Listen to the audio of today’s Reflection:

Luke 14:12-24

      12 Then Jesus said to his host, “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. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

     15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

     16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

     18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

     19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

     20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

     21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

     22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

     23 “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. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

This reading is made up of two passages, and in each of them, Jesus uses a banquet as a metaphor for the life of faith. The first three verses are the end of a passage that was the basis for another of our recent Reflections – one that tells about an occasion on which Jesus was invited to dinner at the home of a Pharisee. In that story, as you might remember, Jesus notices people jockeying for the best seats at the table, and he uses it as a ‘teachable moment’ to advise people to humble themselves instead of trying to elbow their way into the good spots. As we said, good advice for anyone, but especially important teaching for those of us who trying to follow him – not to try to “exalt’ ourselves.

Which brings us to our reading for today. Jesus turns to his host, a Pharisee who had invited him to dinner, and he gives the Pharisee something to think about. When he gives a luncheon or dinner, Jesus says, the Pharisee should invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.” And Jesus tells the man that he will be repaid for this generosity “at the resurrection of the righteous.” Presumably that applies to all of us, not just to his host for the evening.

In our reading, one of the other guests at the table then says, “blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Hearing the comment, Jesus rolls right into a parable that sheds some light on the nature of that “feast in the kingdom of God.” It’s a parable about someone throwing a big banquet.

In the story, a generous host had spread the word that he would be throwing this banquet. But when the time came, the invited guests all said they had other things to do, so they all asked to be excused. One had just bought a field and another a bunch of oxen, and both needed to go check out their purchases. Another had just gotten married. They were all too busy to come to the banquet.

But the host is understandably angry about all these excuses, and he sends out his men to ‘draft’ some guests for the banquet. And look – the host in this parable tells his men to bring in the very same people Jesus advised his Pharisee host to invite: “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.”

As you might remember, Jesus told this ‘Parable of the Great Banquet’ because someone had mentioned “the feast in the kingdom of God,” which was a way of referring to the kingdom of heaven. So it seems like this parable was meant to tell us about God’s heavenly kingdom, with the host in the parable representing God himself.

It seems to me that the point Jesus is making here is that lots of those who thought of themselves as ‘God’s people’ were too preoccupied with the things of this world to accept God’s invitation to his kingdom, when that invitation was expressed through Jesus. So God extended his invitation to those who are ignored and marginalized by polite society. And because there’s still room left at the table, God has reached out to bring in people from “the roads and the country lanes.” And these outsiders presumably represent the gentiles. So as Jesus portrays it, the table at the great feast in heaven will be full of people who suffer and are rejected and marginalized by the powers of this world, and with people who were not a part of God’s original covenant with Israel.

All of which sheds some light on what Jesus was talking about back at the beginning of this reading. If you remember, Jesus told his Pharisee host to do what God does – to extend his hospitality to those who suffer and are rejected in this life. Because if you invite a friend over for dinner, that friend will probably invite you in return. So you’ll get a dinner out of the deal. But if you invite the poor and the marginalized, your reward will be greater – because God is able to reward you much more richly than any human being ever could.

I think Jesus might mean for us to notice that he is advising us, not just to take the poor and needy some food, but to invite them to come and eat with us as honored guests. As friends.

It’s not uncommon for churches to serve meals to the poor and the needy. But I’ve noticed that sometimes church people aren’t that crazy about sitting down at the table and eating with those needy and marginalized people. The church folks sometimes stay in the kitchen with a counter between themselves and their “guests.” Sometimes those guests aren’t as clean and well-groomed as we’d like them to be. Sometimes they don’t demonstrate the table manners our parents taught us. So we instinctively keep them at arm’s length.

But it seems to me that’s what Jesus is telling us not to do. Since he was known as a friend of sinners who welcomed and ate with them, we should assume that Jesus intends for his followers to extend friendship to those who are marginalized – friendship, not just a meal. Feeding them without sitting down to eat with them is a subtle way of keeping them as “others,” not as friends.

If our Christian love is extended only to people who can do something for us in return, it’s not love – it’s an investment. Genuine love is extended without expectation of getting anything back – extended even to those neighbors who can’t do a thing for us. Those are the people Jesus seems to want us to go out of our way to befriend and serve.

Let’s pray. Lord, work in our hearts and make us more eager to reach out to the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame – to those who are disrespected and marginalized by the world. And make us eager to reach out to them, not just as people who should appreciate what we do for them, but instead as brothers and sisters it is our privilege to befriend and serve. Amen.



(The other readings for today are Psalms 97 and 112, Joel 1:15 – 2:2; and Revelation 18:15-24. Our readings come from the NIV Bible, as posted on, the website of the International Bible Society.)