The guest list

Jesus used the illustration of a wedding reception to teach the religious leaders he was dining with a lesson about God’s seating chart in heaven. Jesus noticed how everyone at the dinner party he was attending acted like they were VIPs (Luke 14:7). They all thought they deserved the best seats in the house. Rather than seeking out a place of honor, Jesus told these men they should sit in the seat farthest away from the wedding party and let their host decide whether or not they should be moved to a better location (Luke 14:10). The point Jesus was making was that the host knows best where each person belongs on the seating chart. Jesus said, “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

Jesus realized he was a popular person and wasn’t trying to discourage these men from trying to get to know him. The thing Jesus wanted them to understand was that God wasn’t impressed with the positions these religious leaders held or their good reputations in the community. The thing that mattered most to him was their sincere desire to follow Jesus’ example. Speaking directly to the host of the dinner party, Jesus said:

When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14:12-14)

Jesus made it clear that recompense or the repayment of an act of kindness isn’t a bad thing for us to strive for, but he wanted us to be aware that God doesn’t reward what he considers to be normal social behavior. Jesus’ reference to the resurrection of the just may have been the one that takes place just before his thousand year reign on Earth (Revelation 20:4-6). The judgment Jesus depicted in Matthew 25:31-46 showed that “rewards in the kingdom of heaven are given to those who serve without thought of reward” and there is no hint of merit here, for God gives out of grace, not debt (note on Matthew 25:34-40). Jesus said of the just:

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was a hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee a hungred and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink: when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? or when saw we thee sick, or in prison and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:34-40)

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