Trinity 2 – June 21st, 2009 – Luke 14:15-24
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
Our Lord Jesus has been invited to a dinner at the house of one of the Pharisees when He speaks these words this morning. It was the meal where they brought a man with epilepsy to see whether or not Jesus would heal the man on a Sabbath – it is where Jesus taught that the humble will be exulted and the proud will be humbled. These are the things which Jesus has said, which has brought forth one person there to say, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God!” And the man is right – everyone who gets to the heavenly feast will indeed be most highly blessed, but who are those people who get invited? Jesus tells us a parable to teach us.
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.' So here is the set up. There is going to be a party, and it's going to be a big one – a great banquet, a huge shindig. And this has been planned well in advance – it's not like one of us here suddenly all deciding to go to a restaurant after church today and asking people – this has been planned for a long time – people had been invited. And the time for the banquet comes – the appointed date, the appointed time is here. But there is a problem.
But they all alike bean 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.” The excuses start rolling in. I have a field. I bought 10 head of oxen. I got hitched. Do you hear how empty these excuses are? If there is a set date, an event that is important to you – you plan around it. You wait until tomorrow to look at your field – or you go look at it well before you buy it. Same thing with the oxen, and beside, it won't hurt them to have a day of rest. And I'm guessing the wife was invited too by virtue of being the married to a guest. None of these people are being honest – these are just excuses – in reality they do not want to come. Simple as that.
And the master knows this. So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master became angry and said to his servant, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and the crippled, and the blind and the lame.” The master has prepared his banquet. The food is ready, and someone is going to eat it, someone is going to enjoy it. So the poor, the downtrodden of society are invited. If people are too hoity-toity and busy to come, fine, I'll invite the poor. But there is still room. And the servant said, “Sir, what you commanded has been done, and there is still 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. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” Go get people I don't even know – get the travelers, the strangers, even the thieves and highwaymen – bring them all in – because the people I invited – they won't come. I invited, but they will not come – so be it – I will have my celebration anyway.
So what does this parable mean? Well, let's consider what the Pharisees who were at the dinner where Jesus is speaking would be hearing. The Pharisees were the best of the best of Jewish society. They were the top of the top of God's chosen people – they knew that God was their Father and loved them. Yet many of them has become proud, and viewed themselves as high and mighty because they themselves were just so good, such good Jewish men. And as such, many of them ignored or mistreated God's messengers. They had ignored Moses and the Prophets and instead created new laws to follow. They had spurned God's messengers – John the Baptist was mocked, and even Jesus was put to the test. And why did they treat John and Jesus so poorly? Well, just look who they dealt with! They dealt with the poor and the blind – the lousy Jews. They would talk even to gentiles and foreigners! Obviously, many Pharisees thought, Jesus wasn't worth their time – maybe they could teach Him a lesson, but surely they had nothing to learn from Him. And so Jesus lays it out for them – Guess what oh Pharisees – you are rejecting God. God has told you about the Messiah, and now that I'm here, you get cold feet, you make excuses, you don't want to come. Don't think God will wait for you – the rest of the world will be invited. Don't be an excuse maker, or all your vaunted status will mean nothing and you will miss the kingdom of God, you won't be one of those eating bread in the kingdom of God, and all the people you look down upon will be there instead.
So then, what do we learn from this parable? Well, it does serve as a warning to us here. We here today, we who have grown up in the Church, who have been here forever and a day – we are the ones who are the modern equivalents of the Pharisees. When Jesus warns the Pharisees of something, the people who especially should perk up their ears are those who have been going to church. Here is the danger for us. We who go to Church can start to rest on our laurels, we can think, “Eh, we know all that Church stuff, we're pretty good Christians – we don't need it right now.” And slowly, out of pride and arrogance, we begin to spurn God, we begin to make excuses when our Master invites us to His House to hear His Word, indeed, to partake of the Lord's Supper. And we can fall away – and then, when the time comes for the great feast of heaven – we've fallen, and we aren't there. Christians can fall away – and even “good” Christians. This is what Christ warns us of today.
So, how do we learn from this warning – how do we take it to heart? How do we know if this warning is apt for us? Consider the attitude of those who skipped the feast had towards the master. How did they view the master, how did they view the feast? Oh man, I don't want to go to this. I don't have the time. I would rather being doing something else. Now, consider yourself and your approach to Scripture and Worship. Does it seem as though you don't want to go sometimes? Does it seem as though you have something better to do? That is how Satan tempts. That is how Satan tries to turn you away from God and unto the things of this world. Satan tries to make us weary of God and His Word. Pastor Hall from Redeemer had a great observation some time ago – he asked why it is easy to watch an hour long show on TV or a two hour movie, but if he sits to read the Psalms for 10 minutes, it seems like a burden. This is the way things work in this fallen world. If I broke out with a 35 minute sermon, how many here would be tapping their watches? If portals of prayer were 10 minutes long instead of 3, would they be nearly as popular? Does coming to a bible study often seem like just so much more time at Church? Here is the fact – Scripture is true when it says that the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Know that, be aware of that – so that when Satan tempts your flesh to ignore the word, you can recognize that temptation, you can resist, you can by the power of the Holy Spirit keep your focus where it ought to be.
Another way to look at this is to consider your attitude towards God. The three people who make excuses in the parable, they thought that the master was placing such an undue burden upon them – who was going to try and make them do something they didn't want to do. Do you see how skewed their view was? They were thinking the master was a burden, that the great banquet was a horrid thing instead of. . . a great banquet. Their view had gotten twisted – to where the master is sort of a taskmaster, a killjoy. But look at the master from the parable. He is kind and loving, he provides for them a free and wonderful feast, he has told them, he has planned to provide for them. And the master is so kind – he even starts to invite those who have no way of repaying, the poor, the blind, the folks just passing through. Do you see how kind the master is – and sadly how skewed the people had been viewing him?
Consider friends, how you view God. Satan wants you to think of God as a killjoy. Satan wants you to think of God's law as being arbitrary and mean, where God just doesn't want you to have fun. Satan wants you to look at coming to receive God's gifts as burdensome. But dear friends, know who God is. Christ Jesus comes down and suffers all, even the Cross, so that you might be blessed, and He is eager to have you receive the forgiveness He has won. Consider how eager, how inviting God is to you. God in reality doesn't make you jump through hoops – you don't have to climb some sacred mountain, make some long pilgrimage – God will come to you, here in His house. God calls you into His presence – says that whenever you gather around His word, gather in His Name, that He will be there with you. And He doesn't even make you wait – okay, okay, you aren't in heaven yet – but here, let's have a Supper to get ready for heaven, here, let Me give you My own Body and Blood so that you can participate in the heavenly feast even now, so that you can now, still in this world, join your voices with angels and archangels, with all the company of heaven – even now, get a little foretaste of the feast to come. Do you see what God is truly like?
Dear friends in Christ, our Lord Jesus is inviting you unto His feast, He is calling you to His House now so that you might be prepared to enter the heavenly feast for all eternity. And this is not a harsh burden for you – do not let Satan or your sinful flesh tell you otherwise. Rather this – remember God's great love for you, love which means He invites you, He calls to you, He offers you freely the forgiveness won upon the cross. Enjoy these blessings and often, so that you will be prepared when the invitation to heaven finally comes, and you join in the great banquet of all eternity, for all eternity. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost + Amen.