Saturday, June 04, 2005

Sermon on Luke 14:15-24 “Come, You have been Invited to the Wedding Feast!”

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The sermon text for this 3rd Sunday after Pentecost is Luke 14:15-24,

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the man who will eat [bread] in the kingdom of God." 16 Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, `Come, for everything is now ready.' 18 "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, `I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' 19 "Another said, `I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' 20 "Still another said, `I just got married, so I can't come.' 21 "The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, `Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.' 22 "`Sir,' the servant said, `what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' 23 "Then the master told his servant, `Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'"

I don’t imagine anyone likes being “stood up” after having made an invitation. Whether you prepared a fine dinner for some guests, and they stood you up at the last minute, or whether you’d prepared a special date with that special someone; no one likes to be “stood up.” After involving our love and thoughtful preparation, and counting on the fact that our guest or loved one would come and enjoy the meal and our gifts or generosity, we might find ourselves hurt, disappointed, and maybe even angered when they reject our invitation at the last moment. So it should come as no surprise that when God invites us to His heavenly feast, He is shocked and angered when people reject His invitation. Especially considering that it was no small price He had to pay, and no small sacrifice for Him to make, to prepare that feast for us, and to receive us into His heavenly mansions. This is not a small matter of social etiquette or simply offending a host, but rather a matter of eternal consequences.

You see, in this parable Jesus teaches us about a man who has prepared a great feast, and sent out invitations in advance. When the time came for the feast, he sent out a single servant to go tell those who had been invited that the feast was ready. The man who prepared the feast is none other than God our Heavenly Father. But what is the nature of this feast? What is the celebration about? Several places in the Bible speak of this feast. The prophet Isaiah speaks of a grand feast on Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, where there will be rich food and wine, and death shall be swallowed up forever (Isaiah 25:6-7). The book of Revelation further describes this feast as the “wedding feast of the Lamb,” where the celebration is for Christ the Lamb of God who was slain, being married to His Bride the Church (Revelation 19:9). So this grand feast that God our Father has prepared, is a wedding banquet for Christ and all believers! But we don’t have to wait till heaven to taste the rich food and wine of this great feast, for we are given a foretaste of this feast to come in the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed for our forgiveness, in the Lord’s Supper. There we partake in the heavenly manna, eating a feast of forgiveness here on earth, as we proclaim our Lord’s death until He comes again (1 Cor. 11:26). But how grand a feast it will be in heaven when He does come again!

Returning to the parable, who is the lone servant who the Father sends to the invited guests? And who were those invited guests? That single servant whom the Lord sent was Jesus, the Son of God Himself. God sent Jesus to earth to tell those who had been invited to the wedding feast, “Come, for everything is now ready!” Those invited guests were God’s chosen people, the Israelites. God had specially favored these people, to bring them the Gospel first, not because of any worthiness in them, but because of His grace. When Christ’s coming is promised in the book of Isaiah, the Lord says that He was formed from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to him and that Israel might be gathered to Him (Is. 49:5). So Jesus came as a servant to earth, announcing to the Jews that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, so repent, return to the Lord! Jesus was calling them to the feast that they had been invited to; the feast that was now ready.

But how did they respond to this invitation? They stood God up. They rejected the invitation, answering that they all had something better to do. They made excuses for their rejection, and shirked the servant who came as a messenger. One was more interested in looking over his new purchase of a field, than he was in joining the wedding feast. Another was too busy testing out his new oxen, to bother accepting the invitation. A third was too preoccupied with his new marriage to come. How could they despise this heavenly invitation for such worldly things? Did they not know their maker had provided all these things? Did they not know that He had even better things to offer at the banquet? What does earth and all its material goods have to offer in comparison with heaven? What did they think they were getting out of; something dull? Sadly, that is just how they acted. They traded their invitation to the great feast for some minor earthly pleasures and goods. And for this rejection of Jesus, God declared, “I tell you, not one of these men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.” God rejected those Jews who rejected Christ, who had been sent to them first, as invited guests.

