Saturday, March 1, 2014

Luke 14: Kingdom Conduct in Banquet 14:7-24 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this person,' and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.  But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." 

He said also to the man who had invited him, "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,  and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."

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 another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.'  And another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.'  So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, 'Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.'  And the servant said, 'Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.'  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.'" 

I was told we can judge a person's character by how he eats. I attended a fund-raising dinner serving a Western menu some time ago. It started with bread and butter and by 9:00 pm, the main dish has not arrived. By then, most of the guests on my table were hungry. We consumed at least 2-3 buns each. I ate one more than the rest because I knew from past experience the "main" dish that would come later would be just a tiny piece of 4 x 4 cm fish meat. If the first-timers knew how meagre the "main dish" was, they might have eaten one or two more buns.

The other guests might judge me as greedy. But when they saw the main dish, I was quite sure they had changed their mind about me--they probably thought I had foresight! The point is if we observe how a person behaves at banquet, we can deduce something about the person's character.

Similarly, Jesus uses people behavior in the context of a banquet to teach us three important kingdom principles:

  • Humility: First, he noticed how everyone was trying to sit near the head of the table, usually reserved for the Guest of Honor.  He therefore told His disciples that when they were invited to a banquet, they should not jostle to be seated near the GOH but rather "go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you." If we are found next to the GOH seat and asked to make way for more important people, we would lose face. So, humility is a key to promotion: "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." 
  • Grace: Next, Jesus also noticed that most of the guests invited by the host were rich friends and relatives of the host. So, he told the host that his guest list should include the poor and strangers who would not be able to repay him by inviting him back to their banquets. If we invite only those who can pay back, we would have lost an opportunity to experience God's favor because we would have our reward. But if we invite the poor and strangers, we demonstrate grace because we are unlikely to be paid back. If we give in order to receive, it's no longer grace but law.
  • Obedience: Jesus then told a parable about a man gave a great banquet and invited many. But all the invited guests gave excuses and refuse to attend. So the invitation went out to everyone in the streets--"the poor, crippled, blind and lame." The first group received the invitation but did not respond in obedience: instead they gave excuses as to why they could not come. So they missed the opportunity to eat at the great banquet. The second group responded in obedience to the invitation and attended the banquet. So they were able to enjoy the great banquet. So many are called but few chosen because those who are chosen are those who obey the invitation to come.
Jesus often uses the banquet as a metaphor for the kingdom. So we have in Jesus' teaching above the characteristics of members of the kingdom of God.
Thank You Father that we can learn about our spiritual conditions from everyday activities. Even in how we eat. Amen.

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