The Parable Of The Big Banquet
June 3, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Those Who Refused The Invitation
1. In today's reading of the gospel was read one of the parables Jesus had given. It was in "the house of a Pharisee member of the high court" where Jesus told this story. He was invited to dinner. It looks like there were other people invited besides him. Since they were guests whom the Pharisee member of the court had invited, they were probably fellow countrymen of good reputations, who kept the law and the conventions in a strict manner. The reason Jesus had told this parable to them is that one of them had said to Jesus the following words. "How blessed is the person who has a meal in the kingdom of God!" If we think about each one of the people assembled there, we will understand right away the tone by which he had given the next statement. He doesn't say, "You [should be] jealous of those who enter the kingdom of God." This man himself also is included, as a matter of course, among those having a meal in the kingdom of God. He says, "How we are blessed, to be able to have a meal even in the kingdom of God, just as we're having now in this place!" I imagine that even the others assembled there had heard this statement approvingly.
2. The statement of "How blessed is the person who has a meal in the kingdom of God!" is, on the other hand, a statement, upon thinking about it, that there are "people unable to have a meal in the kingdom of God." We can probably use our imaginations in general to get the kinds of persons he was thinking about. [He meant] the kind of people that a Pharisee would absolutely never invite to dinner. For example, it would be tax collectors and sinners. It would also be the disabled begging in the town square and its alleys; for, it was held among them that these [kinds of folks] have committed sin and they were receiving the curses of God because of it. Looking down upon those types, they looked at themselves as the people who would enter into the kingdom of God, and they said, ""How blessed is the person who has a meal in the kingdom of God!" That's why Jesus told this kind of parable. While we picture this scene, let's listen carefully to the first section of Jesus' parable, once again.
3. "There Jesus said, 'As a certain man was holding a magnificent banquet, he invited a great number of people, and as the moment of the banquet came, he sent his servant and he had him say to the people invited, I have gotten everything ready, please come. Whereupon, everyone refused one by by. The first person said, Since I bought a field, I must go see it. Please excuse me. Another person said, Since I bought five teams of two oxen each, I am going to inspect them. Then a different person said, Since I just took a wife, I cannot go.'," (verses sixteen through twenty).
4. The kingdom of God is compared to a "magnificent banquet." But, it is a bit difficult for us to grasp the image which the word "banquet" originally had. I say that because "banquets" have become quite rare for us today and are about gone. Perhaps, some may even claim, from the perspective of a member of society, that "Banquets are so boring." Even though I am not having fun, I got to act happy, I have to display my talent that I don't even want to do. If that's how banquets are, they must be boring.
5. However, when the people in the time period of Jesus hear "banquet," the image is entirely different because as a rule, the typical meal of the people was very modest, at most fish was a big feast. What's more, for the Jews, the bond between the people sharing a meal together was directly related to the happiness and the blessings of the people. So, upon their hearing of "the magnificent banquet" if asked to associate it with a word, it would be the word "joy." When you picture this scene in your mind, it will be filled with the smiling faces of people enjoying themselves and having fun as they shared a meal.
6. With that then, if we more or less try to grasp that image, we would probably be better at recalling some scene at a meal we've had where we felt, "Hey, I really enjoyed that now," and not [try to imagine] some "banquet." [You might recall] a time when you felt happy around the supper table with your family. Or maybe when you had a meal with your sweetheart. If ever you had a meal that you felt "Hey, I was so happy there," enlarge that the way it was about tenfold. That's the image this word "magnificent banquet" used to have.
7. Jesus compared the kingdom of God to "a magnificent banquet." God himself prepared it and shares in its joy with [them]. He does the inviting to the banquet. It is an invitation to the kingdom of God. When we consider this, we see that the story Jesus told was an impossible story, [it could never be], no matter how you consider it.
8. The people were invited to the banquet which is joy itself. According to the customs back then, the invitation was done twice as per courtesy. The banquet organizer, after setting up the whole meal and the preparations, would send the messenger one more time. As expected, the refusal of the second invitation was most discourteous because the dinner was already prepared. In spite of that though, in this story everybody did refuse one by one. Such a thing as this could never happen no matter how you consider it.
9. Worse still, most surprising is the details of their refusals. "Since I bought a field, I must go see it." "Since I bought five teams of two oxen each, I am going to inspect them." "Since I just took a wife ..." These may each be important. But should one want to attend a banquet to which you were invited, it would be a situation where you could put all things aside momentarily. Nevertheless, rather than attending the banquet, they, to get to the point, say it is more important to go see the field "now," it is more important to go inspect the oxen "now," it is more important not to displease his wife "now." As seen from the perspective of the reasons for the refusals, it is obvious that these people had no anticipation for the "magnificent banquet" to which they were invited. They had no real desire to share in the banquet supper. To begin with they didn't consider the fact they were invited as all that big a deal.
