12Then Jesus said to the man who had invited him:
When you give a dinner or a banquet, don't invite your friends and family and relatives and rich neighbors. If you do, they will invite you in return, and you will be paid back. 13When you give a feast, invite the poor, the paralyzed, the lame, and the blind. 14They cannot pay you back. But God will bless you and reward you when his people rise from death.
The Great Banquet
15After Jesus had finished speaking, one of the guests said, “The greatest blessing of all is to be at the banquet in God's kingdom!”
16Jesus told him:
A man once gave a great banquet and invited a lot of guests. 17When the banquet was ready, he sent a servant to tell the guests, “Everything is ready! Please come.”
18One 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.”
19Another guest said, “I bought five teams of oxen, and I need to try them out. Please excuse me.”
20Still another guest said, “I've just now married, and I can't be there.”
21The servant told his master what happened, and the master became so angry he said, “Go as fast as you can to every street and alley in town! Bring in everyone who is poor or paralyzed or blind or lame.”
22When the servant returned, he said, “Master, I've done what you told me, and there is still plenty of room for more people.”
23His master then told him, “Go out along the back roads and make people come in, so my house will be full. 24Not one of the guests I first invited will get even a bite of my food!”
There are two stages in today’s story. First, the invitations are sent out. A lot of them. People accept. Then, when the day comes, they find they have other things to attend to, more important in their eyes than the feast. Have you ever been in the situation where you had planned something for a crowd of people and in the end only a few showed up? I have and I understand the anger of the man (v 21).
This is how Jesus feels if we “make a decision” and then put other things in front of following him. Things like focusing on our work to the exclusion of all else, working overtime for more money, spending time with the opposite sex, even spending time with family. It’s obvious that all these activities can be good! But they’re not if we are putting our own selfish desires ahead of our commitment to Jesus. Sometimes, something else needs to take precedence.
I remember from childhood the sixteenth century translation of Psalm 15:5 that was used in our church: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? . . . He that sweareth (i.e. makes a promise) unto his neighbour, and disappointeth him not, though it were to his own hindrance.”
Jesus is probably referring to Jews and Gentiles when he continues with the people who were rounded up the second time. For many of us today the reminder is that accepting him as our Lord and Saviour – accepting the invitation to the banquet – means that we follow through on our commitments to other people, even when it’s not to our own advantage.
Now think of this on an altogether bigger scale. What Jesus looks for in us is a whole life of consistent discipleship.
Jesus, you are my Lord as well as my Saviour. Please train me to listen to your voice. Reorient me to think of what’s pleasing to you ahead of what’s in my own interests. I find this so hard! Amen.