That My House May Be Filled

Luke 14:15-24

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.’”

In Jesus’ day, throwing a banquet was all about social status. Who you invited and who showed up all spoke to the honor and status of the host. Even where people sat at the banquet carried significance of social rank. In the verses just before this parable, Jesus starts to turn all these social structures of rank and status on their head. He tells people that when they host a banquet, rather than inviting the people who will make them look good and return the favor, they should instead invite the lowest and the least. And if you’re attending a banquet, you shouldn’t sit in the place of honor, but take the seat of least importance. Keep in mind, he’s saying all this at a banquet at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. If all that wasn’t scandalous enough, then he tells this parable.

Jesus’ parables aren’t meant as illustrations to make things easier to understand, but quite the opposite. They’re meant to wrap what are really very subversive and controversial ideas in a narrative that draws his audience in enough to make them hear him out and consider what he says rather than write it off completely. To those who are opposed to him, parables conceal these hard truths and send them away confused. But those who are bought in, who are with him, they reveal the Kingdom of God that Jesus has come to bring.

Jesus tells this parable to say that their systems of honor and social status have no place in that Kingdom. In the Kingdom of God, the first will be last, and the last will be first. It’s like a banquet. If you think you’re too cool for it, or have better things to do, then by the time you realize what you’re missing, it will be too late. But if you’ve been cast aside and forgotten, if you’ve always been on the outside looking in, there’s a place for you at the master’s table.

When we read stories like this in the Bible, we tend to put ourselves in the shoes of one of story’s characters.There’s nothing wrong with this, it can actually be really helpful, but the problem is that we always tend to think of ourselves as the good guy. I heard someone recently refer to this as “Disney princess theology”. We always think ourselves the princess in the story, never the wicked step-sister. Always David standing up to the giant and never the Israelites cowering in the corner. Always the good Samaritan rather than the priest or the Levite.

When Jesus is telling this parable, he has pretty clear ideas in mind for who of his audience fits what role. There are the Jews and Pharisees, God’s chosen people of highest status, first invited to the banquet in the Kingdom of God, but convinced they have better things to do. The poor and crippled, blind and lame translate pretty directly too. They’re those who are marginalized, cast aside, and forgotten. The ones that don’t make you look good for being at your party and can’t return the favor, and the master welcomes them in. And then there’s everyone else, the Gentile outsiders. To anyone the master calls that might come, his banquet is open. This, he’s saying, is what the Kingdom of God is like.

But maybe there’s a forth role too. There are these servants who carry the message of their master. The ones he sends out and commissions, telling them to hit the streets. Shake the bushes. Tell everyone there’s a banquet going on. Compel them to enter in, that his house may be filled.

Reflect

  • Through this parable, Jesus rejected the systems of honor and social status of his day. What implications does this have for us today?
  • In what role do you see yourself in this story? How can you better see yourself as the master's servant, welcoming all in to the banquet?

Pray

Father, thank you that you would welcome to yourself the lowly and the outsider. Teach me to love others as I have been perfectly loved by you. Send me out today to proclaim your Kingdom and welcome all to enter in, that your house may be filled. Amen.
Taylor Whitson, September 8, 2020
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