Continuing on from last week’s post, this week is about another story Jesus told to explain what God is like.
Last week explored religious hypocrites. This week, we side-step to jerks.
The story picks up midway through a conversation with a fellow guest at a dinner party.
Story Two: The Great Feast
When one of the guests sitting at the table heard this, he said to Jesus, “How happy are those who will sit down at the feast in the Kingdom of God!”
Jesus said to him, “There was once a man who was giving a great feast to which he invited many people. When it was time for the feast, he sent his servant to tell his guests, ‘Come, everything is ready!’ But they all began, one after another, to make excuses. The first one told the servant, ‘I have bought a field and must go and look at it; please accept my apologies.’ Another one said, ‘I have bought five pairs of oxen and am on my way to try them out; please accept my apologies.’ Another one said, ‘I have just gotten married, and for that reason I cannot come.’
The servant went back and told all this to his master. The master was furious and said to his servant, ‘Hurry out to the streets and alleys of the town, and bring back the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ Soon the servant said, ‘Your order has been carried out, sir, but there is room for more.’ So the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the country roads and lanes and make people come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you all that none of those who were invited will taste my dinner!’”
If you’ve read last week’s post you’ll be able to tell that the feast again represents heaven.
In the story, God sends out his invitations to heaven to a number of people. These people are just labelled as ‘guests’ which gives the impression that they are those who you expect to be invited. Or in other words, the Church attending religious elite.
Except when they’re told that it’s time for the party, their response to God is basically:
“Nah, mate. Too busy.”
My personal favourite jerk in the story is the one who wants to go out and stand in a paddock and look at his grass.
It appears to be in the story that there was some prior arrangement for these ‘guests’. They were expecting to come to the feast. It was a given; at least, in their minds.
But when they were actually required to do something related to the feast, they found they had other things they thought were more important. And, I assume, thought they’d still be able to come later.
Except we know from Jesus’ story that is not the case. Their original offer is declined.
Instead, the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame are welcomed to the feast in their place.
On the surface level this is a big enough deal, but if you dig a little deeper and put the story in its ancient Jewish context it packs even more of a punch.
Modern thinking about the poor and the disabled is not the same as it was in ancient times. In ancient times many considered poverty and disability as signs of disapproval from God. The poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame are the last people Jesus’ listeners would have thought would be getting a tick of approval from God.
Translate that into the modern day and think of someone of whom you’re sure God would disapprove. Think of someone you think Jehovah would want to smite. Think of someone who you just know would be on his banned list.
Then think about the fact that they’re actually invited to the feast.
There’s a servant who has been sent out to the streets and alleys of town, the country roads and lanes just to make sure those ‘blacklisted’ folk know that they’ve got an invitation to heaven.
That’s what God’s like. He can’t stand the religious jerks, who are self-righteous and presumptuous.
He loves to invite the last people you’d expect and it appears they’re the ones who actually want to come along to his feast in the end.
I call that amazing. Other people call it grace.
Feel free to put the two together.
Yours in inviting,