When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet’” (Luke 14:15-24 ESV, emphasis added).
When Jesus tells this parable, He’s speaking to a guest at a meal to which He was invited. This guest seems secure in his invitation, assuming that he is one of those who will be blessed to eat bread in the kingdom of God. After all, he’s been invited to this important meal, hosted by a leader of the Pharisees. And certainly, the man and all the self-important guests of this particular party (many of them Pharisees), as Jews, are ones who have been invited to eat bread in the Kingdom of God. Jesus, however, knowing the hearts of those with whom He eats, knows that the invitation to the true Kingdom of God has come, and that they have declined it. They haven’t recognized it for what it is. Indeed, it has already come on numerous occasions as Jesus Himself has stood before the people of Israel, bringing the Kingdom into their midst, and been resoundingly rejected. Just before the feast in question, Jesus healed a man with dropsy on the Sabbath, incurring the rebukes of the Pharisees attending this very feast.
And so God gathers to Himself a people to whom the invitation is absolute gift. They cannot get there on their own; they would never have otherwise been invited. He calls to Himself the broken and the lost, the poor and the needy, those who certainly don’t belong. The sick and undesirable and the ones to whom the invitation was previously not given are invited and brought in by the servants of the Master. They come in droves, and still there is room. The Master sends out His Servant and gathers them from all over — from the highways and byways, the lanes and hedges — to fill His festal hall.
We are those undesirables, poor, needy, sick, lame, blind and broken. We could not even limp our way into the Kingdom of God. So God in His mercy sends His Son to bring us into His kingdom. He does not just invite us, He comes out to the highways and byways and gathers us into the Kingdom. It’s not even up to us to accept the invitation! This is a God who does not wait for His guests to send in the RSVP, this is a God who sends His Servant to create guests for Him and bring them into His feast. Through Baptism we enter into that Kingdom as honored guests. Every Sunday, we partake of the Feast set before us as honored guests. We eat and drink the food of life eternal — the very Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Servant who brought our broken bodies into this Kingdom, and who forgives our sins and heals our brokenness. And yet, there is still room for more of the broken, the poor, the needy, the lame…the sinners of every stripe. God the Father has many open seats in His Kingdom Feast, and God the Son, through the Holy Spirit, continues to gather the guests.
Im Himmel und auf Erden
ist alle Macht nun dein,
bis alle Völker werden
zu deinen Füßen sein,
bis die von Süd und Norden,
bis die von Ost und West
sind deine Gäste worden
bei deinem Hochzeitsfest (ELKG 222.2)
In Heaven and on Earth
is all might only yours
until all nations will
to your feet come,
until they from South and North,
until they from East and West
become Your guests
at Your Wedding Feast.
Let us pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we give You thanks and praise that You have gathered us, through Your Son, into Your Kingdom; grant that we also may proclaim Your grace to a broken world in need so that they too may be gathered into Your Kingdom. We pray this through Your Son, Jesus Christ, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
- Read last week’s devotion.
- Pray that missionaries throughout the world would continue to proclaim the Kingdom of God so that God may work through the means of His Word and Sacraments to gather more people to Himself.