We’re used to reading about Wedding Banquets in the Gospels – and we’re probably familiar with the use of wedding feasts as an analogy to the Kingdom of God. Certainly, we could read this Gospel in that same light. But there’s one little detail at the beginning of today’s Gospel that adds a wrinkle to Jesus’ message:
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. (Lk 14:1, NAB)
Remember, Luke’s Gospel was written for a Gentile Christian community. The author wasn’t a Jew and had patchy knowledge of Jewish customs and traditions. So, why then emphasise that the telling of this particular Wedding Feast parable took place on the sabbath at a Pharisees’ house?
The Pharisees weren’t authorities, rather they were one of the main sects of Judaism in the time of Jesus. The Pharisaic sect mainly composed of blue-collar citizens who observed the priestly laws (even if they weren’t priests). Sometimes we paint the Pharisees as right-wing, hard-line conservative villains, when in fact these were everyday people simply trying to do the right thing within a long-standing, ancient tradition. Sound familiar?
Jesus launches into his parable when he sees the other guests taking the place of honour. He insists that it’s better to take the lower place at the table, to wait to be honoured with the highest seat. Furthermore, to host those who cannot repay you: the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. Jesus’ wedding feast challenges a mindset and a way that was embedded within the culture, faith, and lifestyle of the Pharisees.
Perhaps there is an invitation for us to consider the blind-spots within our own religious practice and devotion? The message of this parable, and indeed of Luke’s Gospel, is that the Kingdom of God is bigger than we imagined. The question for us to reflect on is: do we shut others out of the Kingdom through assuring our own place at the table?