Trinity 2, 2017
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
Who are you in today’s parable?
Parables teach us about the reign and rule of God through His Word. So where do you fit in?
Perhaps you’ve heard that parables are “earthly stories with heavenly meaning” or something like that, but that’s not very helpful.
Parables teach us specific things. They teach regarding the reign and rule of God through His Word.
It’s not just an earthly story—it’s often an earthly story that—purposely—doesn’t make sense.
And it doesn’t just make a heavenly point in a long list of heavenly points—it makes, generally, the same point: salvation is found and earned and given in Jesus Christ alone. Those who believe in Jesus receive it. And those who don’t believe in Jesus are cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
So let’s identify the characters in the Parable Jesus tells and find our place in Jesus’ Word.
First, Jesus is dining at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, the Jewish, religious elite, and “One of those who reclined at table with him” (Luke 14:15) made what was meant, I’m sure, to be an innocuous statement if not a faithful one. He says, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:15).
Is he correct? Yes, of course.
But what does he mean? What’s he saying?
Jesus has already scandalized the false theology of those present by healing a man they wouldn’t have healed. Jesus heals a man with dropsy, and He does it on the Sabbath. Those present wouldn’t heal a man on the Sabbath, but they would pull their son or an ox from a pit on the Sabbath, and when Jesus points this out, “They could not reply to these things” (Luke 14:6).
Next, Jesus told those who were invited not to choose the places of honor for themselves, which they obviously had done. He says, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Gotcha again.
And finally, to the man who invited Him, Jesus says, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14).
Jesus does and says these things—to the people who invited Him, hosted Him, and sat with Him through the meal.
Through all of it, Jesus makes the point that these men appear faithful—however—they are, in reality, unfaithful.
So when, in today’s Gospel lesson, the man says, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God,” it’s as though your family is about to pull knives and fight over women’s “reproductive rights,” homosexual “marriage,” and who “should be” president—and, in the middle of that, to keep the peace—Grandma asks, “Aren’t chocolate chip cookies delicious?”
Of course they are, Grandma! But we know what’s she’s doing. We know what this man who reclined at table with Jesus is doing.
Ignore the difficult conversations, ignore the truth. Let’s all just agree to disagree about God, the family, children, murder, marriage, and the Bible.
After all, what are they as long as everyone’s “happy”?
Jesus hasn’t told His parable yet, but—in case you’re wondering—in today’s Gospel lesson, you are not the man who reclined at table with Jesus.
But to this man, cutting through his attempt at false-peacemaking, Jesus says, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I just go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet’” (Luke 14:16-24).
The parables are fantastic, because they hit us where it hurts.
How many of you have ever given a bad excuse or lied about why you couldn’t do something?
What’s your go-to excuse? Washing your hair? Changing lightbulbs? Or the catch-all: “I’m busy that night.”
I love when people tell me they’re busy on a certain day. I love asking what day they’re free so I can see the wheels turn.
We make a lot of excuses about a lot of things that aren’t even important.
So consider that Jesus tells this parable. And parables are about the reign and rule of God through His Word.
A man hosted a great banquet.
He invited many. There was nothing at all lacking in his invitation.
And when it was time, he sent his servants to say, “Come, everything is now ready.”
But they balked.
Possessions got in the way of the bounteous feast. For some, their land, and the wealth that it yields. For some, their possessions, and the wealth that they yield. And for some, their family is their excuse.
Does any husband or wife want to say that they’ve never used their spouse to get out of doing something they didn’t want to do in the first place?
Jesus doesn’t mean to say that those invited would go if they didn’t have anything to do.
He means that they reject the invitation and find and offer excuses to cover their will to do other things.
If it’s not the field, then it’s the house, or the barn, or the garage.
If not the oxen, then the sheep, or the goats, or the dog.
And if not the wife, then the children, or the grandchildren, or the great-grandchildren.
So, in this parable, are you one of these?
Do you search for and find any excuse to exchange the invitation and truth of God for a lie (cf. Romans 1:25)?
You may be tempted to think that Jesus’ point is that you are one of these and so—repent!
But that’s not His point. You are not one of these from the parable.
Notice, the master of the house doesn’t cancel the original invitation. That’s important.
But neither is he satisfied with an empty house. So he sends his servants out, inviting in all those from the streets and lanes of the city—and the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.
These are the Church’s most valuable pearls. These are the Church’s most profound treasures. These are you.
These are those for whom Christ died. And those who believe in Him.
No one wants to be the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. No one wants to bend their will to that of our Father in heaven.
But look—after the Jews rejected the Christ, after they crucified the Lord of Glory—the gospel was preached to us Gentiles.
The parable that Jesus tells is the story of our salvation. How salvation came to us.
The great banquet is the feast everlasting.
The host, the master of the house, is God the Father.
His servants, the prophets, prepared the way of the Lord, but when the time for the feast came—when it came time to worship Christ the Lord—they balked.
And then, with all their excuses and false accusations, they crucified Him.
Then, the master of the house, our God and Father, desiring a house full of His children, caused the Gospel to be preached to all the world.
Who are you in this parable?
You are the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame—those, Jesus said, you should be invited anyway!
So, we know for certain that we are included in God’s reign and rule through His Word. God desires us in His Kingdom and sends His angels and His servants concerning us.
To shame the Jews who rejected Him, Jesus sends the Gospel among the Gentiles.
But He doesn’t cancel the original invitation. That’s important.
The Gospel is still to be preached to all nations—it is the hope and prayer of every Christian that every unbeliever—every Jew and Muslim and…and…and…would repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ unto life everlasting.
But since we’re not the hard-hearted Jews Jesus is speaking directly to, it’s what Jesus says immediately following today’s Gospel lesson that is, perhaps, His most important word for us:
To the great crowds that followed Him, Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).
First, did you know that Jesus said that?
Second, did you know that Jesus meant it?
The hating of one’s own family and life is a Semitic way of expressing absolute and total detachment. When disciples are confronted with a conflict of loyalty, they will give priority to their commitment to Jesus.
Love for Christ automatically classifies all other loves as lesser loves. Loyalty to Christ automatically supersedes all other loyalties. Commitment to Christ automatically categorizes all other commitments as secondary.
That doesn’t mean we join a monastery and ignore our God-given responsibilities.
That means we never stop speaking, acting, and living as God calls us to live.
Are we holy by appearance or by reality?
Believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ—God’s son, our brother—who lived and died in our place, for our forgiveness, for our salvation.
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.
And, live your life as one who knows how to bear the cross in faith.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!