Text: Luke 14:15-24
Dear friends in Christ: This last week, I was working through the Catechism again and I came across a portion that, I think, works well with the Gospel text today. The parable of the Great Banquet, where those who were invited ended up not being in the feast and those who were previously uninvited were brought in is a good illustration of a portion of the Catechism that we speak every Sunday, today included. See if you can figure out what portion I mean. The Catechism starts with the Ten Commandments, which are God’s will for our lives. They teach us how to love God and our neighbor. Next comes the Apostles’ Creed, which is pure Gospel. It teaches us about all that our God has done, and still does, for us. The Creed is what the Lord invites us to believe.
After the Creed comes the Lord’s Prayer. The Prayer comes here because the life of faith is a difficult one. The Lord’s Prayer is a tool, the best arrow in our quiver, that the Lord gives us. When we are faced with the difficulties and miseries of this life, He invites us to pray in the glad confidence that He will, indeed, hear and answer us. In the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come,” we ask that the Lord would grant us His Holy Spirit so that we would believe the Word that is proclaimed to us, and so enter into His blessed feast. Today we give thanks that the Lord has brought us in from the alleys and highways of sin, and we ask that He would continue to grant us His Spirit so that we listen when He calls.
The context of our Lord’s parable this week is a sabbath meal in the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. As was His custom, our Lord taught in the synagogue during the day. In the evening, He would eat wherever He was invited. His invitation this evening placed Him among a somewhat hostile crowd. We’ll hear our Lord’s teaching during this meal again before the Trinity season ends, when He encourages us to live in humility before God and toward others. What prompts today’s teaching is what we heard: “When one of those who reclined at table with Him heard these things, he said to [Jesus], ‘Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 14:15, English Standard Version) Our Lord then proceeded to teach about those who would eat in the heavenly kingdom of God.
Jesus said, “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.’ But they all alike began to make excuses.” (vv. 16-18) We won’t go through the excuses the people gave, since we heard them just a little bit ago. Suffice to say, they were all reasonable excuses. If you look in the Old Testament, two of the excuses were valid reasons one could give to be exempted from military service. Not satisfied, however, “The master of the house became angry,” Jesus said. “[He] 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.” (v. 21) The master of the house had his servant go out and gather those who typically would not have been included in a great banquet. In St. Matthew’s account of this parable, the banquet is a wedding feast.
The servant did go out. He brought in the poor, crippled, blind, and lame and yet, he said, “still there is room.” (v. 22) One final time the master spoke to him, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” (v. 23) The highways and hedges were the paths on the way out of town. The servant was to go out and bring into the feast those who had no expectation of an invitation, who hadn’t even heard of said meal. The parable closes with the master offering his explanation for these instructions – which is also a key to understanding the meaning of this parable. He said, “I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” (v. 24)
A first thing to consider to understand this parable is that Scriptures often portray heaven with feasts and banquets. When we follow Divine Service, Setting I, we often sing “This is the feast of victory for our God.” That song is based on a passage from Revelation that says in part, “Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come…blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Rev. 19:7, 9) The context is, of course, heaven. In the parable, the master of the house is our Lord God, even Christ Himself. The servant represents the prophets and apostles, whose ministries were to call people to Christ’s feast. Their ministries continue even now through the written Word of God. Those who were first invited in the parable are those whom the prophets, apostles, and Lord came to call – the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Yet, as we witness throughout Scripture, God’s people constantly rejected Him.
In the parable, the servant was sent into the streets and lanes of the city to gather up the outcasts. These represent those of Israel who did receive Jesus. Our Lord often ate with tax collectors and sinners, not because He condoned their lifestyles, but because those who have great sin are those in greatest need of a savior. The last group invited to the banquet were those on the way out of town and who were already outside. That is the category we fall in. We are on the outside, first, because we were not born offspring of Abraham. More seriously, however, is that we were born outside of God’s mercy through the Fall into Sin. By our birth of flesh and blood, we inherited the corruption of sin. We were born without faith or love for God, and with the desire to sin. We were born without any expectation or right to eat bread in the kingdom of God.
The Lord had mercy on us, however, and sent His Son to redeem us. Jesus became our savior by bearing our sin in His body on the cross. With His blood, Jesus atoned for our evil deeds and bought us back from the clutches of death and the devil. Through the Word, He has brought us to faith and into His Kingdom, the Church. Here in the Supper and into eternity He invites us to eat at His blessed feast, which we ourselves have neither merited nor deserved.
The parable today is a good illustration of the Second Petition. In this petition, we ask that God’s kingdom would come to us also. Let’s answer the question, “How does God’s kingdom come,” together. (pg. 324) “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.” Although I said that we are represented by those on the outside of the city in the parable, it is also true that we are among those given to make excuses. Although we have been brought into the family of God through our Baptism into Christ, we remain in the flesh. And, insofar as we are in the flesh, it continues to fight against us and we against our own sinful nature.
We ask in this petition that the Lord, who has given us so generously of His Spirit through the Word, would continue to grant us the same Holy Spirit. We ask that we would be given ears that hear when He calls, and that we would not be waylaid by the world and its temptations. We ask that we would treasure His Word in our lives, whenever it is read, preached, or sung and that this love for Him would spread to all the world. Although we, by nature, have no right to eat bread in the kingdom of God, we thank Him today for bringing us to His feast, both now and in the life to come. Amen.