Formations 03.05.2023: Come to the Party

Luke 14:15-24

As Tony Campolo described it in the title of his 1992 book, The Kingdom of God Is a Party. Do we really grasp what that means? God’s coming is a time of abundance and joy. The people of Jesus’s day looked forward to the coming of God’s kingdom as a time of celebration.

And so, in today’s passage, when Jesus imparts wisdom about proper etiquette when invited to a banquet, a fellow dinner guest makes a pious exclamation about the coming messianic banquet: “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (v. 15). Jesus responds by telling a parable about invitations and how they are received.

A man decides to throw a party. He invites many people and, we are left to presume, made all the necessary arrangements. It was customary to send an initial invitation to get a count of how many guests were coming. Then the host could plan how much food and drink would be needed for the event. That is apparently what happened, because in verse 16, the host invites many people and then, in verse 17, he invites them again when everything is ready.

So far, so good. But here’s where the story takes a twist. When messengers arrive on the day of the banquet, the guests renege on their previous RSVPs. While some interpreters have tried to justify the guests’ excuses, the fact that they would have already agreed to attend the banquet makes this difficult.

Frankly, these are ridiculous excuses. You marked the date of the party on your calendar, Avram. You couldn’t wait a day to close on your land deal? You really needed to buy that team of oxen on a last-minute whim, Yohannan? Zavdi, did you honestly forget about your honeymoon when you said you’d come to the party?

Needless to say, the host is enraged. His would-be guests’ boldfaced lies can only be a calculated attempt to humiliate him. But he will humiliate himself even more. He sends servants to gather “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” (v. 21)—people who can’t repay and whose presence would bring even more dishonor upon the host.

The kingdom of God is indeed a party. The question we must ask is, Who is on the guest list? And Jesus’s surprising answer is, People who would never be on anybody’s list at all. And maybe that thought doesn’t fill everyone’s heart with joy.

Because not only is the kingdom a party, it’s a party for all.

Tony Campolo, The Kingdom of God Is a Party: God’s Radical Plan for His Family (Nashville TN: Nelson, 1992).


• Who is represented by the guests who decline the invitation? Who are those who attend?
• How does this parable overturn our expectations of who is “in” and who is “out” of the kingdom of God?
• What does it mean to think of the kingdom of God as a party to which everyone is invited?
• How might this imagery challenge traditional understandings of God and God’s demands?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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