15 Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ 23 Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ ” Luke 14:15-24 NKJV
Dear Christian Friends,
This parable paints a picture for us of a situation we used to see a lot more before the pandemic started – a great feast. Large dinner parties involve lots of time, and resources, and preparation from those who would host them. They require cleaning the house, preparation of large amounts of food and drink, appetizers, desserts, and possibly even entertainment.
Being invited to such an event seems like a great honor. Sure, there are plenty of reasons why people would not be able to go, but in general, one would think that most people would make every effort they could to go.
But in our parable, it seems that none of those originally invited wanted to go The excuses do not really even sound that good – The first one has just bought property and wants to see it. Will that property not be there after the supper? Today, if you were to throw a large dinner party, and invited someone but they declined to come because they had just bought new property, how do you think you would feel about it? I think I would be tempted to be a bit angry and hurt. The second has bought five yoke of oxen and wants to test them. Is he worried they will not be able to pull a plow? The third has just gotten married. Is he not allowed what we would call today a “plus one”? It seems many people will be at the feast, why could he not bring his new wife? Or at least ask the master?
The master is angry, as we might be too – think back of all the expense and preparation, and the sense of injustice in potentially wasting all of that food. So then the master orders that the servants invite the poor, the maimed and the blind, who seem eager enough to come. But still there is room. Does the master re-issue invitations to those who rejected them? He does not. Instead, he has his servants go out to the highways and hedges, and demand that all they find come, so that those who first rejected his kind invitation would not have room.
And so the supper is eaten, but not by those who were first invited. How, then, are we to understand this parable?
The master, of course, is God, and the great supper or feast is everlasting life in bliss with him. We like to think that God should love us because of what we do or how we act, but just like those invited in the parable, we can think of any flimsy excuse to ignore God and his Word. We see this in our own natural rebellion. Do we put God first in our lives? Do we look for every opportunity to worship him? Would we rather sleep in or do something else on Sunday mornings rather than learn about and worship God?
And while the focus of this parable is not on how we treat our neighbors, we see plenty of rebellion in our behavior towards them as well. Do we always speak well of our neighbors? We have been studying a lot of the Jewish civil law in Exodus lately – those rules about helping a heavily laden donkey, and returning items that we know belong to others can be particularly cutting. When we do those things, we recognize just how unworthy of God’s invitation we really are. It is so easy for us to justify our own actions, or try to compare ourselves with others. But that is not the standard that God judges by – rather that standard is God’s own holiness, and we must admit that, in so many ways and at so many times, we have not measured up to that standard. We are all sinners, condemned by God’s Law, and we do not deserve His blessings.
But God invites us, nonetheless. Is this not an amazing thing? We are ungrateful and rebellious, but God’s love is greater. God himself took on our humanity, in the person of Jesus Christ, and lived a perfect life, and died a sacrificial death to pay the price that was owed for all sin of all time. When I see this passage, I cannot but help but think of a similar invitation to God’s great feast that is recorded for us in the book of Isaiah:
Isa 55:1 “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. 3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live.”
Just as in a great human feast, as guests, God requires nothing from us. Indeed, what do we have to give that does not already belong to God? We do not bring anything our own of value to the feast – it is the job of the host to provide all the food and drink and entertainment. In human feasts, we often invite guests because of things about them – they are family, or friends, or business acquaintances. But in this great feast, and particularly in the case of this parable, we see that the Master wants to see his feast enjoyed, regardless of whether he knows the people who ultimately attend it or not.
So great was this feast, that even though those who were originally invited spurned it, the Master arranged for others to enjoy it. The great feast of the Gospel is like this in that in it, God promises his grace and forgiveness to all human beings, regardless of race or gender, wealth, nationality, status, or any other human characteristic. It is expressly God’s will that this Gospel of the forgiveness of sins through the perfect life and death of Jesus Christ, the true Son of God and Son of Man, be preached to every human being alive. And we, dear Christian friends, are those from the highways and hedges – for certainly we did not deserve to be invited to this great supper, and we were not the ones to whom the invitation first came. But by the grace of God, we have been invited, and we shall eat the supper at our Lord’s call.
We may be inclined to ask – what other great supper are we invited to, where we can see and taste God’s love for us in a very special and direct way? How can we hear about the master’s great supper, and not think of our Lord’s Supper, which we share again today?
In that Supper, he has promised us his own body and blood. What greater cost of preparation has there ever been for a supper than the body and blood of God himself, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins?
And how could we offer an excuse for such an invitation? “Come,” Jesus says to us – “Take and eat my body, and drink my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.”
We do not understand how this can be – how his true body and blood can be received by each of us, everywhere around the world. But in the spirit of Mary, who said, “May it be to me, according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) We trust God at his Word, to make things so that could not be so otherwise.
How could God take on human flesh? How could God die for our sins? These too are things that we cannot understand – but we trust that they are true because God’s Word says that they are true. And in the same way, we partake of Jesus’ true body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, for the forgiveness of our sins. This, we will do as often as we do it, in remembrance of Him.
So, dear Christian friends – come to the feast our Lord has prepared for us! Surely, we do not deserve his love, his grace, or his favor. But his mercy made it so that he reached out to us, took on our flesh, to live and die for us, and call us to Him. And, so, as he bids us, let us come – certainly, let us not make excuses and try to be somewhere else. But instead, let us come as he calls us – let us believe in and take hold of his promise to forgive our sins. And let us further come to the Great Supper that he instituted, where He gives us His own body and blood, again for the forgiveness of our sins.
Dear Christian friends, hear our Lord’s call – please do not reject it, please do not make excuses. Come to the great supper our Lord has prepared for us. Maybe far off in the future, maybe soon – we shall partake together in the great marriage feast of the Lamb, after Jesus returns in glory and after the resurrection of all the dead. But until that day, let us also hear our Lord’s call to eat the Lord’s Supper together, until the Last Day comes, we shall be united with our Lord, and we shall forever be with Him and with each other, in endless peace and joy.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]