Parables are always a little tricky to understand. They are meant that way. Jesus used parables to confuse the unbeliever, to mess things up in their mind, and to teach them (among other things) that they really don’t get it. They don’t know all of the secrets of God.
Of course, that doesn’t just apply to unbelievers, does it? Sometimes when we look at the parables, it seems like the answer is obvious. Other times, we leave the parable more confused than when we began!
This is one of those parables. Jesus ends the parable by saying, “For I tell you,none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”” (Luke 14:24 ESV) It’s kind of a tough ending, don’t you think? We go in the text from everyone invited to no one eating. What kind of a parable is this?
Let’s crack open this parable and see what we can learn from our Lord about mercy, about the Gospel invitation, and about how things work in the Kingdom of God.
First off, the man in our text, later called the master or Lord of the house, is giving a great banquet. This is no lunchtime special, no drive through fast food. This isn’t even just mom’s well cooked home meal. This isn’t even just a banquet. This is a “mega” banquet, as the text says. It is a great banquet. The meal here will be something to be remembered. But what is even more, the Lord has invited many to His table. This is not a meal. This is THE meal. The big one.
So the first question really is, why did he invite all of these people? What kind of Lord in His right mind would invite all and sundry to the mega banquet?
The answer to this, of course, lies in the character of the Lord of the house. his character is one of love, not miserliness. He is rich beyond all measure’ and he wants to share those riches with everyone. He wants everyone a part of this great feast of salvation, not just the afro, not only the Jew or the good people or the Lutherans. He wants everyone there.
When i was a kid, i remember being a bit amazed and simultaneously annoyed that more than anything else, my mom wanted all of her children to simply be together. Why? It didn’t seem like a big deal to me. Truth be told, it was a hassle. Yet there is something about the great family meal that kind of brings everything together. It establishes that we are a family, that we here are all together, and that we share in a common ancestry, and at our children will always be related. That’s what’s going through this Lord’s mind as he makes the mega banquet.
But guess what? When the time of the banquet actually comes to pass, those who had been invited began to make excuse. Remember, this is dusk, toward evening. The end of the day.
The first one says, I just bought a field and I have to go examine it. Kinda hard to do in the dark. The second has bought a yoke of five oxen, and he has to go take them for a test drive and see how they handle at night. The third is recently married, and just can’t bear to bring his new bride out to a fancy meal.
Now in case you missed it, Jesus is talking about two different meals here. He is talking first of all about the heavenly banquet of salvation, the eternal meal in which God wants everyone to partake, everyone to enjoy the fruits of his labors.
But secondly and just as important, He speaks here of that great meal that we all partake of every week in the divine service. Here, week after week, God bids us to dine with Him at His Table.
But our excuses for neglecting his table are as lame as the ones in our text. The reality is that even though God invites us into His heavenly banquet, very often we don’t want to be here. I don’t like the company. The food isn’t what I want. It’s too early! It’s too late. I don’t have the right clothes.
So God in His great mercy invites even more. He calls them from the highways and byways. The sick, the lame, the ones who don’t belong, the imprisoned, the troubled, those in great need. He calls them all, without prejudice or favoritism. He calls them not because they are worthy or have done something to merit His favor. He calls them because He can, because He loves them. He calls them because that is who He is.
So at the Last Day, the Table will be full. Maybe the ones there are the ones we would expect. But the Table will be full. And the most important part of it? You have a place at this Table. The invitation is for you. God longs to have you at His divine Table. So come, be a part of the family. Come and dine. God wants you here.
Believe it, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.