6, and again in here in verse 7. The repentance of a sinner is a cause for great rejoicing! It is the kind of thing that should make us want to tell everyone and throw a party to celebrate!

Conclusion: I would like to conclude, then, with an emphasis on this point, and I think Klyne Snodgrass puts it well:
Another level at which this parable deserves attention is its focus on joy. Christian worship often lacks any sense of joy. It may have form, tradition, energy, or novelty, but joy is in short supply. Joy deserves focus as the true mark of Christianity, for it is directly connected with the theological awareness of the character and attitude of God as the one who seeks and celebrates recovery. At some level Christian worship entails entering into God's own attitude at finding and establishing a people for Himself. Join the celebration! (Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, p. 110)
To those of you who are believers, are you joining in the heavenly celebration? Are you anxious to be used by God to seek and save the lost?

To those of you who have not yet believed, do you recognize that you, too, are a sinner who needs to be saved? and do you see what joy the Lord Jesus has to receive you as one of Hos own, if you will but trust in Him as Lord and Savior?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

"Can We Condemn Islamic Jihad When the Bible Condones Holy War?" by Bob Gonzales



The blog's regular readers will remember my recommendation of Dr. Bob Gonzales' two part series on the imprecatory Psalms. Here he deals very well with a connected issue, namely the issue of Israel's holy wars. His teaching is very helpful and thought-provoking, and he answers some questions at the end. By the way, if you have never read Bob's blog, It Is Written, I highly recommend it.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:15-24 Teaching Outline)

Note: Read all of 14:1-24 in order to remind everyone of the context and what we covered last week on verses 1-14.

Introduction: I think the ESV Study Bible is correct when it says of this parable, “A great banquet refers to the arrival of the kingdom in the ministry of Jesus, with its initial present taste of the joyful fellowship with God that will be fully realized in the coming age” (BibleWorks).

This summarizes well precisely what this parable is about, namely God's invitation to fellowship with Him in His future heavenly banquet. This will become clear to us as we make our way through the passage and consider as we go both the immediate context here in Luke, as well as the larger context of Scripture.
NKJ  Luke 14:15 Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
To the modern reader the exclamation by this unknown man may seem odd and a bit out of place, but it makes good sense in this context since the teaching Jesus has just given in verses 12-14 ends with a focus on the resurrection of the just, at which time they will receive a reward (vs.14).

So, we can see why the expectation of the eschatological banquet would have come to mind for this man and thus why he would speak of the future blessing of one “who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.” Indeed, such an expectation was common among the Jews based upon Old Testament prophecies. For Example:
NKJ Isaiah 25:6-9 And in this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees. 7 And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken. 9 And it will be said in that day: “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”
Jesus agreed with such an expectation based upon such Old Testament passages, which might be why this unknown man made this statement in this context. At any rate, this man's statement provides the setting for the Parable of the Great Supper. And this helps us to understand the reason Jesus tells this parable. He is using the parable to teach about the eschatological feast in the future consummation of the kingdom of God.
NKJ  Luke 14:16-17 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, 'Come, for all things are now ready.'”
Here we are given several important facts that set the stage for understanding the parable.

First, we are told that a certain man gave “a great supper” (vs.16). This was no small affair, but was one that would have taken a lot of planning and effort, and it would have been a great honor to have attended. Even so, God  has planned the eschatological banquet well in advance, and it will be the greatest honor one can imagine to be able to attend!

Second, we are told that the man “invited many” (vs. 16) and then at a later time sent a servant to announce that it was “ready” (vs. 17). This means that everyone who had been invited knew in advance that the great supper was coming, and they should have been ready to hear the announcement and to attend. Even so, God has announced His great banquet well in advance, and it is up to all those invited to be prepared when the time comes.

Third, we are told that “all things” are ready “now” (vs.17). This refers to the completeness of the preparation for the supper, which means that there can be no delay in attendance. Even so, God will prepare His banquet such that nothing He has promised will be lacking.

