Trinity 2 – 2021 LSB #’s 497, 622, 818
Text – Luke 14:17-18a
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.
HOW BUSY ARE YOU?
Doesn’t it sound like you’re about to get hit up to help with something? How busy are you? It’s the essential question of our day. We fill our lives with things to do whether they are productive or not. In the Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus delves into that question & points out where the priorities of our lives should be centered. In fact Jesus points out where life is!
Huge numbers of people have been deceived into thinking that they already have life, or they’re this close to achieving it. Another great percentage of people have been fooled into thinking that there is no chance in hell that they will ever find life. That roughly summarizes the two main camps that Satan is trying to herd us into. How busy are you?
The setting, as Luke begins this section, is that of a banquet being hosted by a Pharisee. We know this was a wealthy man because the guests are reclined on couches at his table. The average person of the day could not afford a table. The setting also tells us that a trap had been set for Jesus with this invitation. We know that because a man with dropsy is at the banquet.
Dropsy is what, in our day, we call fluid retention, often due to heart disease. A man like that would be an outcast from society & never be allowed in the house of a prominent Jewish leader, especially on the Sabbath. That he is there tells us that the Pharisees are up to no good, waiting to see if Jesus will break the Sabbath law against healing. Jesus does.
After healing the man, things get a little testy, with Jesus asking some very pointed questions that highlight the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Maybe to break the tension, “When one of those who reclined at table with [Jesus] heard these things, he said to Him, ‘Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’” (Luke 14:15 ESV) It was a common thing to say in their culture & the expected response would be something like this: “O Lord, may we be among the righteous & be counted without blemish, worthy to sit with the men of renown on that great day…” But instead of easing the tension, Jesus tells a provocative parable!
“[Jesus] said to him, ‘A man once gave a great banquet & invited many.’” In their day this invitation alerts people to the fact that a banquet is coming. An RSVP is expected so the host can determine how much food to prepare, but since they didn’t have microwave ovens, it was more difficult to predict exactly when the meal would begin.
When the food is finally ready to be served, a 2nd invitation goes out to those who replied that they would attend. It’s sort of like the invitation you got from mom when she’d been cooking for an hour & said, “Dinner is ready!” That meant you better come to the table right now because the food is hot, & because mom has worked hard at preparing it.
In constructing His parable, if Jesus were playing nice, everyone would have come to the banquet. The problem is, that would have been a lie, & Jesus is not simply the Way & the Life. He is also the Truth, though with it He brings the ultimate degree of love! Jesus tells the truth in order to save us from eternal destruction.
In the culture of the day, it would have been unheard of, after sending in your RSVP, to not attend the banquet. Only the most extreme circumstances would have been an acceptable excuse. Yet, everyone who sent in their RSVP, tells mom basically, “We don’t want to eat dinner with you!” With verse 18, Jesus continues:
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The 1st said to him, ‘I have bought a field, & I must go out & see it. Please have me excused.’” To our 2021 ears, in a culture that knows little of agriculture, that doesn’t sound too unreasonable. But to the people of Jesus’ day, it was a totally preposterous excuse. In the Middle East, no farmer in his right mind would buy a piece of land without first inspecting it & learning the entire production history of that acreage. This excuse was a bold-faced lie & everyone listening to Jesus would recognize it as such. It was clear that the host of the banquet was being intentionally insulted & disrespected.
Likewise with the man who bought five yoke of oxen & claimed that he needed to now examine them. This is another transparent lie. And the 3rd man gives his excuse that he just got married & doesn’t even bother asking to be excused, he simply states he will not be there.
The original audience that Jesus was speaking to would easily have identified the theological movement of the parable. The eternal banquet of heaven has been announced. The hour has come. All is now ready. Let the feast begin, & it begins with this Rabbi called Jesus. Those who seek to eat bread in the kingdom of God should follow Jesus.
Yet, not in the parable, but in real life, the Pharisees have come up with a stream of excuses. They complain that Jesus not only eats with sinners, but actually welcomes them. And since He healed the man with dropsy, Jesus clearly does not keep the Sabbath in a strict fashion. Neither does Jesus fulfill their expectation that Messiah will restore the nation of Israel to power.
The parable is informing them that as they reject Jesus, they are rejecting the great banquet of salvation promised by God in the OT. This banquet table has been set through the presence of Jesus in their midst, but this great feast is just not a distribution of free rations. To enjoy it you must come in to the banquet hall.
Do you remember the Pharisee who tried to break the tension with what he thought was a safe & innocuous statement: “When one of those who reclined at table with [Jesus] heard these things, he said to Him, ‘Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’” (Luke 14:15 ESV) What this Pharisee was failing to recognize is that the kingdom of God is already making its claim on him now. Now, in the person of Jesus “the kingdom of God” is already in the midst of them while he & his fellow Pharisees, without realizing it, are actually refusing to eat bread in the kingdom of God. The Pharisees are living comfortable lives so they neither perceive their need for a Savior, nor for the banquet of life that Yahweh is offering to them.
Jesus Himself is God’s invitation to the feast. To evade or ignore Him is to be excluded from the great banquet of God, from the eating of bread in the kingdom of God. What Jesus is teaching here is what St. Paul wrote of, concerning God, in 2 Corinthians:
“For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, & in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2 ESV) Psalm 23:5 paints this picture of salvation: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” The threat of death is erased if you’re invited to this banquet!
Back to the parable. After receiving the insults of his well to do guests, the host’s anger does not result in revenge, but in grace. He has the poor, the maimed, the blind & the lame invited to the banquet. Their suffering & need was twofold. They were already broken in body & mind, but they were also ostracized from their community because of their brokenness.
As we heard in the OT reading, verse 4: “‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ To him who lacks sense she says, ‘Come, eat of my bread & drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, & live, & walk in the way of insight.’” (Proverbs 9:4 ESV)
That causes a problem for sinners because we don’t like to acknowledge being simple. We prefer to think much more highly of ourselves. In our sin we are far off from God, but as St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (2:13 ESV)
In verse 17, Paul writes of God, “He came & preached peace to you who were far off &
peace to those who were near.” And finally in verse 22: “In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Our busyness can carry us far off from our Savior. How busy are you? The food is ready! Jesus is waiting. Won’t you join Him? Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, You have prepared this feast for our salvation; it is Your body & Your blood, & at Your invitation as weary souls, with sin oppressed, we come to You for needed rest, for comfort & for pardon. Grant that we worthily receive Your supper, Lord, our Savior, & truly grieving for our sins, may prove by our behavior that we are thankful for Your grace & day by day may run our race, in holiness increasing. Amen. LSB 622:1, 7.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet