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Eating Bread in the Kingdom (St. Luke 14:15-24)

Second Sunday after Trinity

St. Luke 14.15-24

30 June 2019

Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor

+ In the Name of Jesus +

Jesus was invited to a Sabbath meal by the ruler of the local Pharisees. At the meal, Jesus shocks them by doing work on the Sabbath and healing a man with dropsy (or severe water retention), and then proceeds to tell them that the humbled, the least in the kingdom, will be given the exalted place by God. Jesus even tells His hosts to invite people to their Sabbath meal who cannot repay them back – the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and by implication, the man with dropsy.

In response, one of the Pharisees calls out to Jesus at the beginning of our Gospel reading today:

Blessed is he who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 14.15)

To “eat bread in the Kingdom” is a Hebraism of the time – the Pharisee is saying, “Sure, Jesus, at the great feast when the Messiah comes to save and restore Israel to a paradise on earth, everyone will be blessed.” He expresses their expectations for the Messiah. Bread for everyone then.

The problem is that the Pharisee is being less than genuine. The poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, the dropsy-man, the people who cannot repay with social invitations – they can have their bread then. But now, we do not really have to change our ways – we Pharisees, we pious Jews of all Jews will of course be blessed, and God can take care of these other people. We do not care. We can go on chasing our seats at the head of the fancy dining tables, making great show of our piety for ourselves and before God. Jesus, you are free to go on chasing the poor, the blind, and the dropsy sufferers if that is what you want to do.

So this man says something that sounds pious to appease Jesus. But He forgets God’s invitations throughout the Old Testament, like: “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed,” says God’s wisdom in the Proverbs. This invitation is for “whoever is simple” – Jesus calls them, “the humble.”

The Pharisees subscribed to the religion of human reason. Our reason is blinded by sin. The nature of the blindness is that the Pharisees could only see the sins and the faults in others. Those people over there are blind, lame, have dropsy, poor, are Gentiles, are unsuccessful in life, have no family, no friends, no social status. They must be sinners. They must be on the outs with God.

They couldn’t see their own sin. They had an exaggerated opinion of themselves. They were devout. They were successful. They were prominent. They had status. They had the right bloodline and heritage. They practiced all sorts of religious rules and made sure everyone knew it. They were scandalized by the way Jesus treated their inferiors – exalting the humble. They assumed that since they were outwardly righteous, Jesus would acknowledge their status as well. But Jesus did not.

Instead, Jesus taught them that they must become the equals of the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. They must give up their place at the head of the table and be willing to take the lesser place. They must confess that their material and social and political status does not bring them into nor confirm their fellowship with God. They must reject every claim to God that is not by God’s grace and God’s grace alone. They must, in a way, become poor, maimed, lame, and blind. They must despair of themselves. They must renounce everything in which they have placed their trust and throw themselves entirely on the mercy of a loving God.

Jesus pictures this by means of a parable. The man who gave the great supper is God the Father who sent His Son into the world to be the Savior of sinners. The great supper is the Gospel, the saving good news of the Savior of sinners who has come into the world, given by the Father to save those who believe in Him.

Those who were invited and yet refused to come were the Pharisees and other religious and political leaders of Israel who refused to acknowledge their sins and repent. They made excuses. They had more important things to do than to hear and believe the Gospel. They regarded commerce, owning land, and marriage – the things that bring social prestige, that show success in life, that (they thought) show God’s favor as more important than the Divine Service offered by Jesus.

Ironically, we still have so-called Christian preachers who preach very similar things to this day! And our sinful hearts also want to think this way: I would rather place my faith and trust in myself and in my works and the things this world offers then in something I don’t think I need and is not so visible and tangible: the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.

The servant in the story is Jesus. He is the suffering Servant who, by bearing the sin of the world, served as the one single obedient representative of all humanity. He offered His service of obedience to the Father and thereby earned the authority to forgive sins here on earth. He offers the forgiveness and salvation freely to sinners in need. The poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind are the dispossessed of Israel, the lowly sinners with nothing to offer God but their own brokenness, failure, and sin. They do not fill up the banquet hall. There is yet more room.

Those out in the highways and hedges are the Gentiles, because in those days, only Gentiles put hedges around their fields. They were the unclean, those who were not God’s people, who were outside of grace and were dying in blindness. The Gentiles are compelled to come in. They knew they were undeserving and so they would not come. They needed the compelling power of the Gospel to persuade them of God’s utter sincerity in providing them with such rich treasures.

So the self-righteous and self-satisfied Pharisees who hear this parable not only despised those less fortunate than themselves, but also despised the gracious teaching that came from Jesus.

We sinners despise grace because we don’t see our own need for it. We don’t want to be lumped together with life’s losers. We want our status determined by what we do, what we own, and what we produce. Our sinful flesh thinks that the affairs of this life come before the treasures of heaven. Our sinful flesh and the devil tell us not to take the time to listen to the heavenly doctrine of Jesus. Or to put it off, and make time when you are ready. We reason that it will all work out at the end when God sees what a good person I’ve been.

But you don’t get to choose when you are ready. The banquet is scheduled. The food is prepared. Everything is ready. The invitation sounds forth. You either go in to the feast or you remain outside forever. There is no alternative. There is no third option. Those who don’t have the time to eat and to drink the words of life that Jesus speaks will find themselves permanently locked outside the gates of God’s kingdom. As Jesus said, “For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.”

So there is an urgency as Jesus calls out, “Come in, that my house may be filled…” Come! God wants you. The cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus is God’s gracious invitation to you! He is ready for the poor, the maimed, the blind, and the lame. He is ready for those who have spent their lives far away from Him in the Gentile hedges and highways and byways of life. He invites everyone, the greatest and the least, always seeking, calling, and inviting through the preaching of His Gospel.

Come! All things are now ready. Come, you who want meaning for life. Come, you who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Come, you who stumble under the burden of sin and guilt. Come, you who are anxious and fearful. Come, you who mourn. Come, you who are looking for peace and fulfillment. Come! Blessed are those who eat this bread. No one goes away hungry. The bread of this banquet is the food of forgiveness and life and peace of heart, mind, and conscience in the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t be afraid you won’t be accepted, for the beloved of the Father, full of grace and truth, invites you. Don’t think you have sinned too often or too severely because God has buried your sins in the Good Friday tomb from which Christ rose on Easter Day.

Blessed are you, who today eat the Bread of Life, our Lord Jesus Christ in His Kingdom. Blessed are you who by faith hear and believe His Gospel and the teaching of His life-giving Holy Word. Blessed are you who live in your Baptism into Christ by daily confessing and repenting of sin and fleeing to God for His forgiveness in the absolution. Blessed are you who eat His life-giving flesh in His Holy Supper for the forgiveness of all of your sins!

Blessed will you be when, having heard the invitation of Jesus to come, by His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, you will have spent your life making haste to Him and His life and salvation, and will have served Him by serving your neighbor in their needs.

Blessed will you be when you at last eat the heavenly banquet as you “sit with the King at His table above” and “remain in His merciful keeping.” Blessed will you be when He raises you from the dead, body and soul, and shows you, in front of your own eyes, just what it truly and fully means to eat His bread in His Kingdom, in the presence of His unbridled majesty and glory.

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +

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