Ninth Sunday After Trinity July 27, 1997
294, 276, 305, 23
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. 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 needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. 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 hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. 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. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. Here ends our text.
In the name of Jesus, Who has prepared a feast of salvation for us, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
I know someone who’s pretty good at making excuses. This person, who can come up with an excuse at the drop of a hat, just happens to be here in church this morning. Maybe you know someone like that too. Someone who can muster up a reason why this was left undone, or can explain away why that was done improperly. A person whose mind walks on most jobs, but runs when it comes to getting out from under the blame. Maybe he’s a husband who has been putting things off around the house because, well, the weekends just aren’t long enough. Or maybe she’s a wife, whose energies are so drained by all the things she has to do that, somehow, the housework just never seems to get done. Maybe it’s a young person, who loves the freedom of summer so much that he just can’t find room in his schedule for mowing the lawn or painting the fence.
But as I was saying, the king of the excuse-makers is here in church this morning, and I don’t mind pointing him out…it’s me. I’ve come to realize that, if I don’t keep a careful eye on myself, I’ll start making excuses at the drop of a hat! Do you know someone like that? Yourself, perhaps?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable about the Great Supper. And in that parable we read, And they all with one consent began to make excuse. People turned down God’s offer of eternal life by coming up with some pretty flimsy excuses. Lest we fall into the same trap, let’s take a look at…
We find Jesus at the home of some Pharisees. Supper was about to be served. At a long table, the religious leaders were seated on both sides. Jesus had noticed something interesting about these men; those who arrived first took the seats of highest honor, closest to the host. They were very proud men; they fumbled over each other to seat themselves a little higher than the next guy. Jesus pointed out their mistake of putting self ahead of others. Then someone at the table remarked, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God! Evidently, this fellow was thinking of how nice it would be to be saved and go to heaven, and be seated at the table of the Lord Himself.
Little did he realize when he said it that, at that very moment, the Son of God was seated right at the same table with him! At that very moment, the feast of salvation and eternal life was being offered to him in the person of Jesus Christ. The Pharisees didn’t know that, though. To them, Jesus was a painful irritant, a Man who kept showing them up for the hypocrites they were. In their eyes He wasn’t even a good rabbi, and He certainly wasn’t the promised Messiah! By their unbelief, the Pharisees had already excused themselves. What Christ wanted them to see is that there is no excuse for rejecting God’s offer of salvation.
So Jesus told them a parable about excuses—the parable of the Great Supper. The master of a certain house had sent out invitations to his guests, announcing that the feast was ready. But, one by one, each came up with an excuse to stay away. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. And one after another, they had their names removed from the master’s list. Notice, Jesus doesn’t call these statements reasons for rejecting the invitation…but excuses. “And they all with one accord began to make excuses.”
For all the excuses these people dreamed up to reject the invitation, there was really only one common theme: “I’ve got something more important to do.” The master’s invitation was ranked on a lower rung than their own interests. Jesus once said, “Where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.” And here is the proof. The man with the new investment decided that business was more important than God. The man with the ox felt that personal property outranked personal salvation. And the man who had been married decided that his love-life came first, God second.
Does that strike a chord with you at all? The Excuse Syndrome is very much alive and well in our day, too, isn’t it? That’s one reason we never fill up all the chairs here on Sunday morning…because excuses are so easy to come by. And it’s the same all over—God’s invitation still goes out to every human being: supper is ready! Come to my feast of forgiveness! But one by one, people quietly excuse themselves. Other things seem more important. The things of this life hold a higher priority than the things of the next life. But, as Jesus indicates, these are not legitimate reasons for staying away—they are feeble excuses, excuses that will not stand on the day of judgment. In the final analysis, there simply is no legitimate excuse for rejecting God’s offer!
God’s invitation says: supper is served. Think it over—there is every reason to accept His offer!
If you happen to get a lot of third class mail at your house, you’ve no doubt seen some pretty incredible offers. By signing up right now, you will get this or that free. As much as we like getting things for nothing, we’ve got good reason to be skeptical of these offers. Somewhere, hidden in the small print, there always seems to be a catch. The offer is never as good as it appears. Every day, the big trash basket in our local post office is stuffed with envelopes that read, “You may have just won a million dollars (or a new car, or a trip to Tahiti)!”
When God says that the feast of salvation is being served, and it is free for all people, there is every reason for accepting it. There’s no fine print in God’s offer! Nothing is required on our part before God will forgive our sins. No minimum standards of righteousness or goodness have to met before God will apply Christ’s perfect righteousness to us. The phrase “no purchase necessary” really is true about God’s offer of salvation. We don’t have to “purchase” eternal life by being good or doing good; we couldn’t do that even if we wanted to. Rather, God gives us eternal life as a free gift in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Isaiah spoke about that offer when he proclaimed to the people, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Is 55:1. Salvation is there! It’s free, and it’s for you. There’s every reason to accept it!
Our God has gone to a lot of trouble preparing this feast of forgiveness for us. If you’ve ever gone to visit a friend or relative in some distant place, you’ve probably had this happen to you: You tell your hosts that you’ll just be there for a short while, and really, they shouldn’t go to a lot of trouble. You beg them not to bother with all the extras, that you’d just be happy for a place to stay. But time passes, and you arrive to find that your advice was, of course, ignored…things are perfect. Your hosts went to all kinds of bother so everything would be just right. And as you fall asleep in a comfortable bed between newly-laundered sheets, it makes you feel very honored, doesn’t it?, that all the work that was done just for you.
When the Master announced that supper was ready, we can understand just what is meant. God is the Master, and in this great feast He has spared no expense to make things right for those who attend. In fact, God planned this feast already in eternity. He looked ahead and saw man’s fall into sin, and then framed His plans for sending Jesus to be our Savior. The fact that Jesus was there on earth speaking to these men showed that the feast was now ready. Jesus was doing and had done all that was necessary to free sinners of their guilt and bring them into the mansions of heaven. The Savior said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” Jn 6:35. “The feast is ready!” God says. “The feast is My Son. Come to Him and you will live!”
There is every reason to accept God’s offer of salvation, because no one is excluded from his invitation…no one! The master in the parable wasn’t particular about who shared his feast with him. When the original guests refused to come, the master was not content to leave the banquet hall empty. He sent his servants into the highways and byways to look for the poor and needy—people who would be thrilled at the prospect of attending this feast. No one was left out.
And that is what God is doing today. Looking at our own lives and the daily sins we commit, we can only conclude that we don’t deserve to attend such a wonderful celebration. But no matter what your guilt, God doesn’t leave you out. The Master reaches down and pulls you from the gutter of sin and shame, and treats you like royalty. God’s love in Christ seats you at the banquet table. He furnishes you with the very best that can be had. Who could turn down an offer like that? Not me. And, I trust, not you either!
King Solomon once prepared a feast for Israel, to celebrate the completion of the Temple in Jerusalem. There were so many oxen and sheep roasted that day that they couldn’t even be counted. But for all of the riches and glory of that banquet, it finally lasted a short time, and then came to an end. God invites us to attend this heavenly banquet by casting our sins upon Jesus, and trusting in Him. The celebration that follows will not be ended in a week or a month, or in a thousand years, but will go on forever. We have every reason, not to make excuses, but to make attendance at this feast our number one priority in life!
Someone has said that this parable is called the Great Supper, and not the Great Dinner…because supper is the last meal of the day. For those who reject God’s invitation, there will not be another chance. But for those of us who gratefully accept it, we know that nothing more has to be done for our salvation. It is finished in Christ. Today, with a sure confidence, we can enjoy the blessings that our Lord even now bestows on us. And we can wait, with joyful anticipation, for the ultimate celebration to begin! “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!” AMEN.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.