Join the Party
As we continue this journey to Jerusalem, the theme of the famous parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14:1-24 can be summarized simply: stop making excuses and accept Jesus’ invitation to His great banquet. It’s so easy for us to make excuses in our lives. Some of them are quite legitimate and the three examples in the account (Luke 14:18-20) certainly fit the category: Buying a new field in an agro-pastoral society is the classic ‘opportunity of a lifetime.’ Likewise, there is a proverb in God’s law that says the righteous takes care of his/her animals (Proverbs 12:10). Finally, being attentive to one’s wife (or husband) is not only a sign of love but it’s also a virtue lauded in Scripture. Yet none of these are deemed valid excuses, which prompts the master to order his servant to invite the ‘uninvitables’ (Luke 14:13; Luke 14:21) instead. The theme of uninvitables is itself a major theme in Luke; the (spiritually) healthy and the (un)righteous* need not bother because the Gospel is for the sick and the broken. To turn down the google invite to the party hosted by the Master (Lord in the original Greek) is a big no no. The analogy is clear: To accept Jesus’ invitation takes precedence over EVERYTHING else. The context of the banquet parable is not left to the imagination either. Jesus is talking about the End (Luke 14:14). the Great Banquet is the eschatological (=end time) marriage supper (same word for banquet) of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). It’s the great feast of Isaiah 25:6-8 when God “will swallow up death forever.” So here again we are confronted with the same nagging question in the Gospel of Luke: On this road to Jerusalem, make sure you are headed to the right Jerusalem. One is the earthly Jerusalem where the cares of this world is a huge distraction; the other one, the right one, is the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the Living God (Hebrews 12:22).
Enjoy the Food!
It would be easy to misconstrue Jesus’ claims for complete separation from this earthly Jerusalem. There are models of discipleship out there that advocate asceticism and legalism (notice how Jesus attends (and crashes) a lot of ‘cocktail parties’ in Luke; cf. Luke 5; Luke 7 and others places). Retreat from the world, like the legalistic community in the story made into a movie, Babette’s feast is not the right approach. Instead Jesus calls us to re-prioritize our lives in light of our destination, the Heavenly Jerusalem. It actually requires a lot more discipline and wisdom to discern the excuses we are making not to follow Jesus from the vantage point of engagement in the world around us (wherever God has placed you in your workplace, environment, etc.). To “renounce everything” (Luke 14:33) not about escapism, it’s about setting the right priorities.
Stop making excuses:
So this week, let’s consider doing our own early spring cleaning of priorities and excuses. What sort of excuses am I making? In what ways am I confusing this Jerusalem on earth (a forsaken house, Jesus says, Luke 13:35) with the Jerusalem above, our true home by faith in Jesus? This may require some shift in our priorities (either imposed or voluntary); either way, this is one party invite you don’t want to turn down. As Kristin reminded us last night at Evensong, during the season of Lent we don’t “give up” things for the sake of self-deprivation alone. Rather, we are invited to “exchange” something fine and good in its own right with something far better – a deeper relationship with God.
*the underlying narrative throughout Luke is that righteousness is really a gift from God, obtained by grace through faith (Zechariah in chapter 1 and especially the parable of the publican in Luke 18:9-14). In this respect, many commentators have noted how Paul’s thinking on the idea of righteousness shapes Luke’s own understanding.