Have you ever felt out of place; like you don’t belong? A long time ago, I found myself in the house of a heart surgeon. His daughter and mine were in the same Brownie troop. I felt very much like I did not belong in this house. It had nothing to do with how we were treated. The owners of the house were very friendly. But at the time I didn’t really know them. And It was the fanciest house I had ever been in that wasn’t a museum. I kept thinking that I might bump into something and break it; something that was worth more than I could ever begin to hope to replace. Would I have to sell one of my children? This house represented people who ran in different circles than I do; people who were comfortable speaking of country clubs and traveling to the Caiman Islands or whatever else it is that wealthy people do. As it turns out, the heart surgeon and his wife became good friends of ours. We often met for coffee at Panera Bread. And I discovered, much to my surprise, that I did indeed belong in his presence. And it had nothing to do with my wealth or familiarity with country club speak.
Luke 14:15-24 is the parable of the great supper. The setting scene is a dinner in which Jesus had given instructions about who you should invite to a banquet. One of the invited guests who was reclining with them blurted out with a “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” This was most likely an invitation for Jesus to give his opinion on a centuries old conversation. In Isaiah 25 there is a banquet prepared by God on the mountain of God and all nations are invited. Many Jewish sources give commentary on this passage. The Qumran community just flat out denies that the nations are invited. Other sources say something along the line of, “Well, yes they will be invited, but only in order for God to judge and slay them.” There is also most likely an assumption on the fellow invited guest’s part. I am blessed because I am sure I will eat bread in the kingdom of God. It was an elitist statement.
So, Jesus responds with a parable about a certain man (not a king) who does, makes, creates a mega meal. Many were invited and the implication is that they accepted the invitation. In the Middle East the invitation would have been sent out early and the size of the meal was determined by how many accepted. This is important because some have tried to suggest that the excuses were valid. Not in this culture and not when you consider them. The hour of the feast arrives and he sends out the standard notice: “Come; everything is now ready.” The wording implies that the three excuses are representative of many and that it was an orchestrated refusal. The first one says that he has bought a piece of land and needs to look at it. The day of the feast was set. And no one in this culture would buy land sight unseen. Such a refusal would be an insult; an intended insult. The second is similar. No one would buy a team of oxen without first taking them for a test drive. These first two excuses indicate wealth. The third reason is blunt and would have been considered rude. Remember, the day of the feast had been set. The invitation had been accepted. Most likely this excuse maker is saying that he had recently married and that he is busy thank you very much and cannot be bothered with going to a feast. Luke, more so than the other gospel writers, emphasizes the danger of putting spouses before service to God (14:26; 18:29).
The creator of the feast becomes angry. Again, this was an orchestrated insult. In his anger he responds with grace. He tells his slave to search out the streets and lanes of the city and bring the poor, crippled, blind, and lame people to the mega banquet. This is done but the tables are not quite full. So, the servant is sent outside of the city to invite those there. Is this about the Gentiles being included? Since Jesus was being invited to comment on Isaiah 25, yes, this is about the Gentiles being invited. It is also about Jesus’ ministry to the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame – to the forgotten dregs of society. There is much discussion about the slave being told to “compel” this out of the city group to come. It is true that the word can mean “force,” but in this context it is more the idea of convince. This group is going to find it hard to believe that they are truly being invited. Compel them. Convince them.
You! You are invited to the banquet of God. Right now! The word has been sent, “Come; for everything is ready now.” You belong. It may be hard to feel the truth of this. Satan whispers doubts that worm their way into your brain and sometimes you don’t feel as if you truly belong sitting down to this elaborate feast. You! You are invited to the banquet of God. Believe it! Live it! Feast up. Peace.