Sermon audio here.
Since the Christian life is a daily struggle against Satan, there’s nothing more important than for us to be firmly grounded in God’s Word and convinced of its truth. All Satan needs is the smallest opening, so Christ speaks His Word to us today to put up a wall between us and the devil—a wall so big and strong it would put Trump’s to shame—so as to keep us safe from the devil’s wiles.
Satan would have you believe it’s foolish to be a Christian, to believe in that which you can’t see. But the reality is the exact opposite, as Christ illustrates in today’s parable. He told us about a man who gave a great banquet and invited many.
Now think of somebody you really admire. It could be anybody, living or dead—celebrity, athlete, musician, 16th century Lutheran theologian, could even be Harry Potter or a Disney Princess. And let’s say this person invites you over for an extravagant feast. Every type of food you can dream of is there, no matter how expensive or difficult to find it is.
So you get this invitation to basically the best thing ever. But then you remember there’s a great Judge Judy rerun on that you just can’t miss. So you decline.
Who does this? Is that not the lamest excuse you have ever heard in your life? As bad as that is, it’s even worse in the parable, if you can believe it. And this gets to the point that far from being foolish, the dumbest thing you could ever do is to reject the Master’s invitation and not be a Christian.
Think about it: as irresistible as date with Ryan Gosling would be, here’s a feast that’s thrown by God Himself. There’s literally nothing in the entire world that could be better or more important than this. Yet, the excuses pour in.
As shocking as these refusals are, what’s maybe even more surprising is how the master responds to all this. Now normally “important” people go around with bodyguards and avoid certain types of people. Here’s Christ, the most important person who ever lived, and He’s hanging out with the worst of the worst—people with whom good Christians would never dare associate. He flings the doors wide open and invites the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.
Any rational person would have cancelled the banquet, but here God shows us just how contrary our reason can be to the Gospel. Rather than shut the door, God pays for this banquet with the blood of His only Son, despite the fact that so few will actually respond to His invitation.
This would be like having a dinner where it was a million dollars per plate, and even though you knew only 10 people were going to come, you paid for 100 anyway. As crazy as that would be