Some people ruin everything. In high school, it was common to have division between the “cool” kids and the chess club. If we’re guilty by association, then no one wants to be tried and convicted of being socially awkward. Thing is, as much as we shake our heads at the immaturity of high schoolers, this attitude never really goes away. There will always be those above us on the social ladder, and if we want to be like them we have to put some distance between ourselves and the folks below us.
In Jesus’ day, many of the religious leaders thought that their righteousness and social reputations were one and the same. Surely they could sneer down on those beneath them. That’s why Jesus’ parable is so unsettling. The “cool” crowd—the ones who had all the blessings—were too busy to attend the party. So, in Jesus’ parable, the party host has another plan entirely:
21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” (Luke 14:21-24)
Why would Jesus place special emphasis on the social outcasts? Would the less fortunate be better able to enjoy the party?
In the ancient world, there was no ACLU. A physical disability was little more than a death sentence without the assistance of others. Worse yet, as we mentioned earlier many would see your suffering as God’s punishment. Clearly you were worthy of being avoided. But no; these were the sorts of people that the party host draws near. When there’s room to spare, the host insists that the servants go to Wal-Mart, the DMV—the kinds of places we like to avoid—and bring in the people we tend to distance ourselves from.
Think about it this great reversal for a minute. The wealthy, the well-off—these people avoided the party because they’d already found their saviors. That is, if unhappiness is my greatest problem, then my salvation lies in securing happiness through prosperity or relationships. Who needs Jesus? But the broken, the lame, the outcasts—these folks had no idols to turn to. They had a fuller understanding of their need for a Savior.
Jesus’ point isn’t that one group becomes socially superior—it’s actually far deeper than that. Jesus is saying that those who seek self-sufficiency are “out,” while those who recognize their own weakness are “in.” If my greatest need is happiness, then I need to look no farther than my TV remote. But if my greatest need is acceptance, then I need the mercy extended from the cross of Christ. What about you—what are your needs? May we count ourselves not among the self-sufficient, but instead count ourselves among those who limp their way to Jesus’ party, and through the gates of the undying.