The servant returns to the master and tells him that what he had ordered had been done, the wounded and broken and outcasts of society have arrived. But there is still room! Then the master told the servant to go back out and invite everyone to come in; to compel them to attend the banquet, bring some samples of the food, hand out the band’s YouTube video link, do whatever it takes because I desire the maximum amount of people to come to the party.
We see the heart of God, who is the party throwing master, in the story. He is not making it hard for people to come to him. And he is not forcing people to come to him, but he is doing everything to compel people to attend the great banquet. He doesn’t want just a select few to be in his house but everyone to receive the invitation. The banquet in Jewish society is about fellowship, authentic hospitality, protection and being part of the family. The invite is for all to move from the outside to the inside. From isolation to community. From danger to safety. From hunger to satisfaction. He invites us to the banquet to have our life appetites satisfied.
God is inviting the rich and the poor, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, all people to the family banquet. God is not concerned with the choices we have made, the past that we have lived, but he is concerned that we respond to his invitation and come into the family. I never understand why people think God only wants a few to be part of his family, to come to salvation. Or that God is keeping it a secret, making it difficult for people to come into his family. He is a God who has sent the invitation out to all and the house is large enough, there’s enough food and places at the table. But we must respond positively to the invite.
Jesus has a final word for those who have been invited but make a bunch of lame excuses as to why they could not attend. The invitation, though it is for all people, is not forever. If the invitation is rejected, eventually the house doors are closed, the party is full, and no more people will taste his feast. There is urgency to Jesus’ banquet story. The call is to respond now to the invitation of God to join his family.
Why did the men in the story reject the invitation of the master for land, oxen, and marriage? It goes back to appetite. All of us have it and it is a good, God-created thing. But we don’t just have an appetite for food. We have an appetite for purpose, meaning, and satisfaction. It is our Life Appetite that we seek to satisfy. We have this ache in us that drives each and every one of us. Many people seek to fulfill this ache or appetite in so many different ways. The first two characters in the story attempted to fill their appetites with stuff. I remember researching my first flat screen TV (I know, I am old). I was so excited to finally purchase it, set it up in the family room, hook up an HD dish and watch the big games. I couldn’t believe how you could see the sweat on the player’s face, and the colors just popped. But it didn’t satisfy forever so I purchased a Blu Ray Player on Black Friday. It was a great deal. The animated movies came alive in that player and I couldn’t wait to rent or purchase nothing but Blu Rays (And now we don’t need a Blu Ray player just a 4k Ultra HD Smart TV with all the streaming services). As suspected the excitement wore off, it didn’t last. And my appetite emerged. That is what so many people are doing. They have this appetite for purpose, security, and significance and they think it will be found in stuff. They buy a new car, take that vacation, remodel that kitchen, purchase the tickets to the big game, upgrade their smart phone and for a moment the appetite is satisfied, but it never lasts. Here is the big one that most Americans believe: If I made 20,000 dollars more a year I would be satisfied. It never satisfies, $20,000 or $100,000, there is never enough. Money and possessions never quench our spiritual hunger because we are created to have our life appetite fulfilled at the banquet table of God. It’s not that stuff is bad. I like stuff, I buy stuff. It’s just that so many people are rejecting God’s banquet because they think that stuff will satisfy their appetite.
The last guy in the story thought his affections would satisfy his life appetite. I have done my share of pre-marital counseling and post-marital counseling. One of the big warning signs that trouble is coming emerges when a couple believes they will find full satisfaction in their spouse. There is a belief that a spouse, as awesome as he or she is, will be the one to satisfy every part of their appetite. They will no longer be lonely, they will always feel valued, affirmed, and listened to. Foot massages and sexual intimacy will be an everyday reality! It doesn’t work, so we turn to other affections, other passions: sports, pornography, food, substance abuse, remodeling, and vocation. What we always find out is that our life appetite is never satisfied, but in fact it often grows when it is fed with anything but Christ. That is because we are created with a life appetite of purpose, meaning, value, and community that can only be filled in Jesus Christ and the banquet that he is throwing. C.S. Lewis, the author of many books including The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, wrote, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”
God has invited us to his family; his banquet, and it alone, will begin to satisfy our appetite. The invitation has been offered through Jesus Christ, but we must respond. The house is big enough, the table is enormous, and the food is astonishing. The party is grand, so come be part of his family.
What happens when you discover a great restaurant? You just naturally want to tell others about your experience and invite them to try it for themselves. There is something very important embedded in this story. The servant is to compel, to do whatever it takes to convince strangers that the master’s banquet is as wonderful as they have heard. Who are those servants? We are the servants, the church, who are sitting at the table enjoying the banquet set before us by God. We are the ones that know our life matters in Christ and we are the ones who are enjoying the banquet community of the church. We are the ones who have a hope and promise that someday Christ will reappear and usher in a New Heaven and New Earth. On that day we will enter the ultimate banquet in which our appetites will be fully satisfied, and we will celebrate forever with God. We read about this great day in the book of Revelation. “Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” (Revelation 19:9). And later in chapter 21 of Revelation, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” (Revelation 21:1-4).
We are at the banquet, we are in the family of God, and we are looking forward to the final eternal banquet. But what about those who are not? God has not yet closed the doors, the invitation still stands, and he still desires to fill that house. We are the ones who are to compel others that their appetite can be fulfilled in Christ. I know there are a myriad of ways in which we bring Christ’s invitation to the world, but I just want to challenge us toward one that is in line with the imaginative story that Jesus is telling. If we are going to invite people to God’s ultimate banquet and ultimate family we need to be the ones throwing the minor banquets right now. Hospitality was such a major part of the society that Jesus lived in. It was so much more than just being kind and sharing a donut together. I was watching part of the past presidential debates and one of the news commentators mentioned that when they debate around a table it is more civil, but when they debate standing up, they can punch each other verbally. He didn’t know why, but I do. God has provided the table gathering, a meal, the banquet to be a place of intimacy, of community. It is during a meal, a banquet, that we not only find satisfaction for our physical appetite but our life appetites as well. Community happens around the banquet table.
Ancient hospitality was about opening your home, your food, and your life to someone in need. The kind of hospitality that was birthed in the early church was one of the major ways people came to know the God of the Banquet. We need to have more parties and not just for each other, but for our neighbors and for people that we don’t even know. How many people will be alone and hungry this holiday season? Should we not invite them? What if inviting others to join in our gatherings, our meals and our celebrations becomes the one thing God uses to show people how their appetite can be satisfied? During a global pandemic, though not as powerful, having a guided Zoom gathering is the next best thing. You can even eat together while talking and sharing on a video chat.
As Christ followers we accomplish very little alone for the purposes of God. But as a community of faith together we can literally change the world. The appetite is real, and many are attempting to satisfy it through stuff and affections. But it can only be satisfied by Christ at his banquet and in his community of faith. The invitation has gone out, but it won’t be available forever, so we must receive it and in turn go and be the servants who go and show everyone that there is still room at God’s table.
 Lewis C.S., The Weight of Glory (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1949), 26.