Gospel: Luke 14:12-24
12 [Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, “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. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 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.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 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.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 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. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’
Pastor James Preus
Trinity Lutheran Church
June 26, 2022
Tortured for Christ is an autobiographical book written by Richard Wurmbrand, a Christian pastor who spent fourteen years being tortured in a Communist prison. Wurmbrand was born a Jew in Romania in 1909 and in his youth, he was a staunch atheist. As a young man he was converted to Christianity and became a Lutheran pastor. He described in the book that when he first became a Christian, he was filled with joy, yet he was brought to tears at the thought of so many people, who did not know Christ Jesus as their Savior. Wurmbrand devoted his life to preaching the Gospel and thereby invited people to the Lord’s heavenly Banquet. When the Communists took over Romania, Wurmbrand continued to preach the Gospel to his own peril and the peril of his family. And what is even more remarkable, many people believed the Gospel and became Christians, even though accepting the invitation to this Banquet came with great suffering. Being a practicing Christian behind the atheist Iron Curtain was dangerous. You could lose your job, your property, your family, your freedom, and your life. Yet, people would lose all these in order to accept the invitation to Christ’s Banquet. Even Communist soldiers and prison guards, who formerly arrested and even tortured Christians would be converted and find themselves imprisoned next to the Christians they once harmed.
This is remarkable, yet it makes sense. Jesus says immediately after this parable, “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. … any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 24:26-27, 33) The Gospel of Jesus Christ is worth losing everything for. If a person is wise, he’d be willing to lose everything in order to accept the invitation to the Lord’s Banquet. Yet, that is not how Jesus’ parable goes.
In Jesus’ parable, those invited to the banquet make excuses. One just bought a field, and for some reason that compels him to miss the banquet. Another bought five yoke of oxen and can’t find another time to test them than during the banquet. Another man has married a wife, and so he claims that he cannot come. They refuse the invitation to the banquet. No one is threatening them. The man’s farm will still be there. The oxen can wait. The man could bring his wife. Yet, they say things like, “I have need” and, “I cannot come.”
And this is far more common when it comes to people being invited to Christ’s Banquet. While some will lose everything and suffer greatly in order to accept the invitation to the Banquet, most turn down the invitation like it is nothing important.
But before we go further, what is this Banquet to which God invites us? The Banquet is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The master sends his servant to tell those invited, “Come, for everything is now ready!”, that is, everything is prepared! What has been prepared? Jesus Christ for us. God sent forth his Son, who is true God from eternity, to be born of a virgin and take on our human flesh. This God-man lived under the Law for us. He obeyed what we ought to have obeyed. And he fulfilled every demand of the Law. And so, Jesus was prepared as the Sacrifice to end all sacrifices. He was without spot or blemish. No stain of sin had touched him, because he loved perfectly. And this sinless man died for our sins, suffering the anguish of hell on the cross. How could one man bear the sins of the whole world? How could his death be a sufficient price? Because this man is God. His death makes full satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. And he proved that he paid for every last sin of every last sinner by rising from the dead on the third day.
That is what is prepared for us at the Banquet to which God invites us. Jesus says, “I am the bread that comes down from heaven.” (John 6:41) And “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” (John 6:55) But a banquet is no good if you don’t come to it, sit down, and eat. So, Jesus sends out his servants to invite people to his Banquet. Those who accept this invitation do so through faith. Jesus says, “Whoever comes to me shall never hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) And “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:53-54)
So, God prepares a meal for us that grants us eternal life. And he invites those who cannot pay him back to come and feast. And we feast on this meal through faith, believing the promise of forgiveness and eternal salvation for the sake of Christ’s suffering and death. Right here on this earth we have a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come. We receive the forgiveness of sins here today. We learn that we are God’s children now. Christ has even prepared for us a meal, whereby we eat and drink his body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins, strengthening of faith and love, and certainty of eternal life.
The Lord’s Supper is Christ’s body and blood, the same body and blood which was nailed to the cross and poured from his wounds; the same body which was laid dead in the tomb and rose victorious Easter morning; the same body, which ascended to the right hand of God the Father with sin, death, and hell under his feet. That is what we participate in in the Lord’s Supper. We don’t bother ourselves with how this can be, how we are able to eat his body and blood without destroying it, how he can be present here and in so many places. Jesus is God and man. He can do far more than we can ask or think. We believe his promise.
And so, Christians have been gathering every week on the day on which Jesus rose from the dead to accept the invitation to this heavenly Banquet and to taste a foretaste of it. In fact, we commune with Christ himself and all who have accepted this invitation, both those in heaven and those still on earth. The foretaste of this Banquet gives us certainty that our seat is reserved in heaven. The foretaste of this Banquet, which is the proclamation of the Gospel and the blessed Sacraments, gives us the faith we need to arrive at that heavenly Banquet, where there is eternal life, joy, peace, and rest. There we will see Christ as he is and our bodies will be like his, imperishable, without sickness, pain, or death. We will live forever and we will never sin again. And Jesus our Savior and God will be our Friend and eternal Companion.
So, you can see why people would risk losing their families, being tortured and killed, in order to accept this invitation. But most will not. Most will refuse the invitation. And they’ll refuse the invitation to Christ’s banquet in order to pursue things on this earth. When invited to church, they will say things like the men in Jesus’ parable, “I must go” and see to something else. “I can’t come.” Many try to convince themselves that going to church to hear the Word of God and receiving Christ’s Sacrament is not necessary to go to Christ’s heavenly Banquet in heaven. They think that refusing to partake of the foretaste of the feast over and over again will have no ill effect on their faith, which is necessary to enter into the feast. But they behave foolishly. Have you sinned this week? Have you lusted, hated, spoken ill of another, coveted what isn’t yours? Have you loved God with your whole heart? Has Satan tried your faith? Is Jesus and the eternal life he grants you less important than your job, your wife, your money, and your leisure?
We should have a sense of urgency when it comes to going to church to hear the Gospel and commune with Christ. “I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.”, says the Lord. Those who refuse to believe in the Gospel will be forever locked out of the heavenly Banquet. That means they will be cast into hell. You cannot believe in the Gospel unless you hear it. And refusing to hear the Gospel and to commune with Christ is a sign of profoundly weak faith, which borders on death. If that isn’t a warning that you need to hear the Gospel and be strengthened in faith, I don’t know what is. When you don’t think you need to go to church, that is when you need to go the most!
Why don’t people go to church? It’s simple. They don’t think they need it. But they think they need a lot of other things. They’ll drive an hour to go to work each morning, but the drive to church each week is too much. They’ll get up early and take their kids to a sports tournament, but bringing them to hear the words of eternal life is less important. But they’re wrong. They need Jesus.
The master told his servant to gather in the poor, crippled, blind, and lame, so that he might fill his house. People don’t think they’re poor, crippled, blind, and lame. They think they’re okay. They think they don’t need the Banquet, at least, not that badly. But the truth is, we all desperately need this Banquet. Without it, we have no life. We’re sinners. We’re poor. We’ve got nothing to offer God. We’re in debt that an eternity in hell cannot pay off. We are crippled and lame. We can’t even do what is right when we know what is right. Our actions are riddled with sin. We’re blind. We don’t even see how sinful we are. People don’t come to church and they don’t accept the invitation to the heavenly Banquet, because they don’t know how poor, crippled, blind, and lame they are.
But thanks be to God, the Good Master orders his servant to go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in. Compel. How do God’s servants compel us to come to his banquet? They do this by preaching the Law to us, which exposes our sin. Through preachers, who preach the Law from the Bible, God compels sinners by calling them sinners. St. Paul said, “I would not have known what it is to covet, if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” And so, the Law exposes you as a sinner. Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind? Do you call upon his name with prayer and thanksgiving? Do you enjoy learning his Word? Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Do you seek to help others and pray for your enemies? Are you chaste, or do obey your lusts? Have you ever cheated or damaged another person’s property? Do you always tell the truth and seek to protect the reputations of others? Are you content with what God has given you? God’s Law exposes us as idolaters, fornicators, thieves, liars, and murderers.
Yet, the preaching of the Law alone cannot compel anyone into the Banquet. Then the preacher must preach the Gospel, that Christ Jesus has died for all your sins, that though your sins were as scarlet, he has made them white as snow, that though you can never pay him back, he invites you to dine with him for eternity.
If the Law has had its affect and convinced you that you are a sinner, then the Gospel will give you joy that God forgives your sins for Christ’s sake. If the Law has done its job and shown the danger of your sin, then the Gospel will assure you that God has saved you from eternal hell. This is how God compels sinners, who don’t even know what they need, to enter into his heavenly Banquet through faith. And that is why we should never neglect the foretaste of this Banquet, but gladly hear the Gospel and receive the Sacrament whenever it is offered.