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You Prepare a Table Before Me
by Dan Kidd
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from an abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts of the law, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way. (Luke 14:1-4)
So begins the chapter that leads to both yesterday's and today's banquet parables. Reclining there at the meal table of this prestigious Pharisee, Jesus noticed their eyes fixed on him; how carefully they surveyed his every move. He noted how they squirmed with distaste as he not only turned his attention to this poor, suffering man, but he braced him--and healed him. The audacity. They said nothing, because, what was there to say?
Jesus saw an opportunity. Here, in this moment, was a chance for him to divulge, once again, the truth about how his ministry would play out, thinly veiled in a parable so that it would be heard only by those with ears to hear. It was a warning. And it was an invitation. The Christ had come, and the banquet had been set before them. Israel had long been invited to sit at this table, and her religious leaders were surely at the top of the guest list. But as Jesus perceived the stone-cool expressions these Pharisees wore, simply because Jesus dared do a Godly thing on God's holy day, he knew that they were in danger of missing the banquet altogether.
Tragically, that is exactly what would come to be true of so many of Israel's religious leaders surrounding Jesus. The banquet came and they refused their invitation--attending to other things instead. And I reckon, there but for the grace of God go I.
Lord, liberate me of the things I'd let distract me from running to your banquet ready to feast.
What I love most about this parable is the response from the host when those he invited declined him. He sends his servant to"go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame." And when that was done, and there was still more room at the table, they're sent out again "to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full." God's banquet will go on with or without the self-righteous--and the invitation is wide open.
I mentioned before that this parable is thinly veiled. I say this because anyone who was curious about who this "certain man" in the parable might be need only look at the company Jesus kept. Jesus was found with and among the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. At that very table he'd taken hold of the man in suffering. This banquet continues today. The invitation extends into the present. The table is still set and we know the likes of whose attending. Surely this is a party we don't want to miss.
Lord, you are incredibly generous, warm, and welcoming. Thank you for inviting me to sit at your table--a feast you have prepared out of you love for me. Save me from anything that would distract me from your company and care. Strip from me any self-righteousness; all pretenses that would keep me running to you. As I eat today's daily bread, with every bite may I appreciate just how good you are.