10. Why did Jesus talk about people like them? Aren't you the same way? That's what he was saying. "How blessed is the person who has a meal in the kingdom of God!" That's how the man spoke to Jesus, like he snugly expected to be invited to the kingdom of God. However, Jesus said, "You're talking like that, but you have no real desire for the kingdom of God, do you? You're not longing for and waiting in hope for the kingdom of God, are you? Rather than that, you are living as if this world, the now, what is right in front of your eyes, is far more important, aren't you? 'Cause you're going to look at your fields. 'Cause you're going to inspect your oxen. 'Cause you took a wife. As you talk like that, you are living all the while declaring that these are by far more important than the kingdom of God, aren't you?"
11. How [can I say this]? When we read it thus, we see that this impossible tale has everything in the world to do with us. When seen from the perspective of the one who knows the kingdom of God in the true sense, the one who knows what it means that God himself has prepared it and shares in its joy with [the people], we too will definitely look the same as the people in this parable.
God Won't Cancel The Banquet
12. But, the story doesn't end here. Jesus goes on to tell more. "The servant returned home and reported it to his master. Whereupon, the master of the house grew angry and said to him, 'Hurry, go out to the town square and its alleys, and bring the poor, the disabled, the blind, and the lame here.' Soon after, when the servant says, 'Oh master, I have done as you wished, but there are still seats,' the master said, 'Go out into the streets and the lanes, bring the people even against their will, and fill up my house with people! I say to you, among the invited people those who taste my supper shall not be one of them.'," (verses twenty-one through twenty-four).
13. One more theme has been given here. It is the passionate intensity of God. God will not cancel the banquet for any reason. God will not cancel the salvation of humanity. God wants to fulfill the banquet in the kingdom of God no matter what, God wants to fulfill the banquet where God and people will enjoy it together. This intensity of God is described in this parable. It is an intensity such that however much God's goodwill in inviting [people] to the kingdom of God may be trampled upon, despised, rejected, and refused, still though God will keep inviting them. [He is] a master crying out, "Fill my house up with people!" The will of God is depicted here in this text.
14. In truth, the invitation based on God's fervor and intensity as spoken about in this parable, had already begun to be fulfilled around Jesus. The Pharisees, the people who considered "those unable to eat a meal in the kingdom of God," had been steadily assembling around Jesus. Sinners, tax collectors, the poor, the disabled, the blind, the lame had been assembling around Jesus. They longed for the kingdom of God, they wanted to know the kingdom of God, they wanted to be touched by God's love, so they had kept coming. So Jesus invited them, had a meal with them, healed them, and enjoyed being with them. They're the people the Pharisees will not invite. But, Jesus did. Why [did he invite them]? Because Jesus knew the will of God the Father. Because he knew how much he hurt. "Go out into the streets and the lanes, bring the people even against their will, and fill up my house with people." Every action Jesus did was a manifestation of this cry from God.
15. And the invitation to the banquet of the kingdom of God has continued on the whole time after that. It has continued even to this day. "Go out into the streets and the lanes, bring the people even against their will, and fill up my house with people." -- That's right. The message of the invitation to the banquet has reached even so far as us hanging about in [our] streets and lanes. God is inviting even us to the kingdom of God, though by all rights we were not absolutely supposed to be invited to the kingdom of God. He is inviting us to the table of the banquet, which God himself is preparing, and God is enjoying with us. Thus, our assembling now around the table of the Lord's Supper, our sitting here now, then, is a sign of that. "Bring the people even against their will, and fill up my house with people!" Indeed, aren't there people here who have first been forced to come, brought against their will? In that manner we are being invited to the kingdom of God!
16. Indeed, we are not only being invited to the kingdom of God that is to come. We right now, in our daily lives, are being allowed to experience first hand the kingdom of God. Thus, we're given the church, the word of God is spoken to us, we're given baptism, we're given the Lord's Supper, we're given the Holy Spirit, we're given the faith life of being led by the Holy Spirit, that's [all a part of the kingdom of God in our daily lives].
17. Please think with me about why those people had refused the invitation to the banquet in the first place. Why did they refuse the invitation to the banquet and say things like, "Since I bought a field, I must go see it," "Since I bought five teams of two oxen each, I am going to inspect them," and "Since I just took a wife ..."? It was because, in summary, they did not know how wonderful the magnificent banquet that had been prepared was. It was because they could not imagine the joy that would be overflowing there. Therefore, they were not able to look forward to the banquet with anticipation. They thought what was right before their eyes right now was more important.
18. The faith life is a foretaste of the kingdom of God. It is a foretaste of the kingdom of God given to us by the Holy Spirit. If you're just looking in the church for fun, peace of mind, and diversions, to that extent only, that you can get else where, I think that is truly sacrilegious. Let's seek an experience of the kingdom of God. Let him allow us to experience more and more of the kingdom of God. Let's taste of the things from heaven. Let's experience first hand God's love and the joy that God gives. And let's look forward to the kingdom of God that is to come. Let's yearn for the kingdom of God. Because, with a whole lot of trouble [on God's part] we have thus been invited to the kingdom of God.