Beggars at the feast

In Luke’s Gospel Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal.

Even if this statement from Robert Karris overstates the case, there is no denying that meals feature significantly in the third Gospel. Tim Chester has written a book – A Meal with Jesus – based on the theme. He points out that not only does the New ¬†Testament say that the Son of Man came to serve and give his life and that he came to seek and save the lost, but also that ‘The Son of Man has come eating and drinking.’ He goes on to suggest that Jesus’ strategy for mission ‘was a long meal, stretching into the evening.’

This past Sunday I was preaching as part of a series that was loosely based around Tim Chester’s book. The Bible chapter was Luke 14.

The chapter develops the meal themes as follows:

  • A Sabbath meal at the home of a ruler of the Pharisees becomes the scene for a controversial healing.
  • Jesus challenges dinner guests to take humble seats when invited to weddings.
  • Jesus challenges his host to invite the outcasts who could never repay his hospitality.
  • In response to a rather pious comment from a fellow diner about those who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God, Jesus tells a story about a great banquet.

Here are three takeaways (enjoy the food-related pun, if you like) from that story (Luke 14:16-24).

  1. Some of those who should have been on the inside ended up on the outside. When the banquet was ready and the second invitation (a custom on fashionable occasions) was given, everyone who had initially been invited came up with an excuse. They ended up on the outside because they chose to exclude themselves.
  2. Some of those who should have been on the outside ended up on the inside. The master of the banquet was determined that his house would be filled. So the city’s outcasts were invited, and when there was still room, invitations were prepared for people in outlying areas. There were beggars at the feast.
  3. The description of those who ended up on the inside gives us a wonderful picture of grace.

Grace is an invitation to those who least expect it, who have not earned it and who will not be able to repay it.

That’s what characterised Jesus’ mission.

Does it characterise ours?

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