“Invited to the Great Banquet” / Trinity 2 2017 / Luke 14:16-24Pr. Christopher Gillespie
24. June 2017
In Name of the + Jesus. Amen.
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!”
This lesson is one parable Jesus teaches during a Sabbath Day feast at the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees. This teaching takes place during the time of Jesus’ travel toward Jerusalem and the cross (see Luke 9:51). Our parable comes on the heels of what Jesus says about healing on the Sabbath (see verses 1-6): “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?”; what Jesus says about seating arrangements at a wedding feast (verses 7-11): “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”; and what Jesus says about whom to invite to dinner parties (verses 12-14): “For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
The certain Greek word δεῖπνον was translated as “banquet”. This word can also mean “feast,” the most substantial meal of the day. This recalls how heaven is described elsewhere in the Scriptures—as a great feast. For example, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” (Isaiah 25:6) Or in St. John’s Revelation (19:6-10), “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” We even see this feasting in the presence of God here in time in Exodus 24:9-12. However, this word can also mean “supper,” referring to the evening meal. The Holy Spirit uses this word to describe the Lord’s Supper in I Corinthians 11:20.
Notice how the invitation goes out to many. God desires the salvation of all and enter into fellowship with Him through this feast. There are no requirements made of the person to come and enjoy the feast. God Himself prepares it; he is, as Luther says, the host, the butler, and the meal. He sets the table, he clothes the guests, and he feeds them. This supper, then, is the call of the Gospel that goes out to all through the Holy Spirit’s work in the preaching of the Word.
But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’
It is tempting, like last week with the rich man’s wealth, to suppose that there is something worthy of condemnation in farming, tending livestock, and marriage in and of themselves. But again, Abraham had great wealth, and Jacob owned a great deal of livestock. God clearly instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden and blesses it.
Instead, we must remember that this is a parable told about the Kingdom of God. Thus, the sin is not in the things mentioned in these verses, but the sin is in the rejection of the gracious invitation of the Master—that is, of the Gospel itself. Nothing must take priority over this invitation. As Jesus says in Matthew 10:37, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
This means that anything that gets in the way of receiving the Lord’s gifts in the Divine Service puts us in mortal danger. Jesus describes something similar in the parable of the sower, with the seed the falls on the rock and among the weeds (Luke 8:4-15). In the 3rd Commandment, God requires us to gladly hear preaching and learn His Word. To allow anything to stand in the way of this is a despising of God and His Word.
In Jesus’ context, this was a parable told against the Jews and the rejection of the Christ, who was the promised fulfillment of all their ceremonies. However, we can also apply that to our day, to those who have rejected Christ’s Word and Sacraments today.
So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’
Luther notes in one place that the Gospel is like a passing rain shower. When the Word is rejected in one place, it moves to another. Here, the master of the house takes the invitation to sit at the wedding feast and extends it to others. Likewise, we should make use of God’s Word while we still have it, lest it be taken from us.
And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.
Of course, we cannot make anyone believe the Gospel. All the means of defending the faith we’ve considered in Sunday Bible Study can only remove barriers to faith. However, St. Paul urges young pastor Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” We should be persistent in preaching the Word to their people, but so also should Christian laymen be ready and willing to “make a defense for the hope that is in [them].” (I Peter 3:15). We defend the faith with the hope given in God’s Word, the means which the Holy Spirit uses to convert hearts.
This shows us that the Word of God, in itself, has the power to convert the unbelieving heart. Through the Word of Christ, faith is created that receives joyfully the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation that Christ comes to bring to fallen man.
For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.
This is a stern warning to us who may be tempted to allow the cares and pleasures of life to choke out the Word among us. The author of Hebrews says, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (6:4-6) Neglecting the Lord’s Word is detrimental to salvation!
But the Lord’s promises still stand. The invitation continues to go out to us and to the world through Baptism and the preaching of the Word. Through these things, our Lord leads us to His table, which is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, which all the faithful will enjoy in eternal paradise. We may find comfort in this, because this text demonstrates that it is the Lord who invites us to His table, and it is the Lord who creates and sustains the faith necessary in us to believe His Word and receive the promises that He has secured for us in the shedding of His blood.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church