Scott Chrostek, campus pastor at Resurrection Downtown, began by sharing the context in which Luke shared Jesus’ parable about the “kingdom feast” that both he and the religious leaders of his day anticipated (Luke 14:15-24). Jesus was eating with a group in the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1). In verses 12-14, he offered a very different perspective on how to create the guest list for such gatherings. “When you host a lunch or dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers and sisters, your relatives, or rich neighbors. If you do, they will invite you in return and that will be your reward. Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.”
That was a startling idea. In Jesus’ day, banquets were a big deal—one of the main ways to obtain and define social status. The typical practice (not so different from today) was to invite people who would increase your prestige, upgrade your social status. And here was Jesus suggesting that instead you should invite all the “wrong people,” that the real benefit precisely because they couldn’t repay you! Jesus was reminding them that his kingdom is one in which the high will be brought low, and the low will be elevated. All can stand before God on the same footing—humbled by our need, and raised up by God’s overflowing generosity and grace.
Perhaps a little baffled by Jesus' unconventional social advice, one of the dinner guests said, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” And Jesus responded with—what else?—a story. Someone gave a great dinner, and invited many people. When everything was prepared, he sent a servant to tell the guests it was time to come to the feast. And at that point the parable took an unexpected twist.
The invited guests all began to make excuses—silly, transparent excuses for why they couldn’t come to the feast. In the parable, they didn’t feel the need to explain why they were suddenly unwilling to attend the host’s dinner—they just refused.
Faced with such a strange situation, some hosts might just give up and cancel the feast. But not the one in Jesus' story. He sent the servant back out with the directive, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” If the invited guests didn’t want to attend, the party was still on—and if that meant all the “wrong” people got to enjoy it, that would be the way things were. The servant returned to tell the host, “What you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” What a picture of God’s kingdom—there is always “still room”! So the master said, “Go out into the road and lanes”—that is, the areas outside of town, to where those on the bottom of the social scale were banished. Even they got to enjoy the great feast. Sadly, only the ones who were first invited missed out on the great feast—and that due to their own refusal to attend.
Through that story, Jesus called the religious leaders of his day (and us, as his followers today) to be the kind of kingdom community that breaks through social barriers, that boldly offers the joy of the kingdom to everyone. Pastor Chrostek told us about Resurrection Downtown members going door-to-door in the zip code identified as the fourth most dangerous in America to invite residents to Vacation Bible Camp. Like the servant in the parable, our master tells us to go everywhere to share the kingdom invitation, rather than huddling safely behind our church walls.
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