By the time we reach Luke 14, Jesus has twice encountered table "fellowship" at in the home of a Pharisee. Both meals (Lk. 7 & 11) provoked controversy, itself a transgression of hospitality. At the third meal Jesus takes the initiative, turning the tables on Who scrutinizes who. He launches into an extended discussion which takes up the bulk of Luke 14. How concerned ought we to be about our dignity, especially if the issue is urgent, or holy, or both?
Jesus steers the discussion to the Parable of the Great Banquet. (Lk. 14.15-24) To hear Jesus tell it, meals truly are special, fellowship at the table is sacred, and an invitation to dinner says more about the host than the guests.
What Jesus is doing in Luke 14 is something like deconstruction. While sitting at the dinner table with His host, Jesus unpacks and comments upon ... the social occasion of people eating dinner together.
I am reminded of how the early David Letterman used his own late night talk show to expose the superficial world of ... the late night talk show.
While sitting among His fellow-guests, Jesus teaches that to use someone else's’ dinner for social climbing is a callous insult to the host, a rejection of hospitality sincerely given. Further, Jesus teaches no one deserves their meal.
The Parable of the Great Banquet depends upon understanding how those large-scale feasts worked in real time. Remember, there was no refrigeration. Nothing at all like the large-scale kitchens with multiple stoves, ovens and food-warmers.
Back then a person would send out invitations. The number who accepted allowed the host to adequately prepare for the meal. When the meal was ready messengers were sent by the host to those who had previously accepted the original invitation.
The punch of the Parable comes when Jesus describes the Host’s reaction to rejection. They were rejecting a summons to a meal prepared on the basis of their own earlier acceptance. They knew the summons was coming. They knew their host had been gracious to invite them and had generously made ample provision for their attendance. Now their excuses were not only laughable, they were rude.
The host will not be deterred. The host will not waste His resources. He will have His Great Banquet and it will be a singular display of His generosity. This event is not about the "A list" guests who walk the red carpet to the hungry delight of status watchers. The Great Banquet is about the Host who desires about all else to share His joy and fellowship.
Do we “get it” that the gospel invitation is not first about our need but about God’s glory? No one deserves the gospel. “Deserve” has nothing to do with. God does not forgive because that is His job. We are not forgiven because we are weak and God owes us a fair shake; as though He owed it to us to grade our salvation on some kind of celestial sliding scale.
Our salvation is all about God’s glory, God’s grace, God’s generosity. Are we ‘some kind of brilliant’ because we admit the obvious and lunge for relief when offered? I think not.
There is an urgency to walking with Jesus. There is no other way. This urgency comes from God Himself: "Compel them to come in, that My house may be filled." God wants His feast full to overflowing. "Go to the streets and the lanes ... bring in the poor, crippled, blind and lame," God says.
The urgency does not come from our anxiety to fill the house. The urgency comes from embracing God's own passionate desire to declare His glory and share His joy.