Jesus can throw a party. In this Sunday’s gospel (Lk 14:1, 7-14) we find Jesus dining “at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.”
Many have gathered there, but it doesn’t seem like much fun. Everybody is watching everyone else. Of course, all eyes are on Jesus: “the people there were observing him carefully.” But Jesus is watching them too, “noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at table.” Sounds like a room full of tension and pretension. Not much of a party. Perhaps that it is why Jesus has so much to say to the guests and to the host.
Jesus is a party planner. Heaven is a wedding feast where Jesus is the host, the bridegroom, and the meal itself (Mt 22:1-10; Rev 19: 7-9). He is also the one to bring the invitations. In short, he handles every aspect of this banquet of banquets. That is why he gives so much instruction at the Pharisee’s house. It is a teaching moment.
Jesus turns to the guests and says “take the lowest place.” Then, looking to the host, he says “do not invite your friends…Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” Isn’t it rude to correct everyone this way? Probably. But Jesus isn’t worried about killing this party (it’s not that much fun anyway). His bigger concern is to prepare them for his banquet.
Issuing the invitations, Jesus also clarifies the dress code. All guests will be clothed with humility and charity, or they won’t be let in. He then provides an example: the Cross. Is there a lower place than the Cross? Is there a more humble seat? Yet, because he chose it, God lifted him and seated him at his right hand (see Phil 2: 9-11). Choosing the lowest place, God called him higher, raising him to the most exalted throne.
Similarly, is there a greater example of charity than the Cross? There is no greater love (Jn 15:13). As host of the celestial bash, Jesus not only invites the spiritually crippled and lame but, by taking on the Cross, he identifies with them (2Cor 5:21). The wealth and position of a host can make a poor guest feel out of place. Imagine feeling that way for eternity. Jesus makes sure this doesn’t happen. He takes on our lowliness that we might be the guests of a friend, not a patron. What a humble and thoughtful host! With him we can be ourselves and enjoy ourselves.
Jesus’ party is great fun, but we must be dressed like him (Matt 22:11-14). As with every celebration, we have to buy our outfits before we arrive.