Every Chair Filled
Twenty years ago, my husband and I planned our wedding. After three years of dating, we had six months to pull together a wedding and banquet, not only for our families but also for the people in the church we served. It was a whirlwind of decisions about what would honor God and tell our story while honoring all those who had invested so much in us.
We had a sacred wedding ceremony and a joyous party after. A gaggle of children circled around us as we danced together. The stress of planning was so worth it! Yet, out of all the invited guests, one didn’t show up. There was no explanation or notice, just an empty chair. What could have possibly been better than our wedding?
The story of the great banquet we read about in Luke 14:12-24 is a rather uncomfortable scene. Jesus, sitting with self-important religious leaders, has just finished correcting them for choosing the best seat for themselves and for only associating with people who oﬀer them reciprocation and social mobility. Then Jesus tells this story to religious leaders—I wonder if we can relate.
The master has prepared a banquet, but not everyone invited comes. First to be invited are the “important” people. Maintaining their many possessions and managing their highly demanding jobs and family responsibilities are their priorities. Those invited talk about life in terms of schedule and exhaustion. These people forfeit their invitation.
Second to be invited are those who are outcasts—the poor, the lame, and the blind. Some of them attend, but for the others, maybe life was too hard, or they didn’t feel worthy to attend.
Next to be invited are those who aren’t notably poor or influential but just needed to be persuaded to come.
The last character is often overlooked—the servant. He oversees the inviting, bringing in, and compelling people to attend the banquet.
From the time of the Fall in the Garden of Eden, God has been planning His wedding feast—thousands of years, millions of moving pieces working toward a banquet where everyone is invited but not everyone will attend. We must use caution to avoid being like any of the invited who find excuses to bail out. Instead, let’s be more like the servant, an intimate of the master who invites, brings, and compels others to attend the wedding feast—the great heavenly banquet.
There are enough seats for everyone, and the Master will have every seat filled. Our Great Commission charge is to make sure everyone that wants to come can!
After all, what could possibly be better than the wedding feast of Jesus?
For several months prior to my daughter’s wedding, a prime topic of conversation focused on clothing—not only for the bridal party, but also for the immediate family, extended family, and guests. People wanted to know details about the attire of those participating and the colors of the wedding celebration.
Why? So, they could dress appropriately. And, while each person put on unique attire, they all sought to be respectful of the happy couple’s wishes. How one dresses for a wedding conveys an attitude of support and comradery, of entering into the lives of the bridal couple. Dressing appropriately is a symbol of community and shared lives.
Despite the RSVPs and interactions with invited guests, the bridal couple may have an unspoken worry: “What if no one shows up?” Oh, how awful it would be for two people who have planned long and hard for their special day, who have sent invitations well in advance and received encouraging responses, to be left standing alone when the moment comes!
Like the parable in Matthew 22:1-14, God has prepared a wedding feast in honor of His Son, and He has sent out the invitations so that everyone knows they are invited (Romans 1:20). The invitations went out first to the Jews, the ones chosen to share God’s love with the world, but they rejected Him. The invitations have now been extended to everyone to participate, not only in that grand wedding feast, but also in the opportunity to share the message of God’s love with the world.
On Good Friday, as we commemorate the Crucifixion of our Savior, let us once again consider God’s invitation. Do you fall into the category of knowing you are invited yet failing to accept? Perhaps you have grown up in a Christian home and have not yet made the faith of your parents your own. Perhaps you have fallen away from following Him. Perhaps you feel as if you are not good enough to have a seat at the banquet table.
Whatever the case, let us take this day to remember that God has graciously given us His invitation sent well in advance of the wedding date. May we all accept His invitation and share His gospel message with the world until the wedding date arrives. Let us dive deeper into His love for us so that He can transform our hearts, shape us into Christlikeness, and clothe us with attire that is fitting for the wedding feast to end all wedding feasts.
As we each take our seat, let us always remember that God has gifted us in unique ways and has clothed us with the righteousness of Christ. We do not have to earn or fight for our seat at His table; instead, we can bless one another as we grow together. None of us are good enough; it is the blood of the Lamb of God, whom we celebrate, that covers us and allows us to be present at His table.