15 Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”
16 Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. 17 When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ 18 But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ 19 Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 Another said, ‘I now have a wife, so I can’t come.’
21 The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ 23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. 24 For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”
This dialogue takes place around the same banquet table from yesterday’s reading, full of religious leaders. The one who calls out in v.15 assumes that he is destined for the banquet in the Kingdom of God. Jesus calls that assumption into question with his parable, which is similar to Matthew’s (ch. 22) but with a few key differences. Luke is much more specific with the excuses given for not coming and with who winds up coming instead.
The religious leaders at the banquet are represented by the invited guests, they are too busy with their own affairs to attend to the things of the kingdom of God. I know how they feel. Just yesterday I was working on the building our church has rented, trying to get it ready to hold Sunday services. We are making progress, but not as quickly as I hoped. I was particularly frustrated yesterday (and in a bad mood generally). A neighbor I have been becoming friends with stopped by late in the afternoon (just as my anxiety was sliding back down from its peak, headed to a valley of fatigue) and I could tell he was trying to talk to me. I did my best to be polite, but I did not give him the attention and care he deserved. You might say this comparison is a bit off because I was at least concerned with church stuff and not personal stuff (like the excuses here), but confusing church stuff with kingdom stuff is a classic blunder people (especially pastors) make. The stuff I was stressing over will work out fine and we will be in the building soon enough, but none of it matters next to this man’s soul and the care for it I am called to give. We’ve been invited to take part in the greatest thing ever – building the kingdom of God. We can always make excuses or come up with things that seem more urgent, but we run the risk of missing the banquet.
Two groups wind up coming to the banquet, the poor, blind, crippled, lame and those from outside the immediate vicinity. Each represent key points Luke is trying to make, in his Gospel and in Acts, respectively. This is the second time Jesus brought up the poor, blind, crippled, and lame at this party. Yesterday he told the host to stop inviting his rich friends, and instead make new friends from these disenfranchised categories. Here he makes Luke’s reversal theme plain: the invited guests will be replaced by these unfortunate souls. Then Jesus adds people from the country, those living under hedges, also the second time at this party Luke has sown seeds for the main theme of Acts: the inclusion of the Gentiles in the kingdom of God. In fact, this is really matter of inclusion. The only ones excluded are those who practice exclusion. The ones targeted for inclusion are the very ones the excluders had been excluding. Even the excluders are welcome to the banquet if they will stop their excluding ways and give more attention to the kingdom of God than to their own affairs.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.