Today if you will hear His voice…

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Sermon for Trinity 2

Isaiah 25:6-8  +  1 John 3:13-18  +  Luke 14:16-24

Once again, the Holy Spirit calls out earnestly to us in the Gospel as He holds the kingdom of God before our eyes.  Last week He showed us life and death in the story of Lazarus—comforted in Paradise—and the rich man—suffering in flames.  This week He depicts life for us as a supper—a great supper.  A supper with God, in His house, a supper to which many are invited.  But many of those who are invited will never taste it.  Instead, they will taste only death.

As is so often the case, the parable Jesus told today of the Great Supper was actually Jesus’ response to someone who didn’t believe in Him.  He was at a supper, dining at a Pharisee’s house.  They were watching Jesus, testing Him, judging Him.  He had already healed a man with dropsy, but it was a Sabbath Day, so they were upset with Him for that.  Jesus noticed how they all chose the places of honor for themselves at the supper, and He showed them how they were full of pride and selfishness.  He showed them that they were sinners who needed saving, by Him, and they didn’t like it.

So one of them, sitting right there at the table with Jesus, decides to preach his own little sermon. “Blessed is he who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”  As if to say, “Yeah, Jesus, whatever.  You may condemn us and criticize us, but we are Israelites.  We are the ones who keep God’s commandments; we are the ones who will be eating bread in the kingdom of God!  Oh, aren’t we special!”

So Jesus tells this parable about “eating bread in the kingdom of God,” and basically tells His hearers, “Yes, blessed are they who will eat bread in the kingdom of God—but you are not among them.”

He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many,” The “certain man” is God.  He prepared a “great supper.”  Jesus is drawing on images from the Old Testament here.  You heard about this supper from Isaiah today.  This is it!  This supper isn’t just a one-time thing that you attend and then go home.  This supper is home, an eternal home with God.  This “great supper” is the goal of all things—to live at peace with the Creator, to live under Him in His kingdom, to serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.  His supper is eternal salvation, the beginning of eternal life and the end of death.

How would God prepare such a supper?  Only in the most amazing way.  From before the beginning of the world, God saw that mankind would rebel against Him with our sin and selfishness. But in love, He prepared a supper of salvation by choosing to send His eternal Son, the only-begotten Son of God who was there in eternity with God from the beginning.  He decreed that He would send His Son into our human flesh, cause Him to suffer for our sins, and not only for our sins, here in this room, but for the sins of the world.  He decreed that He would accept the righteousness and obedience of Jesus in place of our unrighteousness and rebellion.  He decreed that we should be saved and admitted to His supper, not by obeying His commandments, but by trusting in Jesus Christ.

And so He invited many to His supper.  He invited many sinners to repent of their sin and to come to His supper by trusting in Jesus.  Who were those who were invited?  They were the Jews, the children of Israel. How did He invite them?  Through the word He spoke to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  “All nations will be blessed through you and through your Seed.”  He invited them through the words of Moses and of David and of all the Prophets, who all pointed ahead to the Messiah, the Christ, who all prophesied of Israel’s unworthiness, but of God’s rich grace in promising them the Savior who would do everything for them, even get up on a cross and die for them in payment for their sins. That was the Old Testament, the invitation going out to the people of Israel.

And then, finally, supper time arrived. …and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’

“Supper time” was the arrival of Christ.  “All things are now ready.”  Now Christ has come! Now God and Man are one!  One righteous human life has been lived for all men!  Sin has been paid for!  Salvation has been prepared!

Who was this “servant” who was sent out to announce it?  It was John the Baptist; it was all the Apostles, and all the ministers who have come after them as called and ordained servants of the Word.  Through the office of the holy ministry God both informs people of this supper and invites them to this supper.  Come, for all things are now ready!

But they all with one accord began to make excuses… The Jews, for the most part, didn’t want to come to God’s supper; they didn’t want Jesus for a Savior. They thought they had better things to do than to come to God’s supper through Jesus.  They had the commandments to keep; they had work to do; they had earthly relationships to worry about.  It’s not that the Jews didn’t want to enter God’s kingdom.  Remember, that Pharisee at the table with Jesus said, “Blessed is he who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”  They wanted in to the supper. They just didn’t want to enter it through faith in Jesus.

So that servant came and reported these things to his master. 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.’

See how the master of the house becomes angry.  All the wickedness and rebellion of men can be forgiven.  But when a person turns down the Gospel invitation to enter God’s kingdom through Jesus, now he has rejected the very thing, the very Person who wipes out his sin.  And since it’s the very Holy Spirit of God who invites us through the Gospel, this is really the sin against the Holy Spirit, to hear God’s invitation to repent and believe in Jesus who paid for all sin, and to say, “No, I’ll buy my own ticket.  No, I’ll come in with someone else’s help. No, I won’t believe it.  No, I don’t want to come in through Him.”

But the same master of the house who was angry with the invited guests was still gracious and compassionate.  Look at whom he told His servant to go out and invite:  “The poor, the maimed, and the lame and the blind.”  These are the ones who know they are helpless.  These are the ones who know they have nothing and who crave God’s mercy in Christ.  These are the ones who enter God’s kingdom and feast on God’s supper by trusting in Jesus.

So, remember your place, brothers and sisters in Christ.  Remember who you are. You are not the worthy, invited guests.  You are the crippled and the poor, the ones who least deserved to be here feasting on Christ.  Like the rest, as Paul says to the Ephesians, we were also dead in trespasses and sins, children of wrath by nature, just as the others. It is by grace you have been saved.

And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’

There still is room at God’s great supper.  His kingdom is not yet filled; His table has room for more.  What comforting words!  And even more comforting is the response of the master:

Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

See, God keeps sending out His servant in this ministry of the Word.  He doesn’t discriminate.  He doesn’t go out looking for “the worthy people.”  He does command that all people everywhere should acknowledge their sin and repent. He sends His servant to the highways and hedges, anywhere and everywhere.  As Jesus said to His disciples, “‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.’”

But although there is still room, although God’s grace has been put on display in the sacrifice of His Son, many will never enter this supper.  For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ ”

All are invited to God’s great supper.  But the invitation is extended through the preached Word of God and through the life-giving Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and most people despise the Word of God and the Sacraments of God.  The invitation is to enter through faith in Christ, and most of those who are invited put their trust elsewhere.  And so they will be locked out of this great supper for all eternity.

You who have come here today, who have been baptized into Christ, who have been instructed in the Word of the Lord and who come to the Lord’s Supper in faith—you have been graciously born again by water and the Spirit into the supper of God.  You are no longer among those who refuse the invitation.  You dine with Jesus now in His supper and you look forward to the heavenly banquet that is coming soon. But today’s Gospel is just as urgent for you as it is for those who have not yet heard the invitation.  Because as long as you live on this earth, you are in danger of growing bored with this Supper that is Christ, in danger of being deceived by sin, of growing sluggish in your faith, and finally, in danger of departing too early from the supper.  As the writer to the Hebrews admonishes those Christians:  Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.

And so we come together again today to exhort one another, to encourage one another, to hear God’s Word together, to receive the body and blood of Jesus, which is the instrument the Holy Spirit uses to keep us close to Christ.  Today, if you will hear His voice, come to the feast that is Christ. He is the Door, and the Supper, and the reason for the banquet.  The Door stands open and there still is room!  Come, and keep coming, right up until the coming of the Lord Jesus, when the doors to this banquet hall will be closed. Those who do not want Christ for a Savior now will not have Him for a Savior then, while those who are found tasting the supper of Christ in this life, will also taste it in the next.  Amen.

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