Updated: Apr 24, 2020
Luke 14: 16 Jesus told him: A man once gave a great banquet and invited a lot of guests. 17 When the banquet was ready, he sent a servant to tell the guests, “Everything is ready! Please come.” 18 One guest after another started making excuses. The first one said, “I bought some land, and I’ve got to look it over. Please excuse me.” 19 Another guest said, “I bought five teams of oxen, and I need to try them out. Please excuse me.” 20 Still another guest said, “I have just gotten married, and I can’t be there.” 21 The servant told his master what happened, and the master became so angry that he said, “Go as fast as you can to every street and alley in town! Bring in everyone who is poor or crippled or blind or lame.” 22 When the servant returned, he said, “Master, I’ve done what you told me, and there is still plenty of room for more people.”23 His master then told him, “Go out along the back roads and fence rows and make people come in, so that my house will be full. 24 Not one of the guests I first invited will get even a bite of my food!”
There is a lovely story of St Francis who understood the invitation to the great banquet. Francis had been invited to dinner by his friend, the noble man, Matteo de’ Rossi. While they were waiting for the master to arrive the servants began distributing food to the beggars who came to the palace gate. Francis slipped out and got in the queue to receive his portion with the beggars. When Matteo got home the servants looked everywhere for Francis. Eventually Matteo spotted him sitting among the beggars. Matteo hurried out and sat beside him, saying “as you will not join me, I shall join you and eat with you here”. The great banquet was happening at the palace gate!
The Parable of the Great Banquet reminds us yet again that some will hear the invitation but will choose not to accept. The host however turns his anger into grace. He tells his servant to go out again and again and invite those who normally did not get invited to the feasts of the wealthy: namely, the poor and the disabled; those who were on the margins of society.
Such people would have been overjoyed to share in the abundance of the feast. Yet even after these folks joined the party, there was still room. So, the owner had the servant go out to the streets and find other people they could: travellers passing through, outsiders looking for work. These were people who might have been suspicious of such an invitation. They would have wondered if this might even be a trick to enslave them. But the servant was to persuade them, to convince them that the invitation was the real deal and that a feast awaited them.
Like the host, God’s desire is for all to come to the future banquet. Jesus invites all to be part of his kingdom movement which he began when he lived here on earth. But some realise there is a catch. The invitation comes with an assurance that there are no places of honour, instead every place is a place of honour.
How have you responded to God's invitation? Have you by the power of God's Spirit said "Yes, Jesus. I receive your gift. I surrender myself to your love." Or have you have been ignoring the invitation? Have you given excuses saying that you are too busy right now for all this Christianity stuff? Or perhaps you have gotten the idea that being a good person gets you into the banquet - that you do not even need a divine invitation of grace. Or perhaps you have been on the fence, not quite ready to believe that God is throwing any kind of feast, not sure whether there is any invitation to receive his love. Perhaps the gift of Jesus sounds just too simplistic and easy and that offends your pride?
This blunt tone may alarm you. But if we are in potential danger an alarm is a good thing. If you are surprised to receive an invitation to such an event, then you are more likely to pay attention. If you take something for granted you are more likely to pass up the opportunity. An invitation to be part of the future great banquet is not something to be passed up. The banquet is being prepared for all that receive God’s gift of love and grace in His Son Jesus.
St. Francis realised he was a beggar in need of bread. The bread he accepted humbly was most likely in his mind like the body of Jesus that was given for all beggars at the Crucifixion on the first Good Friday. The death of Jesus acted like the final statement of invitation for anyone to turn back to God to find forgiveness and salvation. The banquet is the celebration of the raising of Jesus from the dead in the Resurrection. The final event extends into the present -- calling unworthy invitees to be part of the life and light that God brings to the many in Jesus. Will you respond?