The Greek word translated invites', invited', and invite' runs through our text. Our text has it 6 times and it's found 3 times after our text. The last time is in verse 24, so our text is really Luke 14: 1-24. All of this we must look at if you're going to walk out of here certain you're invited.
And this starts with seeing that in this text that's all about being invited, it doesn't say Jesus was invited to the house of a prominent Pharisee to eat a post-Sabbath meal. He wasn't there in fact to eat but to be eaten. They had planted a grossly deformed man think Elephant Man right before Jesus in the feast daring Him to heal on the Sabbath. That's the part of our insert that says Jesus "was being carefully watched."
Maybe if you know this background you will get out of your head that this text is about meal etiquette. No it's not about how those who are invited to a meal are to behave or about who those giving a meal are to invite. I can prove this by one word: "parable." We're in the realm of a parable. This parable is no more about table manners than the Lost Coin is about how to look for a lost coin or the Sower is about how to sow grass seed. Also notice it's about a wedding feast again! How often do you get invited to one? Over a lifetime, I guess not even once a year. Yet again and again a parable is about a wedding feast.
Our text is a parable about God inviting you to see what He has done in Christ. He who had first place, and this is what it means when Scripture declares Christ the Firstborn of all Creation (Col. 1:5), humbled Himself to be placed in a Virgin's womb, and to be born in the usual way into an impoverished Galilean family. He was just so ordinary. Even once John had testified to who He was, even after He had done attesting miracles still people could say, "Where did He get such words of grace? Don't we know His father and mother? Aren't His brothers and sisters with us?"
He humbled Himself so that though having made the heavens and earth, He had no place on earth to lay His head. He was called demonic, deranged, a drunk and a glutton. At this feast look where they had Him seated? Next to the grossly deformed man. You're invited to see that all that Jesus suffered He did for us and for our salvation. The incarnation was about Him taking our place before God and man under the Law, but how He took on flesh and blood in the womb, as a baby, as a teen, growing up, going through puberty, getting colds, etc., etc., that was God Almighty humbling Himself to reach us in the depths to where we had fallen.
God invites you to see what He has done in Christ. God takes our place under the Law to keep the Law in our place. Go ahead and think about just the time from when you got up till now. How many Commandments of God have you broken in thought if not in deed or word? If God did reward us according to our sins, if God did keep an ongoing tally, it would look like the national debt clock. Go ahead Google it. You can't keep track of the numbers they advance so rapidly.
Jesus sin' clock was born at zero; stayed at zero, but still He humbled Himself. He humbled Himself to be spat on, to be beat with clubs, to be whipped without mercy, to be ridiculed, to be crowned with thorns, and then finally says Scripture, "He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to deatheven death on a cross!" We think we know what that means. But we don't. Insects and animals die, but death looks different to us than it does to them. So death looked different, felt different to God in flesh and blood than it does to flesh and blood men. As we know much more about death than insects or animals and so loathe it more, God knows infinitely more than us and is repulsed that much more by Death.
But God incarnate humbled Himself to even death on a cross because it took not just suffering, not just sighing, not just bleeding, not just damning, not just crying to redeem us from Sin, from Death, and from the Devil, it took dying. You're invited to see that Jesus in the words of the Gettysburg Address "gave the last full measure" to save you. He paid the ultimate price, not the life of just Man but God. He sweat and shed not just blood but "holy, precious blood."
God invites you to see this today. To see all your sins on Jesus' laid, and to know that not one of them was missed, fell off, or wasn't paid for in full. When Jesus said, "It is finished," He was talking about paying for your sin and guilt, about paying for every reason you have to be afraid, worried, guilty, or shamed. God invites you to see not only the payment today but the receipt. The One who was humiliated has been forever exalted to God's Right Hand to rule over all things in heaven and on earth, as a Man. The proof that your sins were successfully paid for by Jesus' death is the fact that God raised Him on the 3rd day. The only reason God in flesh and blood laid down His life was to pay for the sins of all people. Once that had been done, Death couldn't hold Him and He was done humbling Himself.
