Excuse me ! Tuesday, 31st Week in ordinary time – Luke 14:15-24
If Jesus ever turned down an invitation to dinner, there is no record of it. As one commentator put it, Jesus ate his way through the Gospels. Today’s text is the third and final part of a three-part pericope that forms part of a dinner that Jesus is invited to at the home of a leader of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1)
At this dinner Jesus exposed their clamour for power and their mutual admiration society to which only fellow bat-patters were invited. For the Lord, it was those whose love was truly genuine, who would be rewarded at the resurrection of the righteous. Jesus’ words must have caused all of those present at the meal great discomfort. Jesus had effectively exposed and rebuked their sinful ambition.
Hearing the mention of the “resurrection of the righteous,” a clear reference to the coming kingdom of God, one man saw a way to defuse the situation, and so he called out, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” This man, like the other Pharisees, assumed that if anyone were to be at this messianic meal, this banquet of the kingdom of God, it would be people like him.
Realising they had lost the plot; Jesus tells them a parable in which he portrays the kingdom of God as a festive meal. This motif of a festive meal is common in the Bible. To this meal, those invited refused to come, each one making an excuse. The story presents God as being disappointed and even angry that those chosen, namely the Jews represented by the Pharisees, do not respond. Whatever anger God has does not last; the empty chairs at the banquet are to be filled by people who might not expect an invitation.
What was the problem with those who turned down the invitation? For them, God wasn’t ranked as number one on their “to do” list. What makes matters worse is that each of their excuses are frivolous. One man excuses himself to look at land he has just purchased, which apparently, he had not inspected before the purchase. Another declines to “try out” his oxen, which he bought untested. A third has to stay at home with his wife, whom he has just married.
The three excuses need not stand for any particular type of reason for rejecting the kingdom. Yet what all three shared was an extraordinary lameness. They are meant to strike the hearer as ridiculous and to the point of absurdity of any excuse for rejecting God’s call into his kingdom
Hence the master asks the servants to invite the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. These are the very people whom Jesus asked the Pharisees to invite to their dinners. (verse 13) These are the very people that were scorned by the Pharisees for they imagined themselves and not such social outcasts to be invited to the Messianic banquet.
For the Pharisees the messianic banquet was all about them. They imagined themselves to be the honoured guest. They thought that the banquet at the “resurrection of the righteous,” was about honouring the guest whom they saw as themselves. They failed to see that it was about honouring the host, God who had invited them. Being part of God’s kingdom is not about belonging to a particular social status, it’s about who responds to the invitation (vv. 15, 21-23) and the Pharisees had failed to respond to God’s invitation.
Those who will sit at the Messianic banquet are not there because they are important people but are there because they accepted the invitation.” Luke does not tell us that the Jews, the chosen ones, were kept from the kingdom by God’s choice, but by their own choice.
What is our take away from today’s Gospel?
We need to look into our lives too and see if there is something that has become an “excuse” for not accepting God’s invitation to his banquet?
Even if we have ‘honourable excuses’ we need to understand that there is an urgency to God’s call. The Kingdom is here and we cannot postpone our response any longer.
In the parable, property, power and relationships were reasons for staying away from the banquet by those who were invited. What are my reasons? What would be the reason for my saying, “Just one more minute and I’ll be with you?”