And this is why the Isaiah passage I mentioned earlier also said, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Is. 49:6). It was too small a thing for Jesus to just bring back the chosen of Israel; God was also sending Him to be a light for all nations, to spread salvation across the whole earth. And this is just what happens in the parable. After the servant returns to tell of His rejection, the master sends Him back to gather people from the city streets and alleys, that weren’t originally invited. Jesus was sent first to the invited, then to the uninvited—the Gentiles. Jesus Christ went to the streets and alleys to gather the poor, the crippled, blind, and lame to bring them to the house for the feast. And this is just what Christ did. Throughout His ministry He sought out the poor, crippled, blind, and lame, healing them and more importantly forgiving them and granting them entrance to the banquet. He carried their infirmities, sorrows, and iniquities to the cross, to die for them, so they might enter His Father’s banquet.

But still there was more room! The depth of God’s overflowing mercy had hardly been seen! God said, “There is still room! There is still room! Bring more!” And God sent Jesus to the roads and country lanes and everywhere, to gather in more for the feast. God wants a full house. And that is where God found us. We were not among God’s chosen, the Israelites; we were not first invited to the banquet, but nevertheless God sought us. Jesus sought us in our lost condition, came and found us and gathered us in to His banquet. And now we are those who have been invited to the wedding feast. We’ve been called in baptism, washed clean of our sin, and healed by the Holy Spirit of the spiritual illness of sin. We have our invitation and we are living to share that invitation with others.

But we must take care that we do not become like those who were first invited. When the time came for them to be called to the banquet, they each turned away to their earthly concerns, as if that were more important. As if they were more interested in what the world had to offer. We must watch out that we do not also begin to live as if we weren’t coming to the banquet. We cannot live our lives as if we were more interested in what this world has to offer, or as if we’d trade our invitation to the heavenly feast for something here on earth. We know that same uninterested rejection of God’s call that the first guests exhibited. All too often we find ourselves caught up in the things of life, be they mundane like checking out our new property or be they exciting like a new marriage. Yet God will not accept apologies for not being interested in the heavenly feast He has prepared for us. If we really are uninterested in the unending joys of the wedding feast that is waiting for us in heaven, then God will not give us a taste of His banquet. No, excuses for being uninterested aren’t accepted. God doesn’t want to be ‘stood up’ by us either. But what God does accept is the repentant heart of a sinner. He will hear our repentance of our sinfulness, of our wandering from Him, and He will gladly forgive. For He did not come for the righteous, but for sinners! He is calling us to live like we are going to come to His banquet. Live in repentance and in unbelievable forgiveness that doesn’t run out!

As we marvel at God’s abounding grace in providing a place for us at His heavenly feast, we may wonder how was this feast and the wedding garments made ready? This is the wedding feast that has been prepared by the sacrificial blood of the Lamb, who purchased His bride, the Church, by His death on the cross for sin. A costly price for a costly wedding feast! Having purchased the church, His bride, with His precious blood, Jesus our Heavenly Groom has also shattered death for us by His resurrection! His victory at the cross and empty tomb not only made a place for us at that wedding feast, but it also gives us the wedding garments to wear! Dressed in the pure white robes of Jesus’ own righteousness, we come not dressed as the spiritually poor, crippled, blind, and lame beggars that we once were—dressed in the rags of our sin and self-righteousness—but rather we are dressed magnificently as Christ’s Holy Bride, wearing the robe of His own righteousness, the only fitting thing to wear for such a glorious feast. We neither prepared the banquet, nor were we asked to. We didn’t volunteer ourselves to be invited, by giving Jesus our heart. No, rather, He sought us and invited us, poor unworthy sinners. He came to our lowest places and lifted us up, restoring us from our sin, calling us to fill His Father’s house. He made us poor sinners the guests of honor at the grandest feast in the heavenly Jerusalem, saying “Come, the feast is ready! Receive forgiveness, take my easy yoke, lay down your sins upon me. Come dressed in the finest robes of my righteousness!” So then let us rejoice to live as those who have been called to a heavenly feast, for indeed we are blessed to eat bread in the kingdom of God. Even here on earth, we are blessed with the heavenly foretaste of that great feast, when we eat the Bread of Life in our Lord’s Supper. And as we eat that body and drink the blood of Jesus, rejoice in the forgiveness given, and rejoice that we have a place at that heavenly feast that awaits us. Amen.

Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

1 comment:

monergon said...

There is a moment in every wedding, Joshua, when the attendees watch the bride come up the aisle and lock eyes with her groom. Everything stops.

May we all keep *our* eyes locked on our groom, the author and perfector of our faith!