I think that Jesus' lecture on humility must have been a little bit uncomfortable. I mean, can you imagine how the host felt, or how individuals who had jockeyed for position at the table must have felt when this carpenter/rabbi from Nazareth starts calling you out on your bad behavior. It must have felt a little bit like the time you asked that woman when her baby was due only to have her tell you that she wasn't pregnant.
And so you can imagine that the conversation needed to be diverted quickly. So we find a Pharisee doing what Pharisees do best-- they turned it back to "churchy talk." (Actually, Pharisees weren't the only people particularly skilled at this, just see the woman at the well in John 4 when Jesus points out her sinful lifestyle. She's pretty quick to bring up "churchy talk" as well.)
When one of those who reclined at the table with him heard these thing, he said to him, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!"
My wife accuses me of not hearing her. She doesn't accuse me of not listening to her. Any fool can see that I'm listening to the words that she is saying. What my wonderful wife is getting at when she says I'm not hearing her, is that I'm not understanding the intention, heart, or emotion behind the words. In other words, she is talking, I'm listening, but we aren't communicating.
Here Jesus is laying some great theological truth about how we should interact with one another. He is implying truths about the character and nature of God himself. The Pharisees and religious elite are listening. But they aren't hearing him. And this comment reveals either their lack of intellectual ability to draw conclusions from Jesus words, or their sheer lack of desire to believe this man sitting in front of them.
But regardless of this fact, Jesus will not be deterred. Much like with the woman at the well, Jesus takes their misguided statement and uses it as a teachable moment.
He tells another story.
But he said to them, "A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is ready.' But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.' And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I must go examine them. Please have me excused.' And another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.' So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, 'God out quickly to the streets and lanes in the cities, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' And the servant said, 'Sir, what you commanded has been done and still there is room.' and the master said to the s servant, 'Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.
As I write this, I just accepted an invitation to a free luncheon at the Tyson Foods plant here in Union City. I never pass up an opportunity for free food.
I can't imagine why these men would accept the invite, and then when the time comes, ask to be excused. Aside from the honeymoon guy, I can't think of an acceptable reason to avoid a banquet like this.
But there is more to the story that meets the eye. As Jesus is talking with the Pharisees, one mentions, the Kingdom of God. It was (and is) popular tradition to equate the Kingdom of God with a great feast. Personally, I like the analogy, because I love food-- but the Jews knew very well what Jesus was talking about when he began referencing this great banquet to which many were invited.
It wasn't about a meal at a Pharisee's house. This was about the coming Kingdom of God.
Jesus states that many (including the Pharisees) were invited, but when those first invited ignore the invitation or blow off the event, then the master invites those least likely to have been invited before.
And it ends with a chilling statement. None of those invited before will taste the feast.
In short: If you miss the invite, or blow off the party-- you don't get a second chance.