7When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.
Jesus is watching. He is not dropping timeless truths; he is speaking to moments in time. He is not speaking in abstract principles; he is speaking to specific people. He is watching as those invited come to a banquet and pick out their seats. He sees – and he has something to say to them, even as he had something to say to the woman he observed at the well outside of town during the heat of the day. He saw her shame. He sees our love of honor.
Jesus is watching. And he speaks. But he doesn’t speak directly; he speaks in parables. He doesn’t say, “Shame on you”; he gathers us into the story. He takes us alongside. He gets us involved, until suddenly we are talking about inviting “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” What we do then will determine whether we are among those who weep at the cross or jeer.
Everyone knows the proverb about exercising care in the king’s presence. Much better to be brought forward to a more honorable place, than to presume honor and be shamed at being sent down. To this point, Jesus has not said anything they don’t know – they just don’t realize they are in the king’s presence.
The first warning that the conversation is turning away from the comfortably familiar comes with the conclusion: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” On the face of it, it matches what has been said. It just has an ominous tone to it – as if Jesus is suggesting that we are those who honor themselves.
And then comes the startling surprise: When you give a banquet invite the poor beggars who cannot repay you. The “poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” are the humble being exalted by the king. “You who squabble over seats of privilege should hear and consider,” says Jesus, “and go and do likewise.”
So, shall we weep or jeer? Shall we smile indulgently, mock outrightly, ignore blatantly, or weep with joy for we, the broken – we the spiritually poor, emotionally crippled, ethically lame and blind to truth – are invited to banquet at the table of God, though we cannot repay him?