I know what you're thinking. Where is all this in the text? I answer it's in the wedding banquet, which is the Marriage Feast of the Lamb who has taken away the sins of the world. If you'll read from 15 to 24, you'll see this is what the text is really all about. Not attending or giving earthly meals, but eating and drinking with God and whose invited to do that.
That's the second part. God invites you to see whom He invites in Christ. Now if you think the last part of the Gospel reading is really instructions on giving a meal, then this is doable law to you. I am able to invite those who can't repay me. But then Jesus is not much better than Plato who instructed, "And in general, when you make a feast, invite not your friend, but the beggar and the empty soul." The only difference is that Plato looks for repayment in this life not the next. He goes on to say, "For they will love you, and attend you, and come about your doors, and will be the best pleased, and the most grateful, and will invoke blessings on your head" (Phaedrus, 233).
No, these aren't instructions about whom to invite to your feast. We're still in the parable context all the way through verse 24. When Jesus continues with the Great Banquet, Luke doesn't say, "And He told them another parable," but records Jesus just using the introductory words of many parables, "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many." Furthermore, the people God ends up inviting to His great banquet are "the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame." Sound familiar? These are the same ones mentioned in the Gospel reading.
The question before you is, are you invited? You are if you're in that group of misfits the world considers uninviteable. You're not invited if you think you deserve the first place in God's feast. You're not invited if you consider yourself rich, whole, healthy, or seeing. You're not invited if you think you can repay God by anything you do. But if you have no plea but Jesus' blood and righteousness,' if you have nothing to offer not your faith, not your devotion, not your prayers but sin, sins, and more sins, you're invited.
Twenty or more years ago a telemarketer called the house offering a free five-day cruise no strings attached. I didn't ask her if that included the five kids, but I did unload on her about how this was a scam. She in a most cheerful voice said, "If you're not excited, you're not invited," and hung up. Do you see what she did? She didn't respond to my allegation that this was a scam. She just made me feel like a fool for not being excited about something that was so obviously good.
Thanks be to God that's not how it is in the realm of God's Kingdom, and that's the realm we're actually in. After all that is the realm any parable takes you to. Admittance to the Kingdom of God is not based on your excitement level or your certainty level. Nope, if you're poor in spirit, crippled up so that you can't get in on your own power; lamed by sins, by shames, by guilts too many to name, or blind so as to be unable to see the door into the feast, you're invited. Jesus is the One who says He came for the sick not the unhealthy, the sinful not the righteous, the weak and heavy laden, not the strong and light of foot.
You're invited; this wedding banquet is for you. Though the whole world would discard you for your deformities of body or soul Jesus doesn't. He is on the scene today and every single Sunday inviting you into His wedding feast, His banquet, His great meal. One person at the post-Sabbath meal put on by the prominent Pharisee got it. After Jesus ends our Gospel reading speaking of the resurrection of the righteous. The next verse says: "When one of those at the table with Him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the Kingdom of God." See, he knew that this was about eating in God's Kingdom not about rules for attending or giving banquets.
However, Jesus doesn't affirm what the man says. Instead he immediately expands His parable to the Great Banquet. This is the one where all those who had been invited made one excuse after another about why they couldn't attend: One had bought a field, one had just bought oxen, one had gotten married. The man had blurted out that eating in God's kingdom was an unqualified blessing. Jesus showed Him that not everyone thought that way.
All on your own, you won't either. Sleep, family, work, school, and 10,000 other excuses will come to mind why you can't attend the banquet the Lord spreads for you each Sunday. In the parable the Banquet-giver takes no time to dialog, cajole, or convince the excuse givers. Nope. He moves on sending His slave to the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. That's what I'm doing here today and every Sunday. Inviting, inviting, inviting even the unexcited, even you. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (20160828); Luke 14: 1-24