Second Sunday after Trinity

Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  11:49
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It is important to read the Scriptures, not as isolated verses, but within the context of the passages that come before and after. Our text this morning, from the second half of Luke chapter 14, is a good example of why understanding context is important. Jesus tells a parable about a king who gave a great banquet. But why is he telling this story? In order to understand the parable, we need to know what else was happening at that time. The first half of the chapter sets the scene: Jesus had been invited to a banquet at the home of one of the Pharisees. This wasn’t a friendly invitation. They were looking for a way to trap Jesus. They invited him on the Sabbath day, and there just so happened to be a sick man seated at the table. The Pharisees were watching Jesus intently to see if he would heal the man. Then they could accuse him of breaking the Law of the Sabbath.
In this hostile environment one of the dinner guests cried out, very piously, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (Lk 14:15). Here’s the irony: Jesus is the only way into the kingdom of God. And he is himself the Bread of Life. But here is a group of Jesus’ enemies. They reject his words. They refuse to believe in Him. They are actively looking for a way to destroy him, and yet one of them has the gall to say, “Blessed is he who eats bread in the kingdom of God!” So Jesus tells them a parable.
Jesus is not telling the story to provide the evening’s entertainment. His parable is meant to confront them with their sin and call them to repentance. Whenever Jesus tells a story, He always means for his hearers to discover themselves as characters in the story, and often it’s not a flattering discovery.
“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many” (Lk 14:17). This man is God the Father, and since the beginning of the world, he was been inviting people to taste the joys of heaven. The Old Testament is a history of God’s continual invitation. Every one of the prophets was God’s messenger, and his desire is that all people from every nation would turn from their sin, come to faith in Christ, and enter into his banquet at welcomed guests. Perhaps you remember the prophet Jonah who was sent to preach to the wicked pagans of Nineveh. Jonah didn’t want to go. He was afraid that they would repent and be saved. He wanted them to suffer and perish, but God said, “Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left?” (Jonah 4:11).
God’s plan has always been to invite all people, but the first set of invitations went out to the Jewish people. They were chosen so that the invitation of Christ could then be extended through them to the rest of the world. But when the time came, when the host of the banquet himself appeared, when Jesus, who is also the meal, the Bread of Life, finally arrived, those who had been invited would not come and all began to make excuses.
The Pharisees were no dummies. As Jesus told this story, they knew that he was speaking of them. They had been invited. Now the time of the Supper had come, Jesus himself sat in their midst, but they hated him and made themselves busy with excuses not to come. “I’ve got a new field, new oxen, a new wife. I’m too busy. I can’t come.” And so the second set of invitations went out, this time not to the Jewish people, but according to God’s original plan, to all nations of the earth, broken and ravaged by sin: to the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.
When Jesus tells a story, he always means for those listening to discover themselves in the story. So it is today as we hear this parable. There is a reason the Holy Spirit caused these words to be written down and read in our hearing. We are not meant to hear them and think to ourselves, “Those Pharisees sure missed the boat. Thank God I’m not like them” which incidentally, is the way a Pharisee prays. Not so quick. Jesus isn’t interested in telling us about other sinners who rejected the invitation to his banquet. He is still inviting today. And who are you in the story?
Certainly, you are one of those who has been invited. Of that, there’s no doubt. The invitation of the gospel has gone out into all the world, and you have heard it. But then what? Have you bought a piece of land? Are you busy creating a little nest for yourself here on earth, too busy to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear his words? Or perhaps you have five yoke of oxen and need to go to work with them. It used to be that on the Lord’s day all businesses closed. Not anymore. Now, we are often too busy working, particularly our young people, to come to the table of the Lord. Or perhaps you have married a wife and you can’t come. Family is a big idol in America today—even among Christians. “This Sunday, we’re taking some time to be together as a family, and that’s why we won’t be in church…” Land, houses, oxen, jobs, wives, family, all blessings from God, and yet these things kept the people of God from attending the banquet of Christ.
Who are you in this story? One of the upstanding citizens? None of them would come? One of those on the first round of invites? They all alike began to make excuses. Are you someone whose good behavior and upstanding life has earned you a place at the table? The master said, “None of those who were invited shall taste my banquet” (Lk 14:24). Every Sunday our Lord Jesus gives us a foretaste of this heavenly banquet. All are invited, but few will come. Why? When we have declined the invitation, it has been for a hundred reason, most of which are very compelling: “I just got married.” Who can argue with that? “I just got a new job. I need to spend time with my family. I’m buying a new house. Now I need a new job to pay for my new house.” There is no room for pointing the finger at the Pharisees. Jesus’ words hit home in our own hearts.
So who are you in this story? At times each of us has been the Pharisees who declined the invitation of Christ. But thankfully, there is one more group: the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. These are the undeserving: people who had no right to be called children of God, people who were not owed kindness, who had no reason to expect an invitation. And these are exactly the people that Jesus loves to invite to his banquet. You might be surprised at who will be in heaven. What a second: “How did he get in?” The same way you did—by the grace and mercy of God alone. Are you content to be one of these beggars or does that hurt your pride? It does hurt our pride to be numbered among the undeserving sinners, but guess what? Those are the only people who taste of God’s banquet.
Today, find yourself in Jesus’ story: not as well-connect folks who deserved and expected to be invited, and yet declined. Instead, hear the invitation as one of the beggars who lives only by God’s grace. Our Lord delights to give his gifts to such people. To all who will come, to the poor and underserving, his invitation beckons, “Come, for everything is now ready.” Amen.
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