15 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!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 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.’ 18 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.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 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.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 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. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” (Luke 14:15-24)
“Blessed are those who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
But we don’t always think so do we? Jesus gives us another parable, and it hits a bit close to home. He talks about a gentleman giving a feast. An aristocrat, a very wealthy man with wealthy friends. The man sends out invitations to them. He wants to celebrate, have a good time with his friends. But his friends, who have had the dates set for months, snub him when he sends his servant to tell them the feast is ready.
We can tell Jesus is speaking from experience. He is after all the kingdom of God incarnate, He who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit one God now and forever. And yet everywhere he turned, he was snubbed. “Let me first go bury my father.” When my parents die, then I will be courageous enough to follow you. But until then I don’t want to upset them. And somehow the fourth commandment take precedence over the first? Honor your father and mother becomes make them a god more important in your life than God himself. You see where that is going.
The invitations had been sent, and those that had received it rejected it, but the stone that was rejected has become the cornerstone. In a way it was a prophetic lesson in the history of the church. The Jews, especially the scribes and the Pharisees who had access to the scrolls, many of whom had nothing better to do all day than read the scriptures while their servants ran around doing their chores and attending to their business, these would be the ones who rejected the invitation when the time finally came. Jesus will say to them, you search the scriptures because in them you think you have eternal life, but they are these that speak of me. All of scripture, is about him. He would interpret it thus for his disciples. All the prophecies fulfilled in him. He is the kingdom of God, he is the bread of life that is eaten there, he is the one who invites to the feast. But Israel in large part rejected him. And so the invitation was sent out to others, it started in Jerusalem with Pentecost, those who were in the streets and the lanes of Jerusalem were invited, and when those who were invited began to persecute those who were eating at the banquet, breaking bread in their homes day by day (Acts. 2:42) then the invitation went out ever further along the highways and hedges, the Ethiopian Eunuch is baptized on a desert highway as he heads home to his queen Candice, the cities of Samaria hear the good news which travels to Damascus and Antioch, to Corinth and Rome. The kingdom of God is opened to the gentiles who eat bread the bread of life, the body of Christ given for you.
But this isn’t just a prophetic history lesson, but it invites us to examine ourselves who have this invitation now, to examine ourselves and how we treat this invitation day in day out, week in and week out, Sunday after Sunday, when the banquet of forgiveness is offered. The poor, the lame, the crippled and the blind, they hobble for it, they grope for it, they hunger for it. They know not all is well with them. They know their sin. They hear God’s word week after week, it cuts into their conscience. They look about and realize that they have not loved their neighbor as they should. Perhaps they see too that they have given God the short end of the stick. They have not been diligent in prayer as they should, they find better things to do on Sunday. They do not love their enemies and fail to even pray for them. They look on others with disgust and contempt, brothers and sisters redeemed by the very same blood of Christ that has redeemed them, has covered their sins and bathed them in forgiveness. The poor feel it cut into their conscience and it creates a hunger in their hearts for the grace of God.
But the Rich, they rejected it. Nothing was wrong with them, not that they could tell. They live life with their head in the sand, they don’t see death looming over them. They justify themselves and every evil thing they do. And they do every last bit of it to avoid the forgiveness of sins. This is where good becomes evil, when it is done not out of love for neighbor but out of hate for God, and pride in one’s self to make one think they are above forgiveness that they do not need the grace of God, do not need his blood, are too good to eat his bread in the kingdom of God. They have no hunger. They have better things to do, visit their summer cottages, have Sunday brunch with their new girlfriend, take the new Shelby for a drive through Zion, Bryce or the Arches, or go bury their father.
And yet Jesus holds the invitation now, the feast is ready. He has not invited those who are well, but those who are sick, the lame and the blind, the poor and the crippled. He has invited sinners like you and me, and he means to eat and drink with us as he did in days of old when the Pharisees scoffed at such scandalous behavior. Now take and eat, this is my body given for you, he says, take and drink this cup is the New Testament in my blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.