Grace to you and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Luke 14:16-24 Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' 18 "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' 19 "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' 20 "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.' 21 "The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.' 22 "'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' 23 "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'"
The Lord has opened His house for you.
Dear friends in Christ,
If there is any text in the gospels that can terrify complacent Christians, this one should do it. You and I have been invited to the most magnificent banquet ever prepared, yet it is obvious from the parable Jesus told that many of those who are invited do not value the host’s generosity. Instead, in pursuing the concerns of life in this world, they reject God’s gracious invitation. Dear friends, lest we be so foolish, our Savior calls for our attention for The Lord has opened His house for you.
Jesus had been invited to eat at the home of a prominent Pharisee. A series of events at that dinner led to Jesus instructing the host and his guests concerning humility and generosity. One guest seemed to take exception to Jesus’ teaching, and this parable is Jesus’ answer to that man’s boast. The Pharisees assumed that they would be prominently honored at the Lord’s great banquet in heaven. They fully expected that God would reward them for their diligent observations of the laws, for their piousness, and their dedication to being the best they could be. There is only problem with their assumptions, they rejected the One Savior who could make them right with God, which leads us to the parable.
Jesus told the story of this great banquet to get the attention of those who rejected Him. The Pharisees along with all of God’s chosen people were the first and most prominent people invited to God’s banquet. They had the Law and the Prophets. They had been served by prophet after prophet. God had sent judges and kings to rule over that people in His place. They had the Word of God’s testimony showing them how salvation would be accomplished. The invitations had been sent. Now, the Son of God was reaching out to them inviting them to come to the banquet for all things were now prepared, but those folks with long-standing invitations haughtily refused.
Jesus’ parable lists three different types who rejected the great invitation. The first rejector said he had just purchased a field and needed to check it out. He pleaded a necessity to do something other than partake of the great banquet. The second rejector said he had recently purchased five yoke of oxen and he was going to see how they worked. He pleaded inconvenience. The time of the banquet just didn’t fit his schedule. Finally, we meet the third rejector. This one didn’t even ask to be excused but simply said he couldn’t attend because of pleasure. He had a new wife to take care of, or to enjoy, so he just couldn’t be bothered with something so trivial as honoring the great man by attending his banquet. Whatever their excuse, we hear Jesus condemn those who turned away as He says, “I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'"
In Jesus’ parable, every person initially invited chose something else over partaking of the banquet. As we hear Jesus’ words, it could be easy for us to look back at those Pharisees with almost a mocking eye. How foolish they were to reject God’s gracious invitation, but before we begin to boast, let’s ask the question, what about us? How often do we spit in God’s face when He invites us to come in and eat? It is easy for us to think of this parable as an invitation to heaven, and it is that, yet there is also a more immediate application, so before we start to look down on those other people who rejected the invitation outright, we are well-advised to remember that we too have received invitations to partake of God’s feast. But how often do we turn God away?
Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:51) John began his gospel by writing, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4) I am in danger of mixing metaphors here, but you and I have been invited to partake of forgiveness and salvation leading to everlasting life through faith in Christ Jesus, and that faith is worked in us through the hearing of the word and by receiving all that the Holy Spirit offers through the Sacraments.
This is God’s invitation to the banquet of heaven, and this is the feast of His victory! Yet, how often do we turn away to pursue other interests? How often is taking care of our crops more important to us than sitting at Jesus’ feet in worship? How often is a television show, a hobby, sport, or recreation more important to us than reading our Bibles? How much more would we rather spend our time glued to our phones, our Facebook accounts, or the gossip of social media and the news than to fall on our knees in prayer?
If anyone here thinks he is without sin in this, then you are a better man than me, because we all stumble this way. Martin Luther confessed that he sinned three times before he got out of bed in the morning, and don’t worry, it wasn’t because he slept late or was any worse than anyone else. It is simply true that our sinful natures always find our own lives more fascinating and more important than the banquet of God’s Word. So, what is the solution for sinners like us?
The solution is found in what the master of the banquet did when rejected by the invitees. He sent his servant to “bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” When that didn’t fill his house, he sent his servant out to the highways and byways telling him to “make them come in, so that my house will be full.” Now, this last command doesn’t mean that the servant would force anyone to attend. He would compel them with the glories of the banquet that the others had so foolishly rejected.
But, what does all this mean for you and me? What it means is that The Lord has opened His house for you. Yes, for you. I know we have been invited, and I know I said we have all been guilty of rejecting God’s invitation, but the Lord in His mercy sent Jesus to open the gates of heaven for sinners. There is no other kind of people. Still, that doesn’t mean everyone will enter God’s heaven. But by word and Sacrament, you are continually being invited by the Servant, the Helper, the Holy Spirit to come in from the highways and byways of life to partake of the banquet of heaven.
Like those Pharisees of old, we are guilty. But, just like those Pharisees, we hear Jesus calling, pleading with us to believe His message, urging us to believe in Him as our Savior, the Promised One of the Almighty. Yes, we once were blind to the living Savior. Yes, we are poor in our works. Yes, we are crippled by sinful natures and weak wills. Yes, we limp in everything we do. But, we are the people Jesus lived and died to save, and He sends His Holy Spirit through word and Sacrament to compel us to partake of His feast of salvation.
Dear friends, why are you here today? The answer is found in the work of God’s Servant, the Holy Spirit. At your baptism, or whenever you were brought to faith in Jesus, the Spirit turned you from rejecting God’s invitation to gladly feasting on the message of Christ’s salvation. And, it is the power of the Holy Spirit working in you that makes you glad to come into this house to partake of the living bread of Jesus Christ, to feast on the banquet of forgiveness and salvation that the Lord God of heaven and earth has prepared throughout the ages and completed in the work of His Son.
Now, for some people, this is hard to hear. Some want to claim that they decided for Jesus. Some want to believe that they are working to earn their place in heaven. Others want to believe that everyone will be allowed into the feast of glory no matter the faith. But, those people are often walking away with the Pharisees, rejecting the gracious invitation of Almighty God.
Whenever we think we can do something to gain our salvation, we are really rejecting God’s gracious, undeserved invitation. Yet, when we fall before the Lord in humble repentance and grateful thanksgiving, then we are welcomed into the feast, but we don’t come dressed as beggars, we don’t walk in with the filthy clothes of the working man. We were washed clean in baptism, and there we were given new life and were dressed in the precious wedding clothes woven together on our behalf by the holy, innocent life of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus.
Now, what excuses do we still want to make when God calls us to partake of this heavenly feast? Does work drag you away from eternal salvation, does it call you away from your place at the banquet? Does fun and leisure entice you to walk apart from the Bridegroom of heaven? Do the burdens and cares of this life steal away your joy at receiving God’s invitation? Whenever these kinds of temptations come your way, return to the mercy you are given in Jesus who said, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
The hardships and temptations of the world seek to drag all of us away from the celebration of the marriage feast of God’s Son. But, that Son lived and died and rose again so that you could be welcomed in. He gave His all so that you can be dressed for the greatest celebration ever. Jesus calls you today, just as He calls you every time you hear His Word and every time He feeds you with His body and blood in His Supper. Partake in this feast of everlasting life. Enter the heavenly banquet by hearing the Word made flesh as He calls for you to come and eat. The Lord has opened His house for you. Amen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.