“Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, so that My house would be filled. For I tell all of you, none of those men who were invited will taste My Supper.”
᛭ INI ᛭
One Sabbath, Jesus “went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees.” At this Pharisee’s supper Jesus tells a parable about His Supper. He tells who this Supper is for. This is a Parable about His grace and mercy, a Parable of Great reversal, a Parable about His way of doing things, of saving—as we’ll see, that’s what Jesus’ Parable of the Great Banquet is all about.
(3. The Parable in light of the THEME.)
“A certain man gave a great Supper and invited many.” Once it was all ready, He sent out the second invite. In the ancient world, refusing that second invitation was unheard of! But yet, all those originally invited refuse. They have all sorts of excuses. The first one is tripping over himself to inspect his land. [ἀγρὸν ἠγόρασα καὶ ἔχω ἀνάγκην ἐξελθὼν ἰδεῖν αὐτόν.] The second needs to check his cattle. Third, lamest of all, “I’ve married a wife and can’t come.” He could’ve brought a 1.
The man won’t be deterred though. It’s not that He doesn’t want the food to go to waste or anything, like when a wedding gets called off the day of and they donate the food. That’s not what the man in the parable is doing. He wants His house full! He wants the party. He wants the people. He wants to give. So, He throws the party anyway! He doesn’t take the food out to people. He brings different people to His party!
What kind of people? Instead of giving away so there isn’t waste, He brings the waste, the dregs—the dregs!—into his party! “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the city, and bring the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame in here!” Still room? “Compel people from the highways and hedges to come in, that My house would be filled.” They are compelled because an unknown invitation would be refused.
Nevertheless, this is the great reversal! The dregs, the undeserving, the unworthy, the worthless, the sinner, the blind, dying, dead, are dragged in. “Lead them by the hand if you have to!” This is a party that those first invited wouldn’t be caught dead at, but they are a picture of the old hymn, which says, “Delay not, delay not! The Spirit of Grace, Long grieved and resisted, may take His sad flight And leave thee in darkness to finish thy race, To sink in the gloom of eternity’s night.” (TLH 278:3)
So, that’s the Parable about the Supper, and in light of all that,
(2.) What Supper is Jesus talking about?
Well, He’s talking about His eternal Supper, the eternal Feast, “the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom which has no end.” (Scripture has many ways of talking about this banquet in both the Old and New Testaments.) There’s the the fact that the Lord cut off eating of the Tree of Life in Genesis 2. Access to that Tree is restored in eternal life as Revelation 20 says, “It yields fruit each month.” There’s the time when the Elders of Israel and Moses and Aaron ate with Yahweh on Mount Sinai. (Ex 24) And there’s great banquet promised in Isaiah 25.
This banquet is offered in “My house,” as Jesus puts it in the Parable. His house is where He promised to be. It is the picture of enteral life. “In My Father’s house are many rooms.” And in eternal life “the dwelling place of God will be with men” in the new heavens and earth. (Rev 21) But His house is also the temple. “You’ve turned My house into a den of thieves,” Jesus says of the Temple. His house is wherever He gathers His people to hear His Word and receive His Gifts. “Where two or three are, there I am.” (Mt 18) “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God.” (Heb 12)
So, if He’s speaking also about this Supper, well, there must also be a banquet. Can’t be His house without a banquet! “Word and Sacrament,” after all. Not “Word or Sacrament”—AND! Here He gathers us around His feast, the Supper of His body and blood, to which He invites us. “Eat and drink. This is for you,” He says. After all, just like in the Parable, Jesus brings people into His house for Supper, to eat, to drink, to rejoice, to be with Him and He with you.
This is all good news for you. What I’ve described in the Parable. That’s good news. Which Supper and which house Jesus is talking about—that’s also good news for you.
(1.) This is all good news for you!
There is of course the danger of the unheeded invitation. The man got his land, the other his oxen, the third his wife. They lived a life not even noticing they were missing out. The man wanted to examine his cattle, and “didn’t examine himself and his need for eating the Master’s bread or drinking the Master’s cup.” (1 Cor 11) The Lord let them have what they wanted. “None of those men who were invited will taste My Supper.”
But the Lord wants to show us His grace, His favor, the actual goodness and good news of His Supper. He drags in people. Compels them to come in. What sort of people? The dregs! He drags the dregs, the worthless, the undeserving. Those who can’t possible get there on their own, let alone earn a place. Yeah, those people. “The poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame, the sinner!” Only if you’re the dregs, the sinner, would the Lord possibly invite you. (Who wants that label?)
This also means no preparation is necessary. How could the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame do that? They can’t. Neither do you. After all, He died to save you. “It is the highest art to know that our Sacrament does not depend upon our worthiness…We go because we are poor, [destitute] people. We go exactly because we are unworthy.” (LC V 61) Faith in the Sacrament and Jesus’ words “is the entire Christian preparation for receiving this Sacrament worthily.” (LC V 36) “That person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in [Jesus’] words.” (SC VI)
This Supper is the be-all, end-all of this life. The forgiveness of sins is delivered right to you even as Jesus’ body and blood are put into your mouth! “Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” (SC VI) We should believe Proverbs today. You should eat where Wisdom gives its Supper. (Jesus is the Wisdom of God.) Besides all that, since the Sacrament is the most important thing, it also is preparing you—Jesus is here today preparing you—for the eternal Supper to come, and that Supper has no end.
The joy of this parable, the joy of Jesus’ eternal and present Supper, the Joy of His eternal and present house, is really who its for. How does Jesus go about all this? Well,
JESUS BRINGS THE DREGS INTO HIS HOUSE FOR SUPPER.
That’s this Parable in a nutshell.
JESUS BRINGS THE DREGS INTO HIS HOUSE FOR SUPPER.
That’s this Supper. For how else can you be righteous and good in God’s sight? He must make you those things by forgiving you your sins. Jesus is never upset when those He invites take His Supper, trusting His Words. He’s upset when people refuse His invitation and don’t want to eat His Supper. Such rejection leads to Him taking it away…permanently.
But Jesus brings us to His Supper—this Supper—because He wants us at His eternal Supper. “Everything’s ready.” He died and rose for you. He’s here forgive you. He’s getting you ready for His eternal Supper. It will be just as He promised through Isaiah:
The LORD of [Sabaoth] will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever. (Is 25:6–8)