The Gospel can be compared to a great banquet, a rich and expensive supper.
Picture this supper: Jesus has been crucified for your sins; He has defeated sin and death for you; He has risen from the dead; and the Holy Spirit has been given.
In short, all things pertaining to your redemption and eternal salvation are now ready in this lavish supper, and the invitations are going out.
This banquet is an evening meal. It represents the fulfillment of all God’s promises to mankind revealed in Scripture. Just as supper is the final meal of the day, the Gospel reveals God’s final word to mankind concerning salvation. [I]n these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. (Heb 1:2)
“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.’” (Luke 14:17)
The servant must go out with the Gospel to gather in the people. There is one servant, not many. This servant is the Holy Spirit, who calls you by the Gospel to the banquet. “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” (Rev 22:17)
God works through means. The Holy Spirit works through the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion to call people to the banquet. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17) “To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thess 2:14)
No matter where the Gospel is preached or by whom, there is only one true Gospel and only one Servant who bids us “come.”
“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.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’” (Luke)
These are not a bunch of rabble or immoral or dishonest people. Neither is Jesus criticizing the vocations of business, employment or marriage. All of these examples are good endeavors if held with the right perspective. But Jesus is identifying a group of people who esteem their families and possessions above the Gospel. The Gospel includes the offense of the cross: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt 10:39). But Christians who esteem the Gospel above all else have Christ’s pledge and promise: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Matt 19:29)
What this boils down to is faith. In what or in whom do we place our trust? When something arises in our lives, which brings the Gospel and worldly concerns into conflict, to which do we yield? Jesus here teaches us that His great banquet is only for those who have true faith in Him. Those who receive the invitation, but do not have true faith, such as those represented by this first group, make themselves unworthy and exclude themselves from the banquet. Therefore, let us all repent of our unbelief and with Peter beseech our Christ: “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:9)
“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.’” (Luke 14:21)
God’s banquet is ready right now. He is not going to postpone or cancel it. So He issues new invitations, this time to the poor and crippled, blind and lame. The point here is not that this second group is God’s second choice, but that all types of people (even those who were previously excluded from full participation in Jewish worship) are to receive the Gospel and the benefits of this great meal.
To go out “to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor…” illustrates a greater level of effort, which often is required to reach this group of people with the Gospel. Many of them are outcasts and mistrustful of such a gracious invitation. Some are ashamed of their circumstances and scared of such an improbable invitation. Yet, we don’t read about any excuses. The servant found them, brought them, and unlike the first group who excluded themselves by unbelief, this second group entered the banquet in faith. All human life is sacred to God.
“And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 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 14:16-24)
Everyone who receives the Gospel by faith enjoys the first fruits of this great banquet. This is a present, but everlasting banquet. We enter now by faith, but on the last day we will put on immortality. But until Jesus returns, “still there is room.” God by the preaching of the Word bids everyone, everywhere to come to His banquet.
He tells the servant “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in.” This third group of invitations takes the most work. This is not physical or legal coercion. But to “compel” carries a sense of urgency and encouragement. In this group are people of other religions, other languages, people who have never heard the Gospel, people burdened with great outward sin, and people otherwise despairing. This group may find it very difficult to believe that Christ died for them, has freed them from their sin, and now compels them to come to this banquet. With this third group, Jesus shows us that the scope of the great commission is the whole world.
The parable ends with a serious warning. Those who reject or deny the Gospel will not partake of the banquet. They will not receive the gifts that Christ won for the world. “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion’” (Heb 3:7-8). Beloved of Christ Jesus “Come, for everything is now ready.”
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken. (Is 25:6-8) Amen.