Preached June 13th, 2010
1 St. John 3:13–24
St, Luke 14:16–24
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
If you were paying close attention to the Collect for the Day a few moments ago, you will have noticed that there were two principal petitions: For those whom the Lord never fails to bring up in His steadfast fear and love, we ask:
(1) Keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence, and
(2) make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Although somewhat veiled in the words chosen, the first petition is a prayer for our continuing growth in holiness, the process of the sanctification of our lives. The second petition expresses a continuing desire to see God, that our lives may continually reflect the holiness of His Name.
The Epistle lesson for the day is all about the connection between loving others and loving God, a thought continued from last Sunday. Just as last Sunday’s Gospel lesson focused on the sin of Dives in ignoring the need of Lazarus, the starving man at his door step, so this Sunday’s Epistle lesson includes the words 1 John 3:17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his heart of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him? This summarizes the point of Jesus’ parable from last Sunday in a single sentence.
The point that the lessons are making, both last Sunday and this, is to try to plant in our minds the image of God as pure Love, love in the theological sense, not mushy romantic love, not muddle headed “love” that comes disguised as “tolerance” because of an unwillingness to do the difficult things demanded by God’s law, not any of that. Rather true love that is based first and foremost in a sincere concern for the eternal welfare of our fellow man. And yes, this does require that we make judgements about situations. As Christians, we are called upon to evaluate situations everyday, to apply the light of Christ to them, remembering that eternity is always the overriding consideration, not the immediate considerations.
A second point that is particularly strong in the Epistle lessons both today and last Sunday is the connection between our sanctification as evidenced in our love for others and our understanding of God. This love of others is manifest in good works toward our fellow man. The productivity of these good works is indicated in the color for the season which is green.. This understanding is why the First Letter of John has been chosen for both of these Sunday lessons, a choice going back at least sixteen hundred years The opening line of last Sunday’s Epistle lesson sums up the whole message of the Holy Ghost for the Church in this season: 1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loves is born of God, and knows God.
Now let us turn out attention particularly to the Gospel lesson for the day, a lesson in which Jesus recounts as a parable, a supper given by a great man. Our Gospel lesson for today begins at verse 16, and thus fails to set the stage for the telling of this parable. For that, we must return to Luke 14:1 And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat on the sabbath day, that they watched him. So we see that it is another in the long line of confrontations between our Lord and the Pharisees. Jesus has been invited to a meal in the home of one of the high ranking Pharisees to which he has gone, and there are presumably a number of other guests in attendance as well, scribes and Pharisees. He has not been invited out of friendship or respect, but rather that He may be observed, watched, and every word that He says may be noted and explored for ways that it may be turned against Him.
In the presence of this assembly, before our lesson for today, Jesus has already healed a man of the dropsy and then put the Pharisees all to silence by arguing which of them would not pull a beast of burden out of a pit, even though it be the Sabbath day, which of course they could not answer. He then takes them to task for fighting for position at the table, Luke 14:11 For whosoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted. Then our Lord takes the host to task for the choice of people that he has invited to his dinner because they are all people who will be able to repay him. Jesus says instead that the host should invite those who will not be able to repay in order that the host may receive his reward at the resurrection of the just. All of this is the background before the parable that forms our lesson for today.
With a great sense of irony, Jesus, in order to chastize the chief Pharisee at his dinner, tells a parable about Luke 14:16b A certain man gave a great supper, and bade many: Now a supper necessarily is an evening meal, so in the evening of time, in the last hour, Christ comes, inviting men to the salvation of the Gospel. It is not a simple meal because the desire of men for the things of Heaven is so little that only a great supper, richly prepared will attract them. The “many” who are invited in the first place are the Jews, but not so much the entire nation as the religious leadership, particularly the Pharisees, and the Scribes, much more than the publicans and notorious sinners.
