2 – Luke 14 – June 29th, 2014
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Now, before we examine our Gospel text in detail this morning, let’s pay attention to where Jesus is at, what He is doing. Jesus is at a dinner, a small feast, dining at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. This is the meal where the Pharisees earlier had come and brought before Jesus a man who had dropsy. And it was the Sabbath day – what would Jesus do? Well, Jesus is not like the Rich Man of last week to let the man on his doorstep suffer, and so Jesus heals this man and challenges the Pharisees. Jesus says to them, “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?” And the Pharisees can say nothing.
It is after this, and after another bit of advice – sit at the back so you will be called forward – that Jesus speaks these words of our Gospel lesson this morning. And know and understand, dear friends, what Jesus is doing. He is warning these Pharisees – Jesus is holding their pride and disbelief in front of them as a warning – Jesus lays everything out for them this morning. Let us hear Jesus’ Words.
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 began to make excuses. This is Jesus’ description of what is going on right then and there. The Kingdom of God throughout the Old Testament had often been portrayed as a feast – a celebration, a time when the hills would drip with honey and wine. And Jesus points out – the Kingdom of Heaven is here – behold, the Messiah is here, now, I AM He. John even came announcing that I was here. And yet – where is the joy? Where is the celebration? In fact, the Pharisees hold back, are cold, reserved, throw up tests towards Christ, keep Him at arm’s length.
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.” Oh, the Pharisees had their excuses for being wary of Jesus. He might upset the Romans. He might make us seem less important. He challenges our preconceptions. And they all were flat and false excuses. A long planned feast – and your field cannot way a day? It’s one you’ve just bought – it’s not as though there is specific work waiting. A long planned feast – and you have to check your oxen? Didn’t you examine them before you bought them? And as for being married – I can’t come, it’s the woman’s fault. That is literally the oldest excuse in the book – that’s Adam’s pathetic excuse in the garden.
No, in the parable the excuses made for avoiding the feast are just as pathetic as the ones made by the Pharisees to Jesus. And what are the consequences of these excuses. So the servant came and reported these things to the 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.” The master has a fantastic response to these people who spurn him. You think you are so important – fine, I’ll replace you with the people whom you look down upon. If my feast is too mean and common for you, then I will bring people who appreciate it. And thus, we see what Jesus is doing. As He warns the Pharisees of the price of rejection, we see Jesus bringing Himself to the very people that the Pharisees looked down upon, the poor and lame, the roughians of Jewish society. And it goes further.
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. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” And the final, blunt, declaration is laid down. Even the strangers and foreigners and passer-bys on the road, even the lowly criminals and robbers hiding behind the hedges would be invited. And those proud people who spurned the master – nothing. Likewise, Jesus warns the Pharisees – look, I am going to invite even the Gentiles and peoples far off into the kingdom – all will come and be united to Me, will be partakers of My salvation. And if you persist in your denials, your rejection of me – you will be cut off, and there will be no salvation for you. A hard statement – but a true one, for there is no room for those who persistently reject Christ, for those who wish nothing to do with Him. This is what Jesus tells the Pharisees today.
So then, how does this apply to us then? What is it that we here today need to hear from our Gospel lesson? Where do we fit into the text? Well, sometimes we want to jump to the idea of folks coming in from the highways and the hedges – we want to look at the Gentiles being invited in and then sit back contentedly and say, “Yep, see, we are right to be here and Jesus likes us.” While it is true that Gentiles are welcome in the Church – that’s not the main point of the text. This text is a warning against complacency, against spurning God’s invitation. So I ask, does that warning have a place for us?
We are in the same position as the Pharisees. Each and everyone of us here belongs to the Church, we are part of it, it is our home – just as the Pharisees were of the house of Israel. And yet, when Jesus came to them, some of the Pharisees rejected Christ, they made excuses – and as such, they fell away. This is what Jesus was warning the Pharisees of – and He also is warning us of the same today. Do not fall away, do not reject what God offers.
Do you make excuses regarding God? Do you make excuses regarding your faith? When Christ invites, when Christ calls out to you, says study My Word, come and worship – indeed, come to the very feast which I prepare for You – do you make excuses and shy away? Do you look down upon what God offers you in His Word and in His Sacraments and treat them as unimportant or ho-hum? This is a difficult thing to think about, but it holds true – our sinful nature despises what God offers us, our sinful nature thinks it has better things to do than receive God’s forgiveness. And this stirs up in all of us – don’t simply think, “Well, I’m here today, what a good boy am I!” How often do the temptations to not be in the Word come up? How often are there things that seem more appealing to do on a Sunday morning? And not just Sunday, how often are our daily devotions and study of God’s Word what they ought to be? How often do we make excuses and not spend time in the Word during the week like we ought? How often do our prayers go unsprayed?
Jesus speaks these Words of warning to us today, dear friends, for Satan desires that we fall away, Satan desires that our eyes be not upon Christ but upon our vain excuses. The temptation to fall way, to abandon the faith – evenly slowly and without thought – to just let it slip away, will always be there. And so God calls us to repentance. Although the Gospel lesson has a stern word of warning in it, it also has beautiful Gospel as well. “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes and bring in the poor and the crippled and the blind and the lame.” Absolutely wonderful. Satan tries to make us prideful, to tell us that we don’t need what God offers us in Church, that we have better things to do. But when God speaks His law and shows us our sinfulness, when He shows us our sin, our lack – when we see that we are indeed poor of spirit, that we are crippled morally and do wickedness often, when we understand how often we are blind to the needs of others and lame and useless, not showing the love that we ought – or in other words, when we are brought to repentance, what does God do? Quickly, quickly He invites to the feast. Quickly He offers His forgiveness – come you penitent sinners, come to the altar. Indeed, blessed is everyone who eats bread in the Kingdom of God! Blessed are the sinners who come to the feast which Christ has prepared, Christ’s own Body. Blessed are those who draw nigh and partake of the very life Blood of Christ with which He bought us upon the Cross. And why blessed? Not because if we show up to Church we’re better people than those lazy sluggards out there – but blessed because we are forgiven, because we are joined to Christ and His blessings.
Luther started off the whole reformation by saying in the first thesis of the 95 theses that a Christian’s entire life is to be one of repentance. That is what Jesus teaches us today – the Christian’s life is defined by the fact that a Christian repents of all the things in life which would sunder him from God, and humbly comes to the feast to which God invites him, comes and receives the blessings of God’s Word and Sacraments. Hold fast, dear friends, not to your pride or the vain glories of your life, but hold fast to God’s forgiveness, which He desires to give you and to which He invites you over and over. Rejoice at His invitation, and receive with thanksgiving the forgiveness won upon the cross. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.