Monday, July 29, 2019

Fences: Luke 14:23

In Luke 14, Jesus tells a story of a man who prepared a great feast and invited all his friends. However, on the day of the feast, when the guests were called to come, they all began to make excuses. “The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’   Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’   Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’” (Luke 14:18-20) The host was angry and decided to invite others to take their place. “Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ (Luke 14:21) However, that being done, there was still room at the feast. “And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.   For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.’” (Luke 14:23-24)

The word translated here as “hedges” is the Greek word for “fence” and, in that time period, was used in two senses. The first referred to the fences around the homes of wealthy landowners. This is where the vagabonds and beggars would loiter waiting for a handout. In this sense, the master of the feast is sending an invitation to the lowliest of society; those at the bottom of the social latter. Those who saw themselves as worthy were rejected, and those who were perceived by society as unworthy were invited. However, this same Greek word is also used by Paul to describe the separation of the Jews and Gentiles. Paul says that Jesus “Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” (Eph 2:14) The word translated here a “barrier” is the same word translated above as “hedges.” Here, the host is seen inviting those who are on the outside; those who have bee separated, marginalized, and pushed aside by society. In either case, we see the invitation of God (which is the interpretation of this parable) going out to those who live at the fences. Those who are unworthy, who live on the wrong side of the tracks, and those who do not fit in.

Understanding this scripture in this way causes me to consider how I view myself and others. Do I view myself as on the outside and not fitting in? If so, then the Gospel is good news because these are the people God is calling to himself. Similarly, when looking at others who are outcast and ostracized, do I see them as the ones for whom Jesus died and to whom his invitation goes out? If not, then maybe I need to learn to see myself, and the world, through Jesus' eyes; eyes which welcome all to his banquet feast.

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