The Lord loves a banquet. He is happy when His people are gathered at the table with Him. The Lord delights in giving out good things – ordinary, everyday things, as well as things far beyond the ordinary. It has always been that way. When He created the world, God was so pleased with it that He could not keep it for Himself and simply had to share it with some who would delight in it with Him. There is always more – more than we could ever imagine. The solar system is overwhelmingly huge and stuffed full of wonders. Then the Lord flung out the galaxies and nebula and more beyond that.
Then on one tiny particular speck of rock He puts water and life. “And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.’”
Half a dozen different birds would surely be enough, perhaps a dozen kinds of fish. But no, we have some of the craziest looking fish. Some from deep down in the darkest depths of the sea we have only recently got pictures of. Only the Lord knew that they were there all this time, where He put them. Now we have cameras that can take pictures of them and we can wonder at them, “Why on earth did God make something like that?”
Why on earth did the Lord make something like you? There is only one like you – ever has been, ever will be. The Lord multiplies His delight. He has a different delight in each unique one of us, and He invites us into delighting with Him in each one.
But we are so bent in on ourselves; we are what first engages our attention. There is no delight in that. That is the opposite of what we are created for. We rebel against delighting in the banquet of creation, as evidenced by our envious complaints: “Why does he have a sharper brain that I do?” “Why am I so fat, when others stay thin without much effort at all?” “Why should I have to get on with my life with only one lung?” “Why can’t I be like those beautiful people? rich people? athletic people?” Even if people get what they envy others for, they are even more miserable because it did not make them happy the way they thought it would. Measuring ourselves against others is the opposite of our delighting in what a unique mixture of things each one of us is.
It is good to delight in each unique thing God gives. We receive each one and hold it up to the Lord. “Look, I have received this just as You have made it and given it to me to enjoy.”
But sin says, “No, I won’t have it that way. Unless I can say it is mine, without God in the picture, no thanks.” That is the death of delighting in God’s banquet of creation.
So far we have mostly been in the First Article of the Creed, describing the way the Lord does creation. But there is little certainty if that is all we had. What makes us sure of our Lord’s delight in each one of us was His baptizing us. He says you are one of Mine, yes, you. My name I put on you with the water. You are the only one like you, so you can have delight in all My gifts to you as I delight in you.
The Second Article of the Creed delights in Jesus. In Luke fourteen, He is on His way to Jerusalem. Jesus tells of a banquet. It is an old picture of how the Lord delights to dish out His good things, drawing us into the enjoyment and delight of them with Him. “Thou preparest a table before me … my cup runneth over.” “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house; and Thou shalt make them drink of the river of Thy pleasure.”
Who would not want to be there for that banquet? One of those who sat at table with Jesus exclaimed, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.” Now you could not say it better than that, but Jesus would not let it rest just saying the pious words, especially if the piety pushes God’s banquet off to some other time and place – which is to say, “No, not now. Later.” Jesus cares more for that man than to leave him with only his okay-for-Sunday-morning talk of the kingdom of God as if it were some far-off thing and not there where Jesus, the King, is speaking right in front of him and giving out His gifts.
The Lord has been working as the kind of Lord He really is for a long time. Those to whom He first spoke today’s parable have a long history of His dealing with them as His people, of His inviting them to His banquet. First came the advance invitation, which they accepted, then the second, “Come, for all is now ready.” But with out Lord’s parables, they cannot have it both ways at the same time: Either the way it goes as He wants it to go, or the way it goes wrong. Today’s parable tells how things went wrong with the Lord’s invitation to His great banquet. They had agreed to come, then some things more important claimed their attention – perhaps another time when they could fit the Lord in.
The first people invited may have assumed they had an invitation to the banquet coming to them. Of course they would be invited; they were among those who could not not be invited, and thinking that way, they made up their minds whether to go to the banquet or whether to attend to something more important. Measuring things up that way destroys a gift. The Lord turns away from those who scorn His gifts. He will not stop giving out His good things, so Jesus tells them of His giving to those who value His gifts as nothing but gifts. No measuring or deserving with such people; they would never suppose they had such good things coming to them, but to their delight, the gifts come anyway.
The way of today’s parable is the negative way, how it goes when it does not go the way the Lord wants it to go. Because it is a gift, it is rejectable. This may be seen in those in Israel who time and again rejected the Lord. He wants to have Himself a people only for the purpose of giving them gifts. Other kinds of people will not get along with Him, and eventually things will go very wrong.
We are in the middle of Luke; Jesus is moving steadily toward His ultimate rejection. Jesus has spoken these words of warning: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that kills the prophets, and stones them that are sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. Verily I say unto you, you shall not see Me, until the time come when you shall say, ‘Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.’”
That coming did not end well for those who rejected Christ.
When will the Lord come to us? The Lord comes to us, His Zion, with His words He speaks to you. This parable warns and calls us to repent of all our taking Him for granted, all our fitting Him into second, third, last place, or finally no place, underneath all our other priorities.
To the repentant, the Good News is that the Lord does not give up. He goes on being the Lord who will not stop giving, will not stop inviting to His banquet. The Lord’s banquet is delightfully described in the psalms sung in the assembly, where His words and His sacraments give out the gifts. “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house.”
To be “satisfied with the fatness” might sound like being full at a banquet. With ordinary banquets, we reach a point where we say, “I could not eat another mouthful.” But our Lord’s banquet is no ordinary banquet. At His banquet the more you eat, the more you can eat, the greater delight in His gifts, some you cannot even imagine yet. “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it,” says the Lord. All the great things of His banquet will be thus delighted in and relished as His gifts. “O Lord, open Thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise.”
The Lord’s banquet has ordinary gifts and gifts far beyond the ordinary, flowing from the generous hands of the Man who gave a great banquet, who gives a great banquet, and sent His invitation: “Come, for all is now ready.”
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