Who is welcome at God’s table? The answer might surprise you!
The parable of the great feast is the focus of today’s session, but the preceding verses offer important background for understanding the parable and the theme of this session. Jesus is having dinner at the home of a prominent Pharisee (a “religiously serious” leader). It is the Sabbath, but that doesn’t stop Jesus from breaking Jewish law to heal a man who is sick. Jesus notices that the guests are vying for the important seats at the dinner table. He then teaches the guests that at God’s table, the humble are exalted, the stranger is invited, and all are welcome. Social status, wealth, and power don’t matter here; come as you are! This is God’s table, where the poor, ignored, and excluded receive the extravagant and warm hospitality of God.
Jesus doesn’t stop with just a lesson about where to sit and how to treat guests. He tells the dinner guests a parable of a great feast to reveal who God is and what God cares about. This story, like so many of Jesus’ parables, stretches and challenges the listener. The host invites many friends, who initially agree to come, but then some back out on the day of the feast. They have more pressing things to do—visiting a purchased field, trying out some new oxen, enjoying the early days of a marriage.
The host doesn’t have patience for these excuses and sends his servant to invite people until his house is full. He specifically tells the servant to look in the streets and alleys to find people who are poor, people who can’t walk, and those who can’t see. Even after doing this, there is still room. So the servant goes far and wide inviting people until the house is full.
Jesus closes the story by restating the sad reality that not everyone is interested in this alternate way of being in community; some want to carry on with life as usual. It can be hard to embrace a world where the last are first and the least are the greatest, especially if you have been living in a position of privilege.
The good news is that God (the host of the feast) offers an invitation to all people. No one is left out! Everyone is welcome to come to God’s table.
This Bible study comes from Shine: Living in God’s Light, published by Brethren Press and MennoMedia. The writers are Seth Crissman and Christina Hershey.