Commentary on Luke 14:15-24
Today we have the last of four teachings of Jesus linked with meals. It was prompted by the remark of a guest at table who said, “Happy are those who eat bread in the kingdom of God.” It was very common to associate the future Messianic kingdom with a banquet.
Jesus responds with a parable which is a warning to his complacent listeners, many of whom probably smugly presumed that they would be among the small minority chosen to eat in the Kingdom.
A man threw a large dinner party with many guests invited. But when the time came and the guests were reminded, one after another they gave excuses why they were not able to come. One had just bought a piece of land and had to inspect it; another had just bought some oxen and had to try them out; a third had just got married. It seems that the original invitation had been accepted but when the final invitation came excuses were made. In fact, none of the excuses has much validity. One would not buy a field and only then look at it nor would one buy oxen without having tried them out before the purchase.
On hearing this, the master got very angry and ordered his servants to go out into the highways and byways and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. After this, the servants reported that there was still room so they were given orders to scour the roads and bring in as many as they could find. “I want my house to be full,” said the host, “but none of those originally invited will taste a morsel.”
The parable is a clear message from Jesus to his Jewish listeners. Many of them, especially the religious leaders steeped in complacency and presumption, had rejected the invitation to follow Jesus and enter the Kingdom. Some of them would actually conspire to bring about his death. Their place would be given to those formerly seen as outcasts, both Jews and Gentiles, people aware of their needs, the “poor in spirit”. There would be a special place for the poor and the handicapped, people often seen by traditional Jews as people abandoned by God and buried in sin.
To go back to the beginning of the passage, blessed indeed are those who eat together in the Kingdom but it is clear that only those who respond to the invitation will enjoy the privilege.
We have no more right to presumption than those Jews who rejected Christ. We too are being invited to go into the Lord’s banquet hall but it is important that we respond to the call. We do that by our totally accepting and living out the teaching of Jesus our Lord. And part of that teaching is that we, too, invite and welcome into our community the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame – taking these words in their broadest sense.
No more than those fellow diners of Jesus, our presence at the Kingdom banquet is never to be taken for granted.