In Luke 14, we read about the parable of the Great Banquet and see a key to the heart of the Lord. What is Jesus trying to get through to us about the importance of the poor, especially the homeless here?
Jesus (according to Luke) had just come from a Pharisee’s house where he used a parable about a feast to show humility to very proud religious people. (Luke 14:8-14) He ends the parable with a command to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, etc. The Lord says the blessing of the Spirit is connected because you are serving those who can’t repay. He tied the blessing to the “resurrection of the righteous.”
From here, he goes on to tell another parable. To understand what is happening, feast in the Kingdom of God was something that was understood by the hearers (Pharisees) He had just said that people from the North, South, East and West will take their places at the feast of the Kingdom. (Luke 13:29) This is a tie to Isiash 25 that the Pharisees would have understood very well.
In Jewish culture in the first century, they would have seen the parable about feast to be in tension of “here but not yet.” The imagery of a feast was established to be something do in the nature now but would also do in the age to come.
Understanding Jewish Honor
One of the most important elements of the culture in the time was honor. If a man did not receive it, he might just kill the person who did not give it. To say it was a big deal is an understatement. A meal was not for celebration, but it was a test of social status. It was a display of importance for all to see. In fact, it was common for a person to have a feast for the sole reason to have valuable people attend to improve his status in the culture and community.
Therefore, for other people to be so consumed with their own lifestyle and lust for honor would destroy the host’s reputation. People want to be serve their own desires and made excuses to not be attached to the person inviting them. There is no way someone would have bought a field or yoke of oxen in the culture without first seeing them. In the same way, a man that would getting married would have known that well in advance and warned the host. It is clear the people asked to come were looking at their own interest, honor and prosperity.
In the same regard, people today treat the gospel as someone secondary to their own desires. When the messenger of hope comes, they are too busy with life to come and meet the Master. Excuses abound but the reality is they are just too consumed with their wants and lust for honor. Modern American culture really is not that different than ancient Jewish culture under Roman rule when you think about it.
Invite the poor!
To save face, the person having the banquet to go into the alleys of the city and find the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. He told the servant to compel them to come (Luke 14:23) so his house will be full. It would not have the place in the culture of having politicians and leaders in your home, but it would be better than have a feast that no one came for. In the same way, Jesus wanted everyone to come to the feast of salvation, but it was mostly the poor that received Him.
This was consistent with the teaching of Jesus that the poor were the ones open to the gospel. The banquet of the Kingdom to come would be partaken of by the poor of the world as they were open to the message of redemption. The Lord did not come to be a politician or royalty but as a servant with a heart for hurting people. His feast was for whosoever would come, let them come.
Build into this parable was a message of generosity. The host would be seen by others (restoring honor) as a person who had compassion on beggers. This is a type and shadow of the love of the Father for the downcast in our society. The Lord has not forgotten the poor.
Simply put, the message of the whole parable is that the poor, the homeless, the prostitute, the disabled have a place at the table. They have a place of honor with the Master. They have not been forgotten.
What is the application?
In my view, it is clear: the poor and rejected of society has a place, a voice and value at the feast of the Lord in the present and in the Kingdom age. The Church has a duty to serve the least of our culture and prepare a space for them to come to salvation, grow in faith and wisdom and become part of the apostolic witness, the assembly of the saints. If we fail to serve them with equal status, we have failed to live out the calling and commission of our Savior.
It is my conviction that every biblical witness (congregation) must have an expression of justice for the poor. It might not be a homeless ministry but there must be something to live out this parable. In the local church I am currently part of, one of the practical ways we bless the poor is a food pantry. I know of another church that serves single mom by helping them keep their cars running. (oil changes, repairs, etc) However, every church can do something!
We are not just making space for them now by serving them. We also are preparing space in the Kingdom age. If they come to Christ and continue in the faith, they will have a seat at the feast of feast, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. This is what Jesus meant by the resurrection of the righteous.