Trinity 2, 2016
The Epistle. 1 John 3:13-24
The Gospel. St. Luke 14:16-24
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
As we move slowly further into the Trinity Season we will continue to see references to the New Birth, that thing that is necessary to see and enter the Kingdom of God.
On the continuing theme of Christian virtue, produced by those who are Christians by the new birth…not forgetting the conversation with Nicodemus still on Trinity Sunday, this theme will continue to resonate throughout the season, so listen for more from our lessons this summer.
Today in Jesus’ parable of the Great Banquet we see certain aspects of the New Birth the Christian enjoys and how it is given even to those who were once not part of God’s people.
It is certainly a gift to us, who are Gentiles and not Jews by birth. We will also see how many must be compelled to come into the Kingdom by various means and methods…and the various reasons and excuses given not to enter either.
In the Gospel today, adding some background, Jesus is at the home of a Jewish ruler. A ruler of the Pharisees.
He observed how certain men came in and sought out the best seats in the house, instead of being humble and looking for a less prominent seat and being satisfied with that.
And there is this man there, who for whatever reason blurts out, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
We don't really have a clear idea why he says this.
Some scholars believe it was a sincere comment? Maybe.
Some believe it was an attempt to trap Jesus? Maybe.
He seems to be one of those people who toss out a comment or make a statement just to get a conversation going. They don't have a lot of theological depth, don't even really seek to get to the bottom of the issue. They only enjoy the dialogue.
But in response to this statement Jesus comes up with a parable to offer to him and those around him.
Jesus begins this Parable by saying that a certain man gave a great banquet and invited many.
God of course is the man in the parable.
His giving of a great banquet is simply salvation….the giving of salvation or the offer of salvation.
This leads us to believe that in the Kingdom of God, we are to look for it to resemble a great banquet in some way.
All of the things that went along with a banquet were images that would come to the mind of the first century Jew hearing this parable….or were supposed to come to mind at least.
And the man, God, sends his servant to call those invited. The Jews were the invited party. They were the invited guests.
God, from Abraham on, called a certain people to be His own.
He would be their God and they would be His people. The invitation was simple and clear. I am God and I desire that you enjoy my presence and worship me.
But it doesn't’ take long before the Jews rebelled against God. We find this to be the case throughout Jewish history from just about Abraham on. If we go back, rebellion is the nature of man…Adam and Eve were rebellious in their eating of the forbidden fruit.
We certainly find this to be true in the time of Moses. Rebellion, refusal to obey God, wandering away, intermarrying with pagans.
We see this further spiraling downward during the period of the exile. In 722BC the northern tribes were taken into captivity. Prophets were raised up by God to prosecute God’s case against them and to tell them why they were exiled and what it would take to gain a right relationship with God again.
In 586 BC, the second captivity occurred this time in the south. Judah now also in captivity. Prophets sent to them to chastise them, warn them, and offer them direction to find God’s favor once again through repentance.
The prophets in many cases were mistreated and even killed at times because of the strict hardness of heart on the part of the Israelites.
These Prophets are the servants…the messengers sent by the man throwing the Banquet.
So God is throwing the banquet.
His servants are the prophets who went out and pleaded with the people to repent and in effect, accept the invitation.
They were called back by the Prophets, (refusing the invitation) and Jesus lets them know this in the Parable.
And don't forget, everyone in the room would be understanding who was who in the Parable.
They were most likely thinking or even saying, “I think he is talking about us.”
Jesus uses the excuses people made in the Parable to demonstrate how worldly the Jews were that they ignored and even spurned God’s overtures.
The cares of this world, ungodly pleasure, idolatry…these are the things that entangle a soul and cause a man to be either blind to the things of God, or indifferent.
In the case of the Jewish people they were created to be God’s beloved people and they found earthly pleasures more desirable.
But we cannot read this parable and think we do not make an appearance either.
We too love worldly things and desire them over the things of God all of the time. We desire them over God Himself at times.
