When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ … And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.'” – Luke 14:15-18, 23-24 ESV
In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells a parable about a great banquet. In it, he tells us about the wonderful feast that God has prepared for those who come to Him. He also warns us about things that might keep us from being able to attend. Actually, there’s only one thing that can keep us from attending: our own choice. Jesus wants us to choose God over all the concerns of life. In this parable, Jesus shows us the heart of God regarding those who come to Him. Let this story remind you of your value to God and God’s closeness to you.
This story of a banquet was told at a banquet, cleverly enough. Jesus had been invited to eat at a Pharisee’s house one Sabbath (v. 1) and He was not being the most polite of guests. In fact, this was the second parable, the first one insulted their habit of vying for the best seat in the house (vs. 7-14).
This second parable is said about something another guest said. In response to Jesus’s first parable, a man says, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Sounds pretty nice, right? I can say that I agree with that sentiment, on the surface at least. Jesus, however, sees deeper than that and knew what the man really meant. So, in His usual round-about way, Jesus responds with a parable.
The story opens with a man sending out servants to invite lots of people to come and eat with him. Instead of jumping at the chance for an amazing feast, they one by one turn the invitation down with excuse after excuse. So, the man sends out his servants to find the poor, crippled, blind, and lame. Then, as he still had seats left, he sends the servants out again, farther out, to find every person who is willing to come. He also adds at the end, “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.”
How do you think that guest felt with that kind of response? It probably felt like the shutdown it was. Jesus was responding to the cultural ideal that you were invited based on your status or your value. At this very party, the Pharisees were trying to raise their own importance by fighting over where to sit. Yes, those who get to eat at the banquet of the Lord will truly be blessed (and happy and full!). However, we need to make sure we know why we’re being invited.
We are invited to God’s feast because He wants a full house of guests. He isn’t going to check credentials at the door. In fact, if you’re worried about not only your credentials but the credentials of the people you’ll be rubbing elbows with, you will be sorely disappointed. You may end up kicked out of the feast.
God accepts everyone who shows up to the party. He doesn’t like being turned down (really, who does?) and he will reach out to everyone. Don’t say you aren’t good enough, don’t say you should have lived a different life. Wherever you are when you hear God’s invitation, take it! Take it right then and know that you are just as much an honored guest as anyone else at the party. God doesn’t play favorites, because it’s not about us; it’s about Him.
Jesus was warning the Pharisees to get their heads on straight about what the point of religion was. It’s not about theological knowledge or position within the church. It’s absolutely not about gaining importance within the eyes of any person in this world. It’s solely about showing up when God invites you to do so.
The first (and possibly most important) invitation God offers you is the invitation to be saved through His grace. We need to acknowledge we are sinners and choose to make Him the Lord of our life. Everything else in life falls second to this choice.
This isn’t the only invitation though. We have offers from Him daily to be close to Him and walk near Him. He wants to get to know us. After all, he’s our friend. Please, don’t let the busyness of life or the feelings of inferiority interfere with accepting God’s invitation to be together each and every day. He’s very, very real and wants to spend time with you. Let each day be a banquet in His presence and choose to response to His loving call. How does God want to be with you today?