Luke 14:17 And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. The coming of Christ marks the first time in history when we can say that, with regard to the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, all things are now ready. When Christ came, men were, for the first time, invited into the Kingdom, first the Jews, then the Gentiles, to enter into the Kingdom itself. And yet, they did not respond to the message of the servant.
Luke 14:18-19 18 And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it: I pray you have me excused. 19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them: I pray you have me excused. There is nothing sinful in the acquisition of a piece of land or a team of oxen, but both of these men are putting their possessions before the Kingdom of God. The first is going to see this tract of land that he has bought in order that he may glory in it, make plans for it, just as Nebuchaddnezzar in Daniel 4:30 The king spoke, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty? The second man is absorbed with the lust of the eye and the pride of life, he cannot wait for a single day to see how his newly purchased team of oxen has turned out. Thus they both evade the invitation to eternal life.
With the third man, the refusal is even more harsh. Luke 14:20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. This means, “I have a party of my own to attend, so do not bother me with yours.” The Levitical law would hold that a newly married man was exempt from going into battle (Deuteronomy 24.5), but there is no reason that such a man could not attend to other civil duties such as a feast as St. Paul indicates in 1 Corinthians 7:29. Even so, this third man takes this as sufficient reason to attend to the matters of the flesh and reject the invitation. His willful rejection takes the form of “I cannot“ but he does not bother to offer even the pro forma I pray you have me excused.
There is an increasing level of disregard for the invitation evident in the three rejections. The first presents his rejection as perhaps a business matter, possibly beyond his control. The second is simply eager to get his hands on his new possessions and try them out. The third is too busily engaged with his wife to care what anybody else may think.
Luke 14:21 So that servant came, and showed his lord these things. Then the Master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor, and the maimed, and the lame, and the blind. The servant returns to report the lack of success. We can understand this to represent the fact that it appears that no leading Pharisees ever came out in open support for our Lord, but rather they remained united in opposition. So the Master of the house instructs the servant to go out to invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. This is very much like what Jesus has already told his host to do in the future, but now he puts the instructions in the words of the Host in His parable. We may understand these that now to be invited to be the spiritually sick, those who were spiritual outcasts, who will now be included even while those who judge themselves more religiously acceptable have excluded themselves. Thus the people who did not know the Law, and most certainly did not obey all 613 points of the Law, these are the ones who will be invited to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven in place of those who saw themselves as perfect and in need of nothing.
Luke 14:22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as you have commanded, and yet there is room. The Kingdom of Heaven is more vast than anything we can begin to comprehend, and though all the people we can ever think of were brought in, there would still be room for more. Luke 14:23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. Before this verse, the servant has been commanded to gather up all that are to be found in “the city” which we take as an allegory for the theocratic nation of Israel. Now the Lord instructs the servant to go outside “the city” — out to the Gentile world — to round up all who may be found to fill the Lord’s House, that is, the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus the parable, which up to this point was told as a historical tale now takes on a prophetic dimension, declaring God’s larger purpose for the salvation of all people. This is not laid out in full detail, but only alluded to here because the time was not yet ripe for this to be fully presented. But it is there, under wraps.
Compel them to come in, is a favorite text for the persecutor and the inquisitor, with any who want to shred conscience. In order to use it this way, it must be lifted entirely out of context because that simply is not the way it is intended in context, nor does anything else in Scripture support that idea. We should look at how it is used to see the point here. There is only one servant mentioned, and the idea of a single servant driving hoards of unwilling people to attend the feast is truly ridiculous. Remember that the people to whom the invitation is now addressed are not the proud, but rather the lowly who recognize their own unworthiness. Their reluctance will arise from a sense of being unworthy of the honor of this great invitation, and thus compel means to persuade them that the invitation is truly intended for them, even in their wretched sinful state. To compel in this instance has no hint of force attached to it.
Luke 14:24 For I say unto you, That none of those men who were bidden shall taste of my supper. The self–righteous Pharisees, the Scribes, all those who hear but refuse to believe, will not be received into the Kingdom of Heaven. What could be simpler than that? What could be more terrible?
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.