Several years ago, a well-known mega-church pastor discovered in his morning quiet time something he had not noticed before–visit the prisoner. Since then, in his own discovery of neglecting something God had clearly asked of His followers, several prison ministries have been launched, and Christmas gifts have been regularly packed and dispersed to every inmate in his state. I have been blessed with the opportunity to witness the tears welling up in an inmate’s eyes, as he received this, his only Christmas gift. When we read from God’s word something that is clear, yet far from our radar, it’s time to listen, pause, and make the necessary adjustments. Psalm 19:11 says “God’s word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure.” I think the directive given by Jesus, in Luke 14:13, does both, and something we, His followers, have been neglecting.
“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 14:13-14
This was the most recent tattoo that stained my arm for a week when I closed my eyes and picked one. As I turned to Luke 14 to read this verse in context, secretely hoping it was part a parable, I was challenged. After reading the chapter in its’ entirety, this verse emerged as a fulcrum on which the entire chapter is sitting.
It starts at a dinner party with Jesus healing a man of dropsy, a disease characterized by incessant swelling. Here, He displayed His heart for the sick, along with His desire to be near them and heal them, without regard to social stigma. It also showed his utter disregard for the law (the one that said there was to be no healing on the Sabbath), when it stood in the way of acts of compassion. During the same meal, He noticed something unpleasing in His disciples so He used a parable to teach a necessary lesson on humility. He summarized it with the following words: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (14:11).
A heart for the sick and a position of humility are two of the prerequisites needed in preparation for our fulcrum; the words Jesus then suggested to his host: “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be–and experience–a blessing” (MSG).
“You will be blessed in the company of the blind and the lame and the crippled and the poor, he says, not because they can repay you as friends and neighbors and relatives might, but because that is precisely where you will find and be with Jesus.”Rachel Larson
Jesus follows this invitation (the invitation to dine with Him), with the parable of the Great Banquet. In this parable, the host (God) experiences embarassing rejection after rejection from his invitees. He then summoned the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame, and those not even allowed in the village to attend his banquet. Apparently, gathering people that fit this description was social suicide–but not beyond this host because He loves the poor outcast and had a humble stance. In Ezekiel 34:16, God tells His people that He, Himself, will go after the lost, collect the strays, doctor the injured, and build up the weak. This is what the Banquet table is for.
The curious verses (25-33) about hating our families follow, along with counting the cost. When we avoid certain situations because we are too consumed about what our friends or family members might think when dining next to individuals, created in God’s image, who are vastly different from us, or we do not want to spend the extra money feeding, we are preferring our family over Jesus. It is in the comparison of our love for Him that should look like hate for our family members. When we do what Jesus asks of us, despite the kickback from society, or our loved ones, we have counted the cost and come to the conclusion that He is worth it.
Interestingly, Jesus concludes with an analogy using something found on all banquet tables–salt: “Salt is excellent. But if the salt goes flat, it’s useless, good for nothing” (14:34 MSG). The warning from God’s word is against losing our saltiness by neglecting to love and include those who God seeks out. The reward here is that we get to be His hands and feet, turn “dinners” into “banquets”, and discover The Kingdom. He has given us the table as a platform, let’s use it.
Unsplash photos by Hannah Busing, Bennett Tobias, & chuttersnap