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.’”
Banquets: course after course of good food. Canapés, soups, fresh fish, steaks, lightly cooked fresh vegetables, new potatoes, dauphinoise potatoes, French fries, pavlovas, mousses, tarts, ice cream, sorbet soft and hard cheeses, cheese biscuits, grapes – all accompanied by good wine and finished off with a cup of freshly ground coffee. All of the above? Picture that against a background of light background music, surrounded by good company and conversation – and all the time in the world to relax and talk.
Well, if that’s what it’s like on Earth, I can promise you God’s banquet will be even better in heaven. Because God’s generosity goes way beyond our imagination. And just like the folk in Jesus parable, that offer is open to us. God in his grace and mercy invites us all to his banquet. He loves us all.
Jesus gave us some idea of the extent of God’s love for everyone by his inclusiveness in offering God’s love to everyone he met.
He horrified the strict Pharisees of his day by mixing with Samaritans of the north and hated by the Jews in the south. He talked to women in public, touched a leper (the unclean!), he welcomed children to be with him. One of his closest friends was a tax gatherer. He had the audacity of offering God’s forgiveness – to a convicted criminal, and even to himself – as he was dying on the cross.
Jesus love didn’t have boundaries. The only boundaries came from those who refused to accept his invitation: the Pharisees bound into the law and the young ruler who valued his possessions more than Jesus’ love these are just a couple of examples which may have prompted Jesus parable which we look at here.
It was customary to issue invitations in advance of a banquet in those days and then follow it up with a reminder on the day. So all those invited would have had prior notice of the event.
Yet they came up with extraordinary excuses. While it was normal for young men to be excused from serving as soldiers, for the first year of their marriage, with the long engagements which were normal in those days this young man would most likely have had his wedding planned well before he received the invitation to banquet: it would been a snub to refuse on the day.
Perhaps it’s fair to say that women weren’t invited – but the banquet was unlikely to last more than a week, and his marriage we hope was for a lifetime.
The man who had bought land would have completed the transaction – so why was he in such haste to see something that presumably he’d already seen, and in any case was now in his permanent possession.
Or the owner of the five yoke of oxen. If he could afford five yoke of oxen, the chances are he could afford servants to try them out for him.
Despite these rebuffs, the man hosting the banquet was not to be deterred. He sent out his invitation to people who he didn’t even know, people who would have been looked down on by society and by his other guests, to anyone who would accept his invitation. He didn’t put any restrictions on whom his servants could include. All they had to do was accept the invitation and come along.
And that’s just like God.
He doesn’t put any limits on who he invites his banquet of eternal life. The offer is open to absolutely everyone. All we have to do is accept this gift of grace and forgiveness.
God’s generosity is beyond our imagination. As human beings, we have an inherent tendency to judge others, and to put boundaries around ourselves.
I can still remember my voluntary service days when a friend and I used to visit an elderly lady in town once a week. The smell from her house pervaded the area outside – honestly! Her dentures were always in a jar on the table beside her. I have to admit that as greedy teenagers we persevered with our visits more for the cakes that she gave us money to go and buy from the local bakery, than for recognising that we were visiting an incredibly generous but vulnerable and housebound lady from whom we could learn a few lessons in life. Our giving was sadly limited and bounded by what we could get.
Many changes, including travel and communication have led to us meeting a far broader spectrum of people in day-to-day life today than might have been possible a couple of centuries ago. Then people of different social classes only met with in a clear structure of the poor and the nobility or before that, of master and servant.
We live in a global multicultural multi-faith society – which is good.
Good …if we respond by sharing God’s love with all as Jesus did, without any boundaries.
God created the most wonderful world and he made it for all of us to share. There is plenty for everyone – yet many go hungry and thirsty and have no home or bed for the night.
God’s grace and forgiveness, extended to us to Jesus death on the cross, are for everyone. Yet many are hungry and lonely, rejected and sad.
We are called to invite everyone to God’s banquet.
We are called to love, to serve, to give to all.