Trinity 2 2018
June 10, 2018
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
In our Gospel reading this morning, we hear of a great banquet, a feast, unlike any other. It is freely offered to be freely enjoyed. Many were invited, the meal was prepared, the notices sent out that all was ready. The man who prepared the supper is our Lord God Himself. The meal that is prepared is the Holy Gospel. He Himself is the food which is brought to us in the Gospel, that He has made satisfaction for our sins through His death and redeemed us from our own death, from sin, damnation, and the wrath of God.
So God invites to a feast of all grace, with everything prepared and provided for ion the Church of Christ. It is a feast of joy in the present and in a certain hope of the future. The work of the ministry in proclaiming the Gospel is the invitation to come and join. The preaching of Christ is the great meal with which He feeds His guests. He sanctifies these guests by means of Holy Baptism. He comforts and strengthens them through the Sacrament of His body and His blood so that nothing is lacking and everyone is satisfied. It is an eternal food and eternal drink, so that one never again thirsts nor hungers again.
As Jesus speaks this parable, He does so at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. He has already upset them for He healed a man that very day, which was a Sabbath. He told a parable of the wedding feast where guests ought to come in humility and not in pride trying to sit in a place of honor. Then He spoke of inviting those who have nothing to give back, no way to repay, no honor to bestow, but are the least and lowest in society.
Now, he speaks of their rejection of Him and the kingdom of God. The many who are invited to this meal are the Jews and the whole people of Israel, who had especially been invited from Abraham onward. The Seed through whom the blessings would come was promised to Abraham, the great patriarch of our faith. The prophets send by God carried it further and pointed the people to it, even inviting the nations. Now, when the hour had come for people to go to the table, that is the time when our Lord Christ was born, would suffer, and rise again, servants such as John the Baptist went out and said to those invited: Now is the time! The kingdom of God, the great feast, is at hand! But what did they do? The invitations had already been sent and accepted, but now insult results as they refuse. They all alike began to make excuses.
Christ refers to three people here, each polite enough in their excuse, yet all the same full of vanity. The first says, “I want to go check on my field.” The second makes an excuse about examining their oxen. The third explains he cannot come because he has just married. The feast is so great, so complete, so free and easy, it is amazing how many refuse to come. In reality, there are many excuses, but only one reason: they are already engaged with something else, everything else. They are too satisfied with the world’s riches, too busy with its cares, too happy with its temporary nature. This serves a serious warning for us as well. Those who love their possessions and positions in life more than Christ, who think they are deserving of this invite for the sake of their own virtues, but brush it off as less important than worldly things will not taste this heavenly feast. It’s as if he says, “Since you’ll examine your field, your oxen, and your wife but abandon Me and My Gospel, so I will in turn abandon you and find other guests who will attend.” According to this passage, everything that was wife, holy, rich, and powerful in the people was rejected by God because they would not accept His Gospel. There is plenty of room at this banquet, but no room in their hearts.
The host doesn’t like this much. His anger is roused, but His graciousness and loves continues. He doesn’t beg those invited to come, he does not try to entice them with something different, he doesn’t whine and complain. He simply tells his servants to go out and invite others. He seeks the outcasts, those whom the Pharisees would consider unclean and unable to share in table fellowship with them, and when there was still more room, those outside the city as well, the Gentiles, who to the Pharisees would be the personification of the outcast and sinner. These know their hunger, they are aware of their need, and are ready to come even at such a short notice. Those who were once far off have now been brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph 2:13).
There is no room for pride at the table of the Lord. There is no room of a sense of deserving. There is no treating the Kingdom of God as second best, or something to simply be brushed off. This parable deals a final blow to any expectations the Pharisees had about the table fellowship of Jesus embracing their particular religious perspective. It confirms for them that Jesus is guilty of blasphemy and deserving of death. Jesus comes not for the self-righteous but for those who have no righteousness of their own. Jesus comes not to confirm a person’s idea of self-worth and pride, but to invite to Himself the humble and the lowly. “God saves no one but sinners, He instructs no one but the foolish and stupid, He enriches none but paupers, and He makes alive only the dead; not those who merely imagine themselves to be such but those who really are this kind of people and admit it.” (Martin Luther).
Jesus comes to have fellowship with sinners, and only sinners who know their need and hunger and thirst for the righteous of Christ are invited to His table, those compelled by the Holy Spirit in repentant faith to a foretaste of the feast to come. The feast is now, it is ongoing in the eucharistic life of the Church. It is here, in the Lord’s Supper when we receive the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins that the crucified and risen Christ is made known to us and has the most intimate fellowship with us. Blessedness comes from eating bread in the kingdom of God, which Christ is now ushering in through His fellowship with outcasts and sinners, and of which we share here and now every single time the Word and Sacrament is present.
While this parable began with a banquet beatitude, it ends with a stern warning. Fellowship with Jesus is a two-edged sword of blessing and judgment. The temptation comes to all who think themselves too rich, too busy, or too happy, to be bothered to show up. Those who reject this invitation, regardless of how good the reason it might seem, will not taste this meal. The wrath of God will remain on them and they will be condemned because of their unbelief.
This is a harsh word from God to our pride and our idolatry of worldly things. Our place at the heavenly banquet is one of honor, but not of our own. We are invited only by the grace of God. Only the beggars, the poor, the lowly, the needy have a place at the Lord’s table. And there is still room. God compels us when He sends this preaching of the Gospel to people. He points out both heaven and hell, death and life, wrath and grace and reveals to us our sinful condition. Wrath and repentance force us to run after and cry out for grace, which is the right way to go after this supper. Thus out of Jews and Gentiles there is one Christian Church, and all together are called poor, miserable sinners invited in to the blessings of the eternal banquet, the eternal heavenly wedding feast. So come. The Lord awaits.