A series of teachings on humility, being called, and the cost of discipleship. Jesus reminds us, once again, that pride of place and position is contrary to Kingdom values. Humility, according to John Dickson, is using what power we have in the service of others. In 7-14 Jesus is speaking more of not putting ourselves forward or "putting on airs". It is better to be elevated than to be abased. If I choose the lowest place then I will be content at whatever place I may be assigned. If I assume I belong in the front, in the places of honor, but there are people more honorable (or closer to the family than I) . . .
15-24 is another of those stories Jesus tells to try to get the attention of the religious elite. They have been invited by God to the great banquet. They are the chosen people. Yet, when Jesus comes to announce that the very thing they were chosen for has arrived; when Jesus comes to invite them to the very messianic banquet they have longed for they make excuses. The excuses in the parable are intentionally lame excuses. One would not buy a piece of land without first inspecting it, one would not buy a yoke of oxen without first trying them out, and the wife would have been invited to the celebration. In other words, all three invited guests are simply begging off, their excuses are not valid. To the religious elite Jesus reminds them that all of those they (the elite) believed to be unworthy and "outcasts" sinners, etc. are the ones coming into the Kingdom of God and attending the messianic banquet.
There is a cost to following Jesus. The lie perpetuated in American Christianity is that coming to Jesus is essentially fire insurance - we are told it is about being "saved from the fires of hell" and getting gold plated deeds to a mansion in heaven. As I read the Gospel I realize that this is only a fraction (and not the biggest fraction at that) of the invitation. Jesus is inviting us to live into the Kingdom of God. Eternal life begins the moment we choose to answer Jesus invitation to follow him. Eternity is Now. Jesus is calling us to enlist in his mission of the transformation of the world. It is a mission that will align us with his life, his way, his values, his mission, his ministry. If we simply remember how Jesus himself was treated for that kind of life focus you can see why we might want to think through the cost of building that tower or taking on that particular battle. Coming to Jesus is joy, it is peace, it is a whole new beginning. But it is as much about time as it is about eternity. Following Jesus is living abundant and eternal life here and now and not just in some heaven far away. There is a song called "Gather Us In" that has this line:
Not in the dark of buildings confining
Not in some heaven, light years away,
but here in this place the new light is shing
ow is the Kingdom, now is the Day.