It would seem that there was one dinner guest prepared to speak into the awkward silence that must have followed Jesus’ assessment of the Pharisee’s banquet.
But since arriving Jesus has challenged sabbath laws, healed a man with dropsy, confronted the guests with their self-importance, and most recently publicly rebuked the host for his selective invitation list. All this at a gathering of Jews – more – of elite, religious, Jews.
It has been a awkward start to dinner. Jesus is proving to be a less than compliant guest.
Perhaps the man who spoke the words: ‘Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God’ is trying to lighten the mood. He certainly takes the spotlight away from the host – a man who must have been unbearably embarrassed by his superstar guest.
But the open challenge to invite ‘…the poor, crippled, lame, and blind’ (vs 13) – social outcasts of the time – is not just directed at the host and his list of invitees. It speaks of the very values of God and God’s kingdom.
And now this the very topic that has been raised. Yes, this is a story in response to a guest who has raised the topics of ‘blessing’, ‘eating’, and ‘the kingdom of God’.
Jesus replies with – by now unsurprisingly – another banquet story. It tells of a host who is ready for a ‘great dinner’. The invites have gone out and preparations have been made. The host even sends his slaves to remind people: ‘Come, everything is ready now.’
But these people seem to be easily distracted – even from heaven’s feast. One has purchased land; another a team of oxen; still another has just been married.
And so the slaves return with no guests.
It ‘angers’ the host. He orders the immediate implementation of another plan. The slaves are sent – not once – but twice to find anyone. They seek out the ‘poor, crippled, blind, and lame’ – the very people Jesus asked the home owner to invite to his next banquet. On the first visit they ‘bring’ them. On the second they ‘compel’ them to come.
Here is a zealous host who will have a full celebration.
The host’s last words are telling: ‘…none of those who were invited will taste my dinner’. He is still angry at the lack of commitment displayed by those originally invited: everything was prepared, but they did not come.
I am left wondering what it means for those who first heard this parable to ‘…come to the banquet of God’s kingdom’. Have their connections – their religious connections – distracted them the very essence of God’s kingdom? Have the weeds of wealth, profit, and popularity ‘choked’ their ability to act on the values of God?
And I am also left wondering for us. Who are those we would only invite as a second thought? For what or who are we prone to turn down the invitation of God’s Kingdom?
After all, we are certainly not beyond falling for the temptations of those before us.