Given all of these facts, we can now understand why it was so shocking when those who were invited refused to come, but instead made excuses for their failure to attend. And this leads us to the next verse.
NKJ  Luke 14:18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.”
Remember that this man knew in advance that the supper was coming, and he could have made time for it if it really mattered to him. After all, the field he bought wasn't going anywhere!
NKJ  Luke 14:19 And another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.”
Again, one wonders why this man couldn't have tested his newly purchased oxen on some other day.
NKJ  Luke 14:20 Still another said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.”
This excuse makes a little more sense to me. Isn't it understandable that a man would want to spend time with his wife soon after he was married? But, then, one wonders if the man would have done other things that may have parted him from his wife for a time. Would his marriage have caused him to avoid all of his engagements or responsibilities? I strongly doubt it!

Notice that all of these excuses have to do with perfectly acceptable things. There is nothing wrong with going to examine a field one has bought, or with going to test some new oxen one has just purchased, or with wanting to spend time with one's new wife. The problem isn't that any of these activities is bad. The problem is with the priority these activities are given by these men with respect to the great supper that has been prepared for them. When told that the banquet is now ready, each of these three who were invited essentially told the host, “I've got better things to do.” Indeed, they insulted the host and valued his efforts on their behalf as worth less to them than these other things. This is especially so since each of these men had obviously already accepted the earlier invitation.

But the insult may be even greater than this, as the New Geneva Study Bible notes indicate:
The excuses are transparently dishonest. No one buys a field or oxen without prior inspection, and if anyone did there was no hurry – the field and the oxen would be there tomorrow. The man who had married might cite Deut. 24:5, but that freed a man from military service, not social contacts. (p. 1634)
It is hard not to think that in this parable the host represents God and that the servant who announces that the banquet is ready represents Jesus. Thus the excuses given are representative of the kinds of things that cause people to refuse God's heavenly invitation through Christ. The fact is that they care more for the things of this world than for the things of Heaven.

Yet the host didn't cancel the banquet just because those who were first invited refused to come, as the next verses make clear.
NKJ  Luke 14:21 So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.”
One cannot miss here a repetition of part of verse 13, in which – as we saw last week – Jesus confronted the ruler of the Pharisees for not having invited “the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind” to their supper. You see, this Pharisee, like most Pharisees and religious elite among the Jews, viewed such people as having been judged by God. In fact, they despised them as those who were unable to observe the traditional laws of ritual purity. These people, then, were thought to be unworthy of the coming kingdom, and this may have been another reason why the man in verse 15 was moved to say, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” He may have been seeking to correct Jesus at this point, assuming that, since in his view such people as the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind were not worthy of the future kingdom banquet, then why should he – a ruler of those thought to be the most pious of Jews – have been troubled to invite them to his banquet.

In any case, Jesus is clearly making a point in this parable in response to the attitudes of the Jewish leaders in his day. And He is clearly confronting the fact that, although they had been refusing God's invitation, those they despised as unclean were not doing so! And they weren't making excuses either!

In fact, I think Steven Cole is onto something when he observes:
The striking thing is that everyone who accepted the invitation could have come up with seemingly legitimate excuses for not coming. The poor man could say, “I don’t have anything decent to wear to such a feast.” The crippled man could say, “I can’t get anyone to carry me there.” The blind could say, “I can’t see to find my way.” The lame could say, “It hurts me too much to walk on my bad leg.” Those along the highways and hedges, the street people, could say, “I haven’t had a bath in days and my clothes are dirty and ragged. I can’t come.” But they all accepted the offer because the servant convinced them that they were welcome and they clearly knew their own need; they were hungry. They believed the offer and they responded personally to it in spite of the potential excuses they each could have come up with. (How to Have Dinner With Jesus)
In other words, they understood the gracious nature of the invitation because they understood their own need and inadequacy. But the gracious nature of the man is even more evident in what Jesus says next.
NKJ  Luke 14:22-23 22 And the servant said, “Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.” 23 Then the master said to the servant, “Go out into the highways [ὁδός, hodós] and hedges [φραγμός, phragmós], and compel [ἀναγκάζω, anagkázō] them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
I would like to pause to examine a couple of crucial things mentioned in these verses.

First, notice where the master told the servant to go to invite people.
1) The “highways” [ὁδός, hodós] – the Greek word used here refers in this context to the roads that people would take to travel throughout the countryside or on their way to other towns or countries, as opposed to the “streets and lanes of the city” mentioned in verse 21. This means that the servant is broadening the invitation to whatever kind of travelers he might find as he went out to the major thoroughfares. Such people would include, by the way, Gentiles as well as Jews. For example, those who might travel such roads in Palestine would include people such as Samaritans, Romans, or Greeks, not to mention other Gentile travelers who often passed through Palestine.
2) The “hedges” [φραγμός, phragmós] – the Greek word used here refers to a “fence” or a “hedge” that might separate fields, and used in the “plural, by metonymy, [refers to] hedgeside paths or country lanes, frequented by vagabonds and beggars” (Friberg Greek Lexicon #28246, BibleWorks). The Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament says that “poor travelers were accustomed to camping in the shelter of the hedges and fences” (p. 185).
So, seeing where the servant went to find these people also tells us something about the kind of people he was to invite. People found in such places would again be the types that many Jews would have regarded as unworthy for inclusion.

Second, notice how the master told the servant to invite people. He told the servant to “compel” [ἀναγκάζω, anagkázō] them to come in. The Greek word used here is a strong one that can refer to forcing one to do something or even to compelling someone to do something by violent means. Sadly, this has led some in the history of the Church to conclude that it was acceptable to use force in the attempt to convert people to Christianity. However, in this context, the word refers to a “friendly pressure” and means to “(strongly) urge” (Friberg Greek Lexicon #1518, BibleWorks). Or, as T. W. Manson says, this Greek word refers to “an insistent hospitality” (The Sayings of Jesus, p. 130, as cited by Thomas Constable, Notes on Luke, e-Sword). Or, even better, as indicated in Vincent's Word Studies, the Greek word used here actually means “not to use force, but to constrain them against the reluctance which such poor creatures would feel at accepting the invitation of a great lord” (e-Sword).

I think Vincent nails the intent in this context. The kind of people Jesus indicates will be invited are those who – in contrast to so many of the scribes and Pharisees – would not think themselves worthy to be included in this great kingdom banquet!
NKJ  Luke 14:24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.
Here Jesus is stressing at least two points.

First, when He says that “none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper,” He is referring to those in the parable who had been invited and told in advance of the coming banquet, but who refused to come when the time for the banquet arrived. He is referring to those originally invited, for we know that many of those invited later did accept the invitation and thus would taste of the supper.

Jesus no doubt has in mind those Jewish elite who thought they were better than everyone else and didn't see that they were not worthy to come to the banquet either. These were the very same types warned by John the Baptist not to assume that they were accepted by God simply because they were Jews:
NKJ  Matthew 3:5-10 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Second, Jesus refers to the eschatological banquet as “my supper.” It is hard to miss the way in which Jesus virtually becomes the master of the parable – who represents God – and their two voices become one in this verse. God's future banquet is Jesus' banquet. From our point of view, we know it as the coming Marriage Supper of the Lamb, about which John prophesies in the Book of Revelation:
NKJ  Revelation 19:5-9 Then a voice came from the throne, saying, “Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!” 6 And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! 7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, “Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”
Conclusion: In conclusion, I think Hampton Keathley sums up the lesson of this parable nicely when he writes:
God graciously invites all to come to Him, but many are self-satisfied and preoccupied with their own lives and miss out on the invitation, and only those who are aware of their inadequacy will accept the invitation. (The Great Supper)
For those of us who already believe: We must always remember that God has invited us to that great supper by His grace and not because we are worthy. And He has called us to share the invitation with others in a spirit of humility.

For those who do not yet believe: You must recognize that God graciously offers you a future and a hope in Christ, who died for sinners like you and me, and who rose from the dead that we might have life and everlasting fellowship with God. Will you recognize your need and accept the invitation. It is being offered to you today!