It so happened that a Pharisee invited Jesus to share a Sabbath meal with him. It was a subtle trap. Also, at the meal was a man suffering from painful and possibly life-threatening swelling. The unspoken question was if Jesus would heal this man on the Sabbath, a no-no in the mind of the Pharisees. Jesus revealed their trap, healed the man, and challenged the Pharisee’s assumptions (Luke 14:1-6). But the lessons were not over for this dinner party which brings us to our next Jesus Says command.
As the guests began to take their places Jesus noticed them jockeying for seats of honor. This lead to Jesus’ encouragement to take the lesser place. “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11, NIV)
But Jesus wasn’t finished yet. He then turned to the host and said, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12–14, NIV) The imperative command is “invite.” But this invitation is different, it is not weighed by social expectation or a calculated gain. It is instead the way of God’s Kingdom.
We could take a narrow view and only apply this to luncheons or dinner parties. But I think that Jesus was showing and telling us something larger. An attitude of heart that displays the true nature of the God’s Kingdom.
All three events recorded from this one Sabbath meal combine to reveal a greater truth. The Pharisee and his guests had a fenced in view. They lived in a black and white world of ins and outs, acceptable and unacceptable. Jesus took a bulldozer and knocked down all their fences.
The needs of people were more important than Sabbath law as they understood it. The competition for the highest seat is unwise and unseemly. The calculated invitations don’t work in God’s economy. You could boil this down to a simple (but unfortunately politically charged) phrase, everyone matters equally.
Jesus wasn’t finished, however. In Luke 14:16-24 Jesus tells a parable about party invitations. An invitation which some rejected or found better things to do. This was a pointed parable aimed directly at the Pharisees and their rejection of Jesus’ message of the Kingdom. The parable ends, “ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ ”(Luke 14:23–24, NIV)
Jesus’s command is to invite all to God’s loving kingdom knowing that some will reject it. Our job is to determine who is ready and not who is worthy. To see who is needy and not who would benefit us the most. To search for the broken and not just those who are “low-maintenance.” To do this we must break through the human-imposed barriers of class, culture, tribe, and race. The invitation, God’s invitation, is extended to all. You could say that we are simply the messengers of that Good News.