Jesus is always concerned about people’s life and salvation. That’s what led Him to do and say everything He did. So it is today. Jesus is dining at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees on the Sabbath. He had healed a man with dropsy, poking at the Pharisees as He did. He spoke to them about not taking the best seats at the banquet (which they did) and inviting to eat those who can’t repay the kindness. Upon hearing this, one who was there said, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Blessed indeed! That’s why Jesus answers as He does with the parable of the banquet whose invited guests rebuffed the invitation. He’s not concerned with bad manners or rudeness. It’s much more serious than that. He wants those who hear Him to be at the great feast He is preparing.
You see, our heavenly Father desires that all people be saved from sin and death. For that reason, He has prepared a great banquet of salvation. The plan was in place since the foundation of the world. The invitations had been sent through the prophets as they called Israel to repentance and faith. Throughout the Old Testament we hear those messengers call God’s people to repent of their sins and to turn in faith to Him, the one true God. They declared over and over again the love and mercy of the God who had called them to be His people. Thus God invited them to the banquet which comes in Christ. For the Father sent His dear Son Jesus Christ to be born in human form of a virgin, and to suffer and die for the sins of the world. For Jesus is the very Paschal Lamb who has been slaughtered and roasted on the spit of the cross. Jesus is that final sacrificial Lamb as He bore the full heat of God’s wrath over sin. He Himself declared, “It is finished!” All was ready.
And when the Father sent His servant, the Holy Spirit, to call those invited to come to the feast, He hears nothing but excuses. One bought some land and needs to see it. Another bought some oxen and need to see if they can do the job. Yet, another is newly married, and so refuses to come to the banquet. They all despised the invitation and the One who extended it. They all had something they thought was more important than being in the presence of their gracious Host and receiving His generous hospitality. Their excuses led to them being left out of the banquet forever. They didn’t want to be with Him in this life, so they won’t be with Him in the life to come. This is the great warning of our Lord’s story.
So, where do you stand? Do you ever make excuses to be absent from God’s Banquet House? Are you ever so foolish as to let the cares of this world keep you from the banquet of forgiveness, life, and salvation? Have other things become more important than coming into God’s presence to receive His eternal gifts in Word and Sacrament? Do you ever spurn His invitation to enjoy the feast of His great love for you?
Repent. Repent of making excuses. Repent of placing worldly things ahead of heavenly things. Stop neglecting the Means of Grace before it turns into a cancer that spreads beyond your house into the houses of your family, your friends, and your neighbor. Stop placing God behind self, work, play, or anything else. It’s not too late. Even now He calls you from your hiding place in the world.
For you see, you are also the one found in the streets and lanes of the city, the poor and crippled and blind and lame. You are one from the highways and in the hedges. He has called you out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ to commune at the banquet table of the Church. Never take it for granted that you have been baptized a Christian. It is no small thing to be given a place at His table. For the kingdom of God welcomes strangers like you and me to dine with the Father through His Son’s saving death upon the cross.
So as the Lord sought and found Adam, Moses, David, Elijah, Jonah, Jeremiah, Peter, and Paul, so He has sought and found you. At one time or another, they had all run from the Banquet of the Lord, that is, they all fell from faith into unbelief, sin, and despair. Yet, by God’s grace and calling, they forsook their foolishness and lived in His unending mercy and forgiveness. So you too have been found. Your sins, your excuses, have been drowned in the waters of Baptism. He places before you the banquet of His dear Son as he invites you to confess your sins and receive absolution, that is, forgiveness from the pastor as from God Himself. He tenderly invites you to feast on His beloved Son in the sacrament of His Body and Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
Yes, God invites us and gives us a seat at His table, though we in no wise deserve it. He compels us who are spiritually blind, deaf, and dead in sin to come into His presence and eat of the banquet of forgiveness and life He has prepared for us. We do nothing. He does everything.
This time together every Sunday morning is the Great Banquet, for whenever the saving Gospel of Christ is preached, heavenly bread is being served up and offered. And this heavenly food is for all, young and old, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, and the like. And as each person eats that Gospel food, that is, each time he hears and believes that Gospel Word, as each person receives the forgiveness of sins for Jesus’ sake, he is filled and is satisfied. For whenever we hear the Gospel of Christ, our souls are strengthened and nourished as we taste of forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and bliss.
And the more we realize our true condition, the more we realize our great need and hunger, the more we realize the greatness of the meal set before us. The more we are encompassed by death, sin, disease, hard times, peril, terror, fear, and all manner of affliction, the more we realize our great need for saving food, the more we hunger and thirst for Christ and His forgiveness. For whenever we hear that Christ suffered, was crucified, and died for our sins, allowed Himself to be prepared and served up as food for all hungry and thirsty souls, that is, for all terrified and fearful hearts, and believe this without doubting, our fragile hearts, distressed consciences, and troubled souls are strengthened, and comforted and revived.
For, you see, it is Christ alone who can curb our deepest hunger and longing, and quench our soul’s great thirst. He alone can put to flight and drive away the devil and death, so that they can no longer do any harm. So when we partake of Christ by faith, when we believe in Him who is held out for us in the Gospel, we do not fear and our hearts are filled with inexpressible joy. By the grace of God we are able to say, “Christ lives; He is my food; in Him I believe.”
God grant that we receive His invitation with great joy, repent of our sins, and feast on His beloved Son, who is the very Bread of life who came down from heaven and gives life to the world. “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Blessed indeed are you for Jesus’ sake. Amen.