In the parable of the great banquet in Luke 14, one of the guests commented, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God.” He says this to elicit Jesus’ opinion on who will be at this heavenly banquet.
They expect Him to respond by saying something like, “Those who precisely keep the Law, they will be worthy.” And the Pharisee’s would have nodded their heads in agreement. 700 years earlier, Isaiah, in the 25th chapter of his prophetic book, says that Gentiles, despised by the Jews of that day, will also be at this banquet. The apocryphal Book of Enoch agrees that Gentiles will be at this banquet, with a slight twist. He says that the angel of death will be there to slay all the Gentiles, and the good Jews will have to wade through the blood to get to the banquet table. The Qumran adds another twist: no one with physical deformities will be allowed at this banquet. Thankfully, Jesus has a different reality on this.
In verse 16-20, the master of the house sends out his servant to gather people for the banquet. People come and are seated in the living area. But when the announcement comes that the food is ready, they get up and leave. One has to go test his oxen, another has to look at a field he just bought, and another just got married. Imagine having guests in your own home doing this. “Excuse me, I have to go and feed my cat.” Or, “I have to go mow the lawn.” They all had flimsy excuses: What? you didn’t test the oxen or look at the field before you bought it? Not likely. The excuses are purposely flimsy. Why? They wanted to humiliate the host.
The host is righteously upset. He’s been humiliated. Insult and injustice causes great anger. And anger generates enormous energy. What is he to do with it? Bible says, “Be angry and sin not.”
The master of the house has every right to retaliate, but he doesn’t. He responds in grace and invites others to come. He uses his energy to invite the poor, maimed, blind, and infirm and yes, even Gentiles. The very ones the religious elite say are not eligible.
He says to “Compel, even force them to come in.” He’s not saying to physically drag them in. The Spanish Inquisition used this terminology to justify their horrific brutalities toward “heretics,” those whom Rome deemed not “Catholic enough.” But the master knew that this third group of invited guests would have a difficult time believing they were worthy to attend such a banquet and would need some strong persuasion. “Are you kidding, you want me at the banquet? Hah, do you know what I’ve done? I don’t even go to your church.”
This latter group was the broken, the abused, the trampled underfoot, the dregs and outcasts of society. The very people the religious elite would cast away and declare as unworthy.
The heavenly banquet has already begun. The religious elite are invited. But if they refuse, or are too proud, Jesus will go to the “common people,” those who “heard Him gladly.” Those who are most convinced of their own worthiness are the least likely to be found at the banquet. Those who are broken, bruised, and used by this world, who can’t believe they’re worthy to attend, are the most likely to be included. Those whose church attendance has been impeccable, whose good works are all up to date, those who have ticked off all the right boxes of religious activity, will consider their ticket successfully punched. Maybe.
But what about those who aren’t on the church membership roles? The ones who aren’t included in Christianity Today or Charisma magazine? What about those who are trying to love God but don’t have a ready audience? What about those who don’t fit the ecclesiastical mold, those who round peg doesn’t fit the churchly square? Those who are bankrupt in the business of the Western church?
In Rev.4:10,11, the twenty-four elders are seen in heaven, falling down before Him
who is seated on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before Him, crying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power…” I believe the saints around the throne of God will do likewise, feeling unworthy to even be there, much less, to be receiving crowns. Will there be those demanding larger crowns there? I think not.
We are instructed, commanded by Jesus to invite people to the banquet. We’re not responsible for them to accept, but we are responsible to invite them. Those who refuse to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” will be cut off. Anyone who doesn’t desire to know the truth has already rejected it. Truth and error are all the same to the spiritually ignorant man, and so he doesn’t value spiritual Truth.
Many people say a person can be saved in any religion if he just follows the “light.” That it doesn’t matter what someone believes as long as he believes something. But in reality, their imagination is making as many roads to heaven as Scripture tells us there are ways to hell.
How do we know the truth? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the way.” The Word declares that anyone who does not hold that truth is marked lost for eternity. He who will not take God before he dies, the devil will take as soon as he dies.” This is why it is critical to know what you believe and why you believe it.