Jesus is once again in the house of a Pharisee. He is keenly aware that rank rules with these Jewish leaders. Jesus loves them yet he knows they are spiritually dead. Jesus, never loosing sight of His mission, is trying to set them free. To do so He must confront and overthrow most every idea they have about righteousness and where it ultimately comes from. What better place to do this than a party – where their heart-habit of comparison is in full play.

And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)

Jesus is not just picking on Pharisees. It just so happens that a heart-habit endemic to man just happens to be unusually concentrated in this setting. Jesus is a savior but He is also a social revolutionary unlike no other. To set all the captives free, He must confront and overthrow our most fundamental social conventions which are ordered around our own personal needs. We may not require top dog status – but we most assuredly love recognition. We believe this, at least, is our fair portion. Jesus is exposing our heart-habit of only gathering with those who have the capacity and willingness to repay each other in kind – with recognition. He is saying we should take a longer view regarding repayment. Jesus is our Savior, yet as our Truth – Who is also our Life, He often becomes the troubler of our hearts.

And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”When one of those who were reclining at the table with Him heard this, he said to Him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:12-15)

For Jesus’ after-dinner speech He chose the Parable of the Dinner where He was taking advantage of the meal setting as a metaphor for the gathering God is organizing. Every eye and ear are trained upon Jesus as He begins …

“A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’ And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.'” (Luke 14:16-24)

His audience cannot yet know it but what God is about to do in Christ at Calvary is the invitation to the banquet. It seems that the excuses men gave for not attending to this invitation is the one thing that angers God. However, I cannot help but notice to what lengths God goes to compel men to accept His invitation and attend this banquet.

Much is made in evangelical Christianity of election. Whatever that doctrine actually entails, it is playing out in tragic ways in this parable as men reject Christ of their own accord (at least I don’t think God planted excuses in their hearts.) This is a great mystery for sure, but this parable does not portray God’s heart as exclusionary. On the contrary, God’s heart seems very, very inclusive and patient. But we must not reject His Son. After His patience is exhausted, His wrath will be directed at those who made excuses.

Father, allow your creation to open and read afresh your invitation. Challenge our excuses; persist until we see the folly of our choices. Confront and overthrow all our hurtful notions about You and ourselves, for Your Name’s sake. Amen.





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