He Came to Teach Us Humility

Did you know that researchers have found that eating together as a family is good for our brains, our bodies, and our spirits? Having family dinnertime at the table increases preschooler’s vocabulary, elementary students’ test scores, and teenagers’ grades. And as long as the TV isn’t turned on, the meals that are eaten are higher in nutritional value with more fruits and vegetables and fewer fried foods. The level of anxiety that children and youth experience is lower and they have better relationships with their parents. (Washington Post) All because of a table and some food.

Jesus knew how important a meal together is. And Luke shares stories of Jesus eating with Levi (the tax collector called to be a disciple), at the home of Simon and with Mary and Martha; he ate with Pharisees who questioned and Zacchaeus who cowered; he fed the crowd with 2 fish and 5 loaves; broke the Passover bread and poured a new cup, and it was in the breaking of bread that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus recognized the risen Lord. Legendary preaching professor Fred Craddock said, “nothing is, for the author Luke, more serious than a dining table.”

So, who is invited, and who is coming?

On the surface it is easy to get Jesus’ message. Don’t make your guest list based on who will invite you in return. And, when you are invited, and say you are going, don’t be too busy to go when the party is ready.

But there is another layer. Jesus says, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors, the kind of people who are likely to return the favor and invite you to their feast. Instead, invite the outcasts, the people who beg, you know the ones, the blind and the lame, the poor and the disfigured – they can’t repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection.” Jesus didn’t lay this feast because we could repay him; in fact, he laid it because we couldn’t. And we are called to follow his example in our relationships, humbling ourselves to serve others in a way that offers dignity and equality to the least of these, because that is what he did for us.

How incredibly blessed we are – a great banquet has been prepared and we have been invited! Jesus begins a story, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.” To better understand the parable Jesus tells, we need to understand the etiquette of the day. A host would send out his servant to invite guests to a banquet – a wedding feast or a party, some kind of celebration to take place in the future – and guests would indicate whether or not they were coming. Then, the servant would return a count to the host, and the banquet would be prepared for the number who had RSVPed. We just think this number is important when we plan a party today. They slaughtered animals based on this number, and they didn’t have any way to preserve the meat. So, when the servant goes out to give the second invitation, “Come, for all is ready.” It is an affront to be refused.

The first says, “I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused.”

The second says, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. I pray you, have me excused.”

The third says, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.”

Remember this is a parable. What are these three warning us about? We have been invited and said yes. But, when the meal is spread, will we beg off with an excuse for not being there?

The first says, “I have property to look after.” I have so much that keeps me busy. The yard is a huge. The house – just keeping everything in order is a fulltime job. The cars need to be washed; and I don’t trust just anyone with them, might scratch the paint. I just can’t possibly come.

The second says, “I have work to do.” I am just swamped. I just got 5 new teams. I am trying to get them to do what they are supposed to. And by the time night falls, I am just too tired to do any more.

The third says, “I have a family.” My spouse doesn’t really support me answering your call. When I am finally done with taking care of all my stuff and put away my work, I barely have time for them. They get the rest of my attention.

When the host receives these excuses, he is angry and sends the servant out again to quickly bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame, to the highways and hedges and bring people in, this Table that I have spread, this meal that has been sacrificed for, is not going to waste. For I tell you, none of those who were invited and said yes but were more focused on their property and work and family shall taste my banquet.

My friends, the sacrifice has been made. Humbly, Christ offered his life for us. Here, at this Table the banquet is spread for us. We have accepted the invitation, but when it is time for the feast, to humble ourselves, will we make excuses? Or will we know the joy of putting God’s invitation first in our lives? The time is now. Will you come to the feast?

Washington Post “The most important thing you can do with your kids? Eat dinner with them.” By Anne Fishel, Jan. 12, 2015