Friday, 27 March 2020
Luke 14:15 When one of those who reclined at table with Jesus heard these things, he said to Him, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!"
Hearing what Jesus had been saying about who should and shouldn't be invited to dinner, another guest chips in to the conversation. Is this a helpful contribution? Does it continue the flow of Jesus' argument, or is it a distraction? Most translations seem to think the latter, as they immediately start the next verse with the word 'but' - "But Jesus said to him ...". Let's take a closer look.
The first thing to note is that the Greek text uses the coordinating conjunction 'de' to join the two sentences. (Remember, the original Greek text didn't have verse breaks or punctuation. You know it is a new sentence because 'de' always comes as the second word in a sentence.) This can be - and is - translated 'and' or 'but'; we cannot assume that 'but' is what is meant here. That is a translation choice and therefore governed by the theology and perspective of the translator. There has to be some reason for choosing an adversative rather then continuative word in the English version.
The second thing to notice, or rather, to ask, is whether the statement is true. Is it a blessing to eat bread in the kingdom of God? At first blush, the answer would appear to be 'yes'. Thinking about it, that seems to be confirmed because the impkication behind the act of eating bread is that the eaters are actually in the kingdom of God. It is certainly a blessing to be in the kingdom of God.
What seems to be happening is that Jesus uses this contribution to pivot from the assumption that anyone who is invited - either privately in a circle of friends or publicly from the disenfranchised - will come to dinner. His new direction will be about what happens when those who are orginally invited refuse to come and reject their invitations.
On balance, then, I think this third-party addition to the conversation is helpful because it helps Jesus move His teaching into a slightly different area. That's probably what Luke thought too, otherwise it wouldn't be in the gospel text at all!