INVITATIONS

The Angel said to me, “Write this: ‘Blessed are those invited to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.’” He added, “These are the true words of God!” [Revelation 19:9 (MSG)]

IMGa_8372webI love seeing those thick envelopes in my mail that signify a special invitation. Usually included with the invitation is a request to RSVP. In spite of providing the invitees with a stamped pre-addressed envelope and a response card that requires only a name and check mark, most hosts spend several frantic days shortly before the event trying to track down the people who rudely haven’t bothered to reply. Worse manners, however, are exhibited by the guests who accept an invitation and then fail to attend. Justifiably, the host becomes annoyed; he probably has to pay for the absentee guests whether present or not. Moreover, those people may well have taken the place of others who might have truly appreciated the invitation.

Jesus was dining at the home of a Pharisee. When a dinner companion commented that it will be a blessing to feast in the Messianic kingdom to come, Jesus responded with a parable about a man who hosted a great banquet. Although the initial invitation to his feast had already been accepted, when the host sent his servants to tell the guests the banquet was prepared and ready to be served, the invitees used flimsy excuses about being too preoccupied with their everyday lives to attend. This was a major breach of etiquette; they’d already accepted, animals had been butchered, food was prepared and now the guests rejected the invitation! To add insult to injury, that all of the guests declined at the last minute implies some collusion among them to insult the host. Angry at their rejection, the master of the house, determined not to have an empty table, sent his servants out to bring in the poor, blind and lame—the people who normally would never be invited to such a feast. When that was done, since there was still room at the large table, the master sent his servants beyond the city gates to summon everyone else to his banquet. The host also vowed that not one of those who had been invited and rejected him would ever be invited again; they would never be allowed to dine at his table!

This story was Jesus’ way of warning the Jews that, since they didn’t accept His invitation of salvation, everyone else who came to him by faith would be welcome at His table. Anyone who chose to reject His offer, however, would never dine in God’s Kingdom. This parable, while specifically aimed at the Pharisees attending the banquet, still has meaning to us over 2,000 years later. Jesus reassures us that, while we are totally unworthy to eat at God’s banquet, He will welcome us. All we have to do is accept his invitation and show up when we’re called. The parable also serves as a warning if we don’t accept. God has given us an invitation and, being a gracious host, He’s prepared a heavenly banquet for us. How will He feel and what will He do if we reject his generous offer? I’m not planning on being a “no-show,” how about you?

“All things are ready,” come to the feast! Come, for the table now is spread;
Ye famishing, ye weary, come, and thou shalt be richly fed.
“All things are ready,” come to the feast! Come, for the door is open wide;
A place of honor is reserved For you at the Master’s side.
“All things are ready,” come to the feast! Come, while He waits to welcome thee;
Delay not while this day is thine,Tomorrow may never be.
“All things are ready,” come to the feast! Leave ev’ry care and worldly strife;
Come, feast upon the love of God, And drink everlasting life.
[“Come to the Feast” by Charles H. Gabriel]

Taken aback, Jesus said, “I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know all about God and how he works. This man is the vanguard of many outsiders who will soon be coming from all directions—streaming in from the east, pouring in from the west, sitting down at God’s kingdom banquet alongside Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then those who grew up ‘in the faith’ but had no faith will find themselves out in the cold, outsiders to grace and wondering what happened.” [Matthew 8:10-12 (MSG)]