6/18/23 – Trinity 2 – “Eating Bread in the Kingdom” – Luke 14:16-24

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1. A man once hosted a great banquet and invited many people. When the banquet was ready to be served, the man sent his servant to announce that the fullness of time had come and that everything was now ready. However, the men who had already received the invitation spurned the servant’s announcement that the time had come. They did not desire to attend the great banquet. They had more important things to do. “I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused” (Luke 14:18). “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused” (Luke 14:19). “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come” (Luke 14:20). But the master saw right through the excuses of these men. For who buys a field without first seeing it? Who purchases five yoke of oxen without first examining them? The excuses could hardly be more blatant and empty. Either these men are utter fools in the dealings of this world, or, more likely, they are making excuses because they value the things of this world over the master’s great banquet. And the third man’s excuse is worse than those before him. For what about a marriage precludes one from attending a banquet? Why could the man not bring his wife with him to the banquet? And yet, this man preferred the pleasures of marriage over the master’s great banquet. And so, the master became angry with them. He sent out the servant to bring in anyone and everyone from the streets and lanes of the city, and from the highways and hedges, whether poor or crippled, blind or lame, the master’s house and banquet will be filled. As for those who spurned their invitation, “none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet” (Luke 14:24). This is the parable which our Lord spoke to those gathered at the table of a ruler of the Pharisees.

2. Though our Lord does not go on to spell out the meaning of this parable for the disciples as He did with the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Weeds, the meaning of this Parable of the Great Banquet is no less significant or clear. The master who gave the great banquet is God the Father. The many men who were invited are the people of Israel. The servant sent by the master to announce that all was now ready is our Lord Jesus Christ. “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Though our Lord Jesus conversed with the Jews, dined with them, and healed them, they spurned His invitation and despised Him. “Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee” (John 7:52). “This man performs many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him” (John 11:47c-48a). “So from that day on they made plans to put Him to death” (John 11:53). Throughout the ministry of our Lord Jesus, the Jews who had been invited to the great banquet continually made excuses such as these, refusing to believe in Him and come to the banquet prepared for them. And so, God the Father became angry with them. The invitation was extended to others who would benefit from the excuses of the Jews. The Word of the Lord went out through the streets and lanes of the cities, and from highways to hedges, the Gospel spread from Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria and finally to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The poor and crippled, the blind and the lame have found their place in the Church at the great banquet of our Lord.

3. This raises an important question about the interpretation of this parable—precisely what does the great banquet in this parable represent? We must first notice that this parable is prefaced by a statement from one of those dining with our Lord: “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15). Notice that this unnamed man views the Lord’s banqueting table as purely a future reality: “Blessed is the one who will eat…” But our Lord Jesus instructs us in a more nuanced view of the kingdom of God and His banqueting table. As we have said, the servant in our Lord’s parable is Jesus Himself. Therefore, His declaration must be given careful consideration: “Come, for everything is now ready” (Luke 14:17). When does our Lord Jesus proclaim that all stands completed and ready for sinner to come to the table of the Lord but when He cries out from the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30)? For it is upon the cross that Christ atones for the sins of the world. It is upon the cross that He satisfies and stays the Father’s wrathful anger against human sin. It is upon the cross that our Lord sets a table before God’s people because all now stands completed.

4. So, let us make no mistake, the table which our Lord Jesus prepared for us upon the cross is intimately tied to the eternal banqueting table of the Lord. The unnamed man spoke to our Lord of his desire to one day eat bread in the kingdom of God. Our Lord Jesus tells him that the one who will eat bread in the kingdom of God in eternal paradise is the one who eats bread in the kingdom of God now. The table of Holy Communion has been set. The bread is laid out. The offer is extended. Come, eat of the bread of life which is our Lord Jesus. He will feed you. He will nourish you unto eternal life. Do not be like the Jews. Do not assume that you will be eating bread in the kingdom of God for eternity if you’re not eating bread in the kingdom of God now. The kingdom of God is among you. It is here. Come. Eat. You can never get too much. Here and not in the world is where you have assurance of the eternal life which is yours in Christ. Don’t make excuses. Don’t place a higher value on the things of this world than the banquet of our Lord. If you spend more time at soccer practice, if you think more about choir rehearsal, if you spend more of your energy on work, then you are toeing a dangerous line of excuses like those who were refused access to the banquet in the end. The one who eats bread now in the kingdom will eat bread in eternity in the kingdom.

5. But you are here. You have come to eat bread at our Lord’s banquet. And this brings immense comfort. Despite every obstacle which may have prevented you from being here, you have arrived. You have not given into the excuses. You have not placed greater value on the pleasures and the things of this world than your reception of the bread of life this day. At this, our Lord rejoices. At your presence here, our Lord gives you of Himself so that you might be strengthened to face the challenges and struggles of this life with renewed faith and hope. So, be encouraged. The one who has gone out into the world to call all men to Himself rejoices that you are here at His invitation to fill His table.

6. So, as we prepare to gather at our Lord’s table to receive the bread from heaven given for us, let us not forget who we are. We are the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. For these are the men who have been invited to the master’s great banquet. We are poor in spirit. We might be poor in wealth. We may be poor in mental fortitude. We continually struggle against the devil and the world, which constantly berate us and seek to rob us of our joy, our mental and emotional stability, and our faith. We are poor in almost every sense of the word. So, to you who are poor, the invitation of our Lord goes out: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We are poor, but we are also crippled. The sin within us leaves us crippled spiritually and physically. We cannot understand the things of God, nor can we always find the strength to fully trust in Him. Our bodies are damaged and malfunctioning, constantly reminding us of our fallen condition. We are crippled. So, to you who are crippled, the invitation of our Lord goes out: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). But we are also blind. We cannot see the ways of God. And due to our sin and separation from Him, we so often cannot even see His working in this world. And our bodies feel the effects of this blindness too as we experience literal blindness or other less severe diseases which degenerate our eyesight. We are blind. So, to you who are blind, the invitation of our Lord goes out to enlighten the eyes of your heart: “that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). But finally, we are not only poor, crippled, and blind. We are also lame. Sometimes that manifests itself physically, but far too often it manifests spiritually as well. We hear God’s Word. We know what He commands, but we are paralyzed from acting on it. Our flesh cannot accomplish what the Lord requires of us. We are lame. So, to you who are lame, the invitation of our Lord goes out as it did to the lame beggar in Acts 3: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6). The Word of Christ is powerful. His invitation brought you here. His Word and His bread sustain you. There is nowhere better that you can be than in His house and at His table because here you are healed. Here the pledge of wholeness is given you. Here you eat bread so that you may be assured of your place eating bread in the eternal kingdom of God.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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