This parable is to get all of us, both Jew and Gentile (all of mankind) to understand that the priority of Heaven over earth is of the utmost importance.
These are general excuses Jesus uses to demonstrate even some trivial things people can come up with, or invent, or sincerely desire over the Kingdom of God.
Looking over a field.
Proving some oxen.
What are some modern excuses.
I'm too busy.
I might not be liked by family or friends.
I have so many other priorities.
These cannot be excuses for not seeking the Kingdom. All have their place and can be done and entered into in a Godly way, but none of them has the high value that the Kingdom of God has.
Calvin says of this verse: “By these words Christ pronounces the Jews to have been so entirely devoted to the world and to earthly things, that no man found leisure to approach God; for the cares of this world, when we become entangled by them, are so many impediments in our way to keep us back from the kingdom of God. It is truly base and shameful, that men who were created for a heavenly life, should be under the influence of such brutish stupidity, as to be entirely carried away after transitory things. But this disease is universally prevalent; so that hardly one person in a hundred can be found, who prefers the kingdom of God to fading riches, or to any other kind of advantages.
Though all are not infected with the same disease, every man is led away by his desires; in consequence of which, all are wandering in various directions.”
So, in the parable, the servant comes and tells the master the list of excuses he heard. The master becomes angry and even more determined to have people at his banquet.
He tells the servant to go out to the streets and lanes of the city and call the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind to come in.
These are the less desirable in the eyes of many. They are now called to enter.
So paralleling this to the history of Israel, God has turned His attention, His invitation to the Gentiles.
If the Jews don't want to be part of this, then I will call Gentiles in. Maybe that will get the attention of the Jews for one thing…and it will certainly get the attention and hopefully the gratitude of the Gentiles.
The Gentiles, Jesus compares to those who were not originally called.
He compares us to blind, lame, and all the undesirable things that the Jew would not be inviting to his own banquet.
These God invites and calls in. This is where we might sit up and pay closer attention. God has graciously invited us into His Banquet. He has laid out provisions for us to enter into His Kingdom….to share in the inheritance that so many of His own Jewish people despised, ignored and even outright rejected.
We have this clarified somewhat in Romans 11. Paul writes this: “So I ask, did they [the Jews] stumble in order that they might fall?
By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?
But if some of the branches were broken off, [the Jews were broken off of the original tree] and you, [Gentiles] although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith.
So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.
For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.” (Romans 11:11-24 ESV)
So all who are of God are so because of His grace.
We Gentiles, who are originally of a wild olive tree, who are Born of God (i.e. grafted into God’s olive tree) are so because of His grace. We were grafted in. We did not grow independently and were considered worthy. We were grafted in by God.
Again a similar thing to the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus about being Born of God. It is a work of God’s Holy Spirit.
So in the Parable, even when these were all called in, the servant tells the master that there is still room. He sends the servant out one more time to compel them to come in.
“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 14:23-24 ESV)
This shows that God’s concern to save souls is a great desire of His. He will have His banquet hall filled. Despite our desire for the contrary, because of a nature originally turned away from Him, He will turn us in order to save us.
As to those who refuse, He says they shall not taste of my banquet. There is a point in which God lets us alone.
There are some who are so obstinate that He eventually, even after showing great longsuffering and patience, will allow them to walk away permanently.
Some might even show some shallow desire for holiness, but will not attain to the place where they are considered welcome guests.
One last sobering quote:
“…the words of Christ mean nothing more than this, that the external profession of faith is not a sufficient proof that God will acknowledge as his people all who appear to have accepted of his invitation.”
This brings us back to the original statement of the man at the banquet with Jesus. Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
Is this an idle statement, though perhaps true on the surface? Or is it a genuine statement one can make about the Kingdom of God out of a desire to enter?
So that in the end, we may be pronounced and recognized as lawful guests of God’s great Banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 2, p. 171). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 2, p. 175). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.