The theme of hospitality from yesterday now takes on eternal implications. To begin, a man speaks up and says, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God.” Jesus in no way doubts that. But he tells the people a parable showing them that, regardless of all their talk about the Kingdom, they really didn’t desire it as much as they bragged.
So there was once a man who “gave a great banquet and invited many.” According to the notes in my Bible, one would send out invitations in advance and receive reservations, and then announce that all was ready the day of the banquet. Naturally, people would come – only this time they didn’t. They began making excuses: I have bought a field; I have bought five yoke of oxen; I have married a wife. None of these excuses would bar one from attending a banquet to which he had made reservations well in advance, and to skip the banquet would be a great insult to the host. Upon receiving these slights, and not to waste his banquet, the host then invites others, and not the respectable people he had at first invited, but instead the poor, crippled, blind, and lame. Still there was room so he sent out his servants to “compel” people to come in, and he swore to himself, “None of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.”
The obvious meaning within the context is that Jesus was sent to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” to call them into the Kingdom for which they were brought into existence; but they were not ready to receive it. Thus, now God will call the gentiles who will respond. And so it has happened. But we must seek to apply this to our own lives in the here and now. How many of us have been invited in and (supposedly) received the Kingdom but are now making excuses as to why we can’t serve in it: I must tend to my family; I must work my job; I must accumulate things. I haven’t time because I have real matters to deal with. Meanwhile, people around us are not being invited, not being “compelled to come in.” It’s as if we are the servants in the parable, only we have the temerity to tell our Master that we don’t want to send out any invitations. It makes one wonder if we really did make reservations for ourselves the first time around at all.
The priority in Jesus’ life and ministry was the Kingdom of God; it was everything to him. Hospitality according to Jesus was to extend invitations to the great banquet coming at the end of time. Are we compelling them to come in or do we have more important matters to attend to?