Yet, just as you don't leave the roast in the oven forever, but you carve it and plate it and invite your guests to come and enjoy the delicious meat and satisfy their hunger, so also Christ does not stay on the cross forever. Nor did our Lord after dying and rising depart without saying a word. Rather our Lord sent out his disciples to proclaim his death and resurrection, to invite people to come and receive the benefits of his slaughter upon the cross. And these benefits are much richer than the delectable taste of a medium rare roast and the nutrients it provides your body. The benefits of Jesus' slaughter are the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, life and salvation.
You don't receive the benefits of a roast by leaving it in the oven. Nor do you receive the benefits of Christ's death for you unless you feast on him. Jesus says, "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) How do you so feast on Jesus? Through faith in his word! Jesus says, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." (John 6:35) If you do not listen to Jesus words and believe the promises he gives through his words, you are like a man who's invited to eat a roast but you refuse to eat it.
Jesus tells a parable of a master who sends out his slave to call his invited guests to his banquet. But they all give excuses. "I just bought a field, please have me excused." "I just bought a yoke of oxen, please have me excused." "I just got married, I can't come." These are they who reject the invitation to feast on Christ, to hear the Gospel, to receive the forgiveness of sins in faith, and to eat and drink Christ's body and blood for eternal nourishment. Why do they reject the invitation? Because they don't want it. They don't have the desire. They aren't hungry for it.
Sure they are hungry for other things, property, wife, money, games. They're like children who say they are full before they finish their vegetables. But when they find out dessert was an option they ask for ice cream. When their mother says, "I thought you were full?", they say, "I'm full of broccoli, but I'm still hungry for dessert."
Jesus says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." (Matthew 5:6) To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to hunger and thirst for Jesus. To thirst for his forgiveness spoken to you. To desire that peace with God that soothes your scalded conscience. It is to hunger for Christ's body and blood to be given to you in the Sacrament, which delivers to you the remission of sins, life and salvation. It is to desire God's benediction to be spoken to you. To those who have such hunger, God promises to satisfy; to fill with a fulness that cannot be comprehended here on earth. This blessing is eternal life in heaven, a permanent seat at God's heavenly banquet.
But what of those who do not hunger and thirst for this righteousness? Are they blessed? No! They are cursed. "None of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet." They will have no seat at the table, no life in heaven, no forgiveness, no peace, but shall be cast out from God's face, eternally lost and unfriended.
"But that's unfair! A guy needs to tend to his property! He must work! And what does God have against marriage?" Certainly work needs to be done. And God certainly doesn't forbid marriage, but it is among his greatest gifts and he blesses marriage with children, who can be raised in the true faith. But you must recognize that all these things are gifts from God. But God doesn't want you to worship the gifts he gives you. He wants you to worship him. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and the rest will be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33) Don't seek the kingdom of God after you've got your finances in order, after you've set up your house for your new wife, after basketball season is over. Seek first the kingdom of God. God will provide the rest. How foolish we are to neglect God's greatest gift while striving after that, which God provides to even the heathen and animals and certainly will provide for us.
God wants to be first. The Third Commandment, "Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy," which means, "We should fear and love God so that we do not despise his preaching and word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.", is directly linked to the First Commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me."
Immediately after our Gospel lesson Jesus says, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, 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) Now obviously Jesus doesn't command us to hate our family. We just heard last week, "whoever loves God must also love his brother." (1 John 4:21) But this is a rhetorical device used by Jesus to emphasize how much greater you must love him than even your own flesh and blood. Jesus comes first. He will not be second to anyone.
And that is what it is to make excuses instead of hearing Jesus' word and feasting on him. It is to put Jesus second, or third, or fourth, or whenever I have time for him.
But Jesus must be first. Everything else can wait. And so it should be obvious now that there is no good excuse to skip church, where you feast on Jesus. Obviously I'm not talking about those who are home-bound and sick. They still hunger and thirst for Jesus and the pastor must bring them Jesus as often as possible, so that they too may feast on him. But your work, your property, your game, they can all wait. And if you lose money or get kicked off the team for following Jesus, pick up your cross and rejoice that you are Jesus' disciple.
Wisdom calls the simple to leave their simple ways and live and walk in the way of insight. (Prov. 9:4-5) However, many think that to have faith in Jesus is simply to know that he exists and died and rose. It is like they say to Jesus, "Oh, thanks for dying for me. Now please go over there and never talk to me again. I'll see you in heaven. (And I hope you make yourself scarce there too)." But that is not faith, but mockery of faith. Rather those who are of faith leave the darkness of this world and walk by the light. They repent of their sins often and constantly desire to feast on Jesus and to learn from him, to gain that perfect knowledge that can only come from true Wisdom. And so each of us must repent of our weak flesh and pray for the willingness of the Spirit to learn from Christ.
None who were invited shall taste my banquet." These are harsh words of damnation toward those who reject the Gospel. Yet we cannot call Christ ungracious. He invited everyone. Jesus says the same thing in John chapter 3, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:16-18)
But for those who do come to the banquet, What wonderful blessings will meet them. They will feast on Jesus in Word and Sacrament and be filled. Their Lord will not leave them hungry, but their most dire needs will be satisfied. Sure they still will have to go and take care of their fields, oxen, and spouse, but they will have the forgiveness of sins, peace with God and the certainty of joining all the saints in the heavenly feast of salvation with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the blessed.
And don't think you are too unworthy to come. God invites the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. He invites the simple minded. Christ brings sinners to his table to eat and drink and be made holy. Oh, you've committed a great sin and messed up your life and the life of others? Come, Jesus invites you. He restores all things. You've neglected God's invitation for years? Come, God invites you. He will treat you as his own. You don't know anything about religion? Come, your Savior invites you. He will give you wisdom. Come and feast. Have your sins forgiven. Receive God's peace. Be filled with the joy that God has carved your name in a seat next to Abraham. Do you think you're unworthy? Christ gives you his worthiness. Are you hungry for acceptance from God? Come. You are accepted. You are forgiven. You are loved. Come, the banquet is ready.