June 14, 2015
St. Luke 14:16-24
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The parable of the banquet is acted out in history. The Pharisees and the priests were invited to the banquet of the Messiah, they were the most obvious guests, but they refused. The invitation then went to the poor people of the city, to the Jewish tax-collectors, prostitutes, and Galileans and many of them accepted. Finally, the master sent out His messengers to the highways and hedges, outside the city, that is to the Gentiles.
The Gospel begins with the Jewish nation, in the synagogue, and then it moves to the pagans. We, for the most part, are the descendants of pagans. That might lead us to misidentify with the poor and lame and people in the hedges in this parable. We should, however, in the first place identify with those who rejected the invitation and only later with the poor, lame, crippled, and blind.
Premediated sins, that is sins where the sinner plans to repent later, are the most dangerous to faith. Unless the Lord Himself intervenes for us we would be destroyed. We have been invited to the banquet but have sent excuses. We have delayed our repentance in order to enjoy our sins and assumed that we could simply re-join the banquet at any time. That is the way of death. Thanks be to God, the Lord does intervene. He continues to send out His messengers, to invite and compel, to bear witness that no matter what we’ve done, how hypocritical we’ve been, that He still loves us and He wants us at His banquet. It is not yet too late. There is still room.
All sins are equal in the sense that all sins deserve God’s wrath and punishment, but not all sins are equal in the hurt they cause or in their consequences. Being silently angry with your brother in your heart breaks the 5th commandment. It deserves God’s wrath. But it is not as terrible as actually murdering him in his body. Carrying it out adds to the sin already committed and drags more people into your sin.
In a similar way, those who have been baptized, who know that God gladly and eagerly forgives sinners for the sake of Jesus Christ, bear more guilt for their sins than those who are ignorant. We know from Holy Scripture that there are degrees of torment in Hell. It is worse for those who rejected the Gospel than it is for those who never heard it. Jesus says that it shall be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than it will be for those cities who heard His Word and refused to repent.
By His holy sufferings and death in our place, Jesus Christ has reconciled all the world, even unbelievers, to His Father. He has declared us righteous for His sake. The only way sinners can be saved is to believe it, to trust the promise. So then the only way to be condemned is to refuse it by unbelief. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36, ESV) “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16, ESV) It is not that all other sins are not damnable. They are. They deserve God’s wrath but they have been paid for by the Sacrifice of Christ on the cross. They only become ours if we insist upon them and we insist upon them when we do not believe that He has taken them on Himself and made atonement for us. The sin of unbelief not only deserves God’s wrath but it brings God’s wrath because it refuses His mercy and thus it brings on all the other sins the sinner has committed as well.
The first point the parable wants to make then is not to tell us about how other people have rejected the Gospel but to warn us against unbelief and carnal security. Do not think that you can delay repentance forever or that you take no risk in your sins. The sin that damns is the one you love and treat as a pet or a right. That sin, whether it is hatred for someone who sinned against you, lust for a woman not your wife, or pride in your accomplishments, leads to unbelief and damnation. Do not mistake the Lord’s patience for approval. Repent, before it is too late.
The parable’s main point, however, is that Jesus is reaching out. There is still room. It is not too late. Repent and accept the invitation anew. The Lord who looked over the city that condemned Him with compassion, who longed to gather them together under the safety of His love like a hen gathers her chicks, who prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified Him as they crucified them, is not angry or disgusted with you but wants you. This is not a half-hearted invitation of obligation. This is a wedding proposal. It comes from His very heart. There is nothing He would not do for you, nothing that He has not suffered to spare you, and no matter how you appear to the world, the worst of sinners or the worst of hypocrites, deformed and mangled by sins or shamed and dirtied by sins against you, does not matter to Him. He loves you more purely and fully than you can know. He is ready to receive you again. He does not begrudge the cost of your salvation. He is glad to receive you, to forgive you, to love you forever.
Come to the banquet before you today, to His risen Body and Blood hidden in bread and wine. Come weary souls to needed rest, to comfort, pardon, and peace. Here is your Bridegroom eagerly awaiting and here, in your repentance and faith, are the angels rejoicing.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.