Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the second Sunday after Trinity 6/13/2021. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 11am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Trinity2 Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the Second Sunday after Trinity, click here.
Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God! verse 15
It sounds like this exclamation from a guy seated at the table with Jesus, is the perfect setup for the parable that follows. But it isn’t.
The verses of Chapter 14 which precede our text this morning contain all the details: a brilliant arrangement of events and dialogue that bring about this discourse.
This is how Jesus set up the parable you just heard: First, He ruined the Pharisee’s party by bringing in a man with dropsy. Then, He made it worse by healing him on the Sabbath, which they knew was technically okay, but not okay enough to admit out loud.
This is when Jesus noticed that they all chose seats of honor for themselves, and immediately launched into that very familiar lesson about going to the lowest seat, lest someone more distinguished than you come in, and the host give you a demotion. Better to be moved up than to be moved down. From there, Jesus told the Parable of the Wedding Feast, which went this way:
[Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Luke 14:12-14
At this, one of the men who was at the table with Jesus replied,
Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God! verse 15
He agrees! He thinks this is a great idea that Jesus has. Or he’s just trying to break the tension. But that palpable, quiet tension in the room… was going to get worse.
You heard how the parable went: invitations had been sent, and the day for the feast had arrived. It was time for the guests to come and enjoy the day so long awaited. So, the man sent his servant to tell everyone that the party is about to start.
The twist in the story is the excuses. They’re all terrible, and that’s the point. There’s no acceptable excuse for not coming to the feast, let alone the pitiable ones mentioned.
The man in the story is angry because he knows what the excuses mean: they mean that despite what this feast has cost him, those invited simply don’t want to come. Fine.
They don’t have to. They never had to. They were never going to be forced, and in this parable, they’re not even going to be asked a second time.
Of course, this is a parable about the Pharisees themselves. The Servant of the Man preparing the feast is there in front of them. Jesus, the Son of God, is announcing to them that the Kingdom of God has come. The banquet is prepared for them; come and enjoy this Man’s hospitality and grace.
They are those who have been invited and are declining. Perhaps the Servant does not seem credible. Maybe they would like someone who appears more impressive. For crying out loud: it is they who are having Jesus over for dinner. As far as they can tell, they are the hosts.
But Jesus has already shown that they are not. When He brought in someone they had not invited, He showed them whose feast it really was. And when He healed that man with dropsy, He told them what the party was about: the forgiveness of sins, restoration, salvation, and the appearance of God’s Kingdom. He showed that it was His Father’s banquet, and He has invited those who can’t pay Him back:
The sick, the poor, and the crippled,
The lame and the blind;
That’s when it became the most uncomfortable. God is only inviting those who can’t pay Him back. And if everyone is invited… and they are… that means everyone is on the same footing. It means nobody has an invitation that is better than anyone else’s. Abraham’s invite to the party looks exactly like St. Paul’s. And St. Paul’s invite looks exactly like yours. And your invite looks exactly like the same one given to everyone in Boston and beyond.
The Law and the Prophets bear witness: salvation has always been by grace through faith in Christ, and this faith is credited to you as righteousness.
Of course, maybe you don’t want free stuff; lots of folks don’t. Because they think, “If it costs me nothing, then it must be nothing. So, I’ll go stare at cattle and fields, and blame my wife for not letting me out on a work night.”
There is an alternative to this. You can be those who happily receive what is given, who hear the invitation without suspicion or pretense, and come receive grace upon grace for the sake of Jesus.
You can be those who don’t try and pay Him back, because if you try hard enough, you might convince yourself you’ve done it. You might convince yourself that you’ve paid Him back. This is a sure and certain way to ruin things. If you wouldn’t show up to a fully catered, gourmet wedding feast on Nantucket with a hot dish, actually expecting them to serve it, then you cannot justify your invitation by trying to pay back God for the expense.
That’s how you mock His grace. That’s how you move yourself up to a seat of honor, which He has warned you not to do. That’s how a little baby, who is nothing but given to, gets picked up and moved to the highest seat, while the prideful depart to the lowest seat, which doesn’t even appear to be at the table.
All of this is so simple – if you would only have it… You’re invited to the banquet. Jesus has come and extended that invitation to all. He has sealed it with His Blood, shed upon the cross, that you would enter into His Kingdom cleansed and clothed. He has given you His own place of honor. The feast has begun. Come, taste the Supper now prepared for you.