Parable of the Great Dinner
Lesson and Read: Luke 14.15-24
Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame . . . Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.’
Luke 14.21, 23 (NRSV)
In this lesson, Jesus, once again, describes the kingdom of God with a parable.
Luke chapter 14 opens with several teachings that have “banquet” as their theme. In verses 1-6, Jesus healed a man with dropsy at a Pharisee’s Sabbath banquet. In verses 7-11, Jesus told invited guests it is wiser to choose a humble seat in the rear than to choose a front seat and be humiliated when they have to make room for a more important guest. In verses 12-14, he warned the Pharisee hosting him that he would be more blessed by inviting the less fortunate instead of his wealthy friends. At that point, someone responded to Jesus’ suggestion with a familiar sentiment of the day: Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God! (v. 15). When the Jews in the first century read Daniel 7.14-15, they came to believe the “kingdom of God” (or “kingdom of heaven”) referred to an earthly realm that would replace Rome. The messiah would rule from that kingdom, God’s chosen ones would reign and the Gentiles would be the subjects. Unfortunately, they misunderstood Daniel’s message; Jesus made it painfully clear with his parable. A man invited many to a great banquet. Some refused the invitation and gave their reasons—they had other responsibilities. In Jesus’ day, such invitations would have been given far in advance of the event, so these reasons were really excuses. Some people had chosen not to accept the host’s gracious invitation. And so the host made additional, exhaustive requests in order to fill his banquet hall.
The privileged diners at the Pharisee’s banquet were certain that the guest list for God’s kingdom included them and excluded a long list of people they considered unfit or undesirable—tax collectors, prostitutes, Gentiles, the disabled and sinners in general. Jesus reminds us that it is God who hosts the Great Dinner. No human being draws up the guest list. The task we have as believers is to make sure everyone—EVERYONE—receives an invitation.
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence