The Parable of the Great Supper
St. Luke 14:15-24
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St. Luke writes: “Now when one of those who sat at table with [Jesus] heard these things, he said to Him, ‘Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!’ Then [Jesus] said to him, ‘A certain man gave a great supper and invited many.’”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord… This certain man is God the Father. The supper, of course, is the banquet of salvation, the heavenly meal of forgiveness and life which Christ purchased for us by His death and by His victory over the grave.
In fact Jesus Himself is the meal, He is the Bread of Life given in the Word and in the Holy Supper. And it is through the preaching of the Gospel that God has sent out His Holy Spirit to invite many to come to the feast. All things have been prepared by God; there is no cost, there are no strings attached. Jesus has won redemption fully and completely. The Holy Spirit is the One who draws people to the divine banquet that those invited may freely dine on the finest of which God has to offer.
“But they all with one accord began to make excuses.” Here we see that all those invited were looking for ways to get out of this dinner invitation. They had more important things to do. Being with the Giver of the feast and sharing in the joy of His meal was low on the priority list. “Maybe some other time, sir.”
Those who made excuses demonstrated unbelief and rejection of the Gospel invitation. The first said, “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.” This guy is caught up in his property. He wants nothing less than to gain the world, but in the process he forfeits his soul. Instead of coming to the banquet, he chooses willingly to go and see his piece of ground…in which he will be buried when he dies.
The second said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.” This guy is boasting in his own righteousness before God; he wants to walk under the yoke of the five books of Moses’ Law. He believes that he can actually work his own way to heaven; he would rather not trust in Christ’s work for him. He does not want to walk in the freedom of the Gospel, and in the end he will find no rest.
The third said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” This guy prized his earthly marriage over the heavenly wedding feast of Christ and His Churchly Bride. He desired a fleeting wedding celebration more than the everlasting heavenly marriage feast. He loved union with his wife more than communion with his Creator. And when death separates him from his wife, there will be nothing to restore him to life.
The sad thing about all these excuses is that, on the surface, they seem pretty reasonable to us. Taking care of business concerns and being with your new wife sound at first like pretty good reasons for turning down the invitation.
But it is that same seemingly reasonable excuse-making that we are tempted to engage in when the Gospel invitation comes to us. We too can come up with our own rationalizations for saying “maybe later” to God.
And this is true in every stage of life. “Hey, I’m just a young adult. This is the time I’m supposed to have fun. When I settle down, get married, have kids, then I’ll start to get serious about Church and God’s Word. Please have me excused.”
“Hey, I’ve got responsibilities now with children to take care of. I’m trying to work my way up the ladder at my job and keep my family financially secure. The weekend is my only time to rest or get anything done around the house or spend any time with my family. Please have me excused.”
“Hey, retirement is just around the corner. These middle age years are my prime earning years. I’ve got to stay focused on that. Once I’m retired I’ll have all sorts of time to hear God’s Word. Besides, it’s summertime and I just got some new property or a new boat or some new gadget I need to check out. Please have me excused.”
“Hey, I can finally travel and do all those things I wanted to do now that I’m in my golden years. I’d better go now while I’ve still got my health. You understand. Please have me excused.”
And lest we who are here today become self-righteous and look down our noses at those excuses, what about when we come to the banquet of the Lord but don’t eat? What I mean is this: what about when we hear the Word of the Lord that is read and preached in this place but refuse to pay attention to it and receive it? We’re at the table, so to speak, but our attention is somewhere else than on God’s free gifts of mercy and life in Christ. The food is in front of us, so to speak, but we’re not hungry. We’re going through the motions. We’ve lost sight of our need for Jesus and what He has to give.
The truth of the matter is, dear friends in Christ, that, when the Head of the Household becomes angry with those who excuse themselves from His dinner, we must take that as a serious condemnation of our own sin and as a call to repentance…lest we also hear in the end that we, too, shall never taste of His dinner.
But even as we are called to repent, so are we also called by the Gospel to come to the Feast; for all things are now ready. Not as though we were wealthy and prestigious friends and neighbors, but as those poor and crippled, blind and lame, miserable beggars from the streets, from the gutters and back alleys of our sin.
Unlike the well-to-do invitees who excuse themselves from the dinner because they are convinced they have better things to do, the poor and crippled and lame know very well their hunger and need, and so they come eagerly to receive the gifts of God. And though such people as these would have been excluded from the Temple worship of Israel and from the table fellowship of the Pharisees, in Christ they are healed and made whole, cleansed and forgiven, and welcomed into the Kingdom of God.
Even so, dear fellow redeemed, you are healed and cleansed and forgiven and called to share the Feast of Christ in His Kingdom – which is served for you to eat and drink here and now in His Church, and forever in heaven.
The Lord persists in calling you back to Himself; he persists in calling you to share His Feast as is clear in the sending of His servants to those “on the highways and along the hedges,” that is, to those who have wandered far-and-wide away from His City and out in to the world.
Of course, it is clear from our Lord’s final Words in conclusion of His Parable that there is a point of no return beyond which there are no further invitations, beyond which there are no second chances. For eventually there comes a point—known only to God—when those who have rejected His invitation to share the Feast of His Kingdom here within His Church on earth will be forever denied even the possibility of sharing that Feast in His heaven. But again, such Words of the Law are a call to repentance for us, compelling us not to reject the Lord’s dinner invitation, but to come; for all things are now ready!
By the humility of His own Cross, Christ has exalted you with the forgiveness of all your sins. Christ shares with you His own divine, eternal Life, not as though you deserve it, nor as though you could repay Him, but solely for the sake of His own Love, because it is His Glory to serve you by His grace and charity alone.
And as He has by such grace sacrificed Himself upon the Cross for your salvation, so He now feeds you with His own holy Body and His precious Blood. This is the “foretaste of the eternal feast to come” to which He now calls you to receive here at His table and in His presence.
And yes! Blessed are you who now eat Bread in the Kingdom of God!
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.