On the Invitation to the Banquet

+ Luke 14:15-24 +

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

My children, you are the blind, the lame, the mute, the deaf. Some of you are vagabonds and street dwellers; homeless drifters. And none of you were invited to this heavenly banquet.

But all of you are here. Compelled to come; called by the Spirit of God who is the messenger sent to gather guests to fill the Master’s house. You have no excuse why you can’t be here because you are not here of your own choice. And you plan on eating what the Master serves from His table. You plan on drinking His wine, the wine of wisdom.

Blessed are you who eat bread in the kingdom of heaven. You eat heavenly bread.

Notice that Jesus didn’t rebuke the man who said, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.” Jesus didn’t rebuke him because he is not wrong. He is very right. Jesus wasn’t rebuking this man by the parable of the banquet. Jesus is teaching this man who it is that eats bread in the kingdom of God: the lame, blind, crippled, deaf, mute; the vagabonds and street dwellers.

It is not those who are invited to the banquet that eat the Master’s food. It is those who are compelled to come to the banquet; they are the ones who eat of the Master’s food and drink His wine.

The ones who are invited turn away. They have other things to do. They are not necessarily rude. They are not ungrateful. They simply asked to be excused or say that they cannot come. It’s not even that they don’t want to be there. They are just too busy; too busy for any banquet. Who has time for a banquet? They have fields and cattle to tend to. They have families to provide for. They need to see about these things. Who has time for a banquet?

Those who have nothing, that’s who; those who are blind and lame and deaf and mute and otherwise unable to work for their bread. Not only do they have time for the banquet but in fact they need the banquet. They cannot provide for themselves. They have no fields, no cattle, no family, no place to lay their head. They have nothing. They are the homeless who live in the highways and byways, scrapping by with scraps and handouts. Beggars and thieves. They need the banquet. They need the Master’s invitation.

Yet they were not invited. They didn’t get an RSVP in the mail. They’re replacements. They’re afterthoughts. They weren’t invited. To the contrary, they were compelled to come in. They weren’t given a choice in the matter. The lame were lifted and brought; the blind were led; the mute couldn’t say “no”; the deaf couldn’t hear an invitation if it had been given, but were compelled to come to the banquet. These men and women of low estate who had nothing of their own and who weren’t desired by anyone weren’t invited to come to the banquet, they were compelled to come to the banquet. They were arrested by the Master’s servant; not to be dragged off to jail but to be brought to the Master’s house, to fill His house. They weren’t invited, they were compelled.

They are the simple ones who come to wisdom’s house.

But here’s the real irony: there never was an invitation. Those the Master invited weren’t invited that they might come or not come. Their presence was requested. But they are fools blinded by their own self-worth. They think the Master invites them because they have something the Master wants or because they have impressed Him and He wants to be their friend. They see their fields and cattle, their wives and their possessions, and they think that the Master is impressed and has invited them to a party. And they think to impress Him even more by declining the invitation by listing what great things they have: fields, cattle, and families. They have too many important matters to attend to so that they have no time for a party. They are not rude. They are not insulting. They politely decline and give proper excuses. And if we were the ones that invited them we would be impressed and slightly disappointed that they cannot come. We would think them successful and powerful and rich and that is why they cannot come.

But they are fools. Not because they have possessions, but because they thought the Master invited them as one equal to another. They thought they earned the invitation and so could earn it again. They thought they would lose nothing by declining; even so arrogant so as to think that the Master of the banquet would be improved by their presence.

But in truth there is no invitation like we give invitations so that a man can accept or decline. There is only the call of the Master. Fools will think they have a choice and they will decline the call of the Master. And they will not be received at His table. The wise will hear His call and obey even though they must be compelled by the Master’s servant.

You are not invited to be here. There is no invitation. You are compelled to be here. If you thought you were invited then you would decline the invitation. That’s what sinners do. They decline the invitation of God. Those who do not attend this divine gathering, this holy convocation, this banquet in the house of God, they think they have been invited to church but simply have other, more pressing things to do. They think they can politely refuse the invitation and still remain in the Master’s good graces. They believe that since the Master invited them they must be desirable to the Master and will be invited again. But they are not invited any more than a schoolboy is invited to the principal’s office when his presence is requested there. To deny the request of your presence is not simply to say, “No thanks; I’m good,” but to deny the call of the Master. Such a fool will reap the consequences.

But you are wise because you are poor. You have no place in this world to lay your head but on the pillow of a coffin. You have no wealth that is permanent and that does not fade away. Your body fails you at every turn. Whether you are lame or blind or crippled or sick or infected or attacked by disease, you feel the mortality of your nature. And you are wise because of it.

Now hear the word of the Lord and gain more wisdom. Though you have nothing to offer Him and nothing that would make Him consider you, still He sends out His servant, that Holy Spirit sent from the Father, to compel you to come to His banquet. The Holy Spirit calls you by the good news of Jesus that for His sake your sins do not condemn you and for His obedience you are called obedient. Jesus’ blood and righteousness is your sure defense against sin, death, and the power of the devil. He has purchased you with His innocent suffering and death and by His precious, holy body and blood given and shed for you.

The table is set. The wine is well mixed with righteousness and life. The Master calls: “Take, eat; take, drink. This is my body and blood which is given for you.”

Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed is everyone who eats bread in the kingdom of God. Blessed are you.