The Parable of the Great Banquet


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This parable tells us a lot about God. About His Kingdom. And about us.

And that’s because this parable is ultimately about restoration. Jesus masterfully reclaims Isaiah’s vision of the Messianic banquet, inviting EVERYONE back into the promise. It’s a remarkable story in every sense. Jesus failed the test of the religious celebrities but he reclaimed a lost story and gave it new life.

Our approach to narrative, to stories has been to approach the Biblical stories seeking transformation rather than information. There’s no doubt that stories can tell us things. But wisdom has shown us that if we only pursue “the point” of a story, then we risk ultimately miss the story itself.

Once a story has been broken down into bullet points or a checklist of take-aways, the story ceases to be alive. I think that’s one of the reasons why we struggle to take time and actually read scripture on our own.

Because if the Church possesses a “living” piece of literature to guide us closer to the very heart and presence of God, then the reading should go both ways. The scriptures would explore us while we explore them. That’s how you know it is alive.


Read the parable of the Great Banquet. Firstly, re-imagine the story through the lens of one or more characters
. Re-read or write out the story from the perspective of the Host, the servant, the excuse maker(s), a poor neighbor, a crippled neighbor, a blind neighbor, a lame neighbor, and/or a traveler.

  1. What did these persons encounter? What emotions did they feel? Where did they experience joy? Fear? What decisions do they have to make? What are the costs of those decisions?
  2. Imagine the reaction at the dinner after Jesus’ story. Did they get it? Were some people experiencing conviction? Perhaps others were rejectful of Jesus’ reply, labeling him as an “outsider”?

The second tip which has been thematic in this series: Identify your story in this story. This story has many characters.

  • Poor, crippled, blind, and lame. For some of us, we find this is our story because it may describe us metaphorically. We’ve found ourselves blocked or held back from a faith relationship because of our particular restrictions like shyness, fear, anxiety, wounds from a previous faith community. If this describes your metaphor, what would it mean to enter the banquet?For others of us, these describe our very real, day-to-day realities. This isn’t metaphor. Some of us in our community are sick. We are poor. Or crippled. Or legally blind. Have you concluded that your limitations should exclude you when the host begs to differ? Can imagination be stirred to find your place at the table?
  • People in the roads and country lanes. Perhaps the “banquet” has never been on your radar. Didn’t know about it, didn’t care about it, but something about it is inviting. And more than that – you’re not just invited but you’re WANTED! Jesus told his servant to ‘compel them to enter!’ Something about Jesus, the host, has whet your appetite. Come on in!
  • Inviting Servant. There’s the story of the servant, who shares his master’s invitation to all he can find. So what is to be seen through the lens of the servant?
  • The Excuse Makers. Perhaps your story is like the story of the Pharisees. Your intentions have been good but God is pushing on your boundaries. “Seated with my enemies.” If the host has invited all – who are you excluding?If you’re feeling excluded by the Host, consider repentance. Turn around. Come back. (Luke 15)
  • An Angry Host. Kenneth Bailey, the author of Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, describes the character’s turmoil as this:“The experiential realities of anger, suffering, and costly love are linked in response to the master who takes the pain of his anger and reprocesses it into grace. Part of the theology of the cross is at the heart of this transformation of anger into grace.” Perhaps this story is speaking to you about your anger or your pain?

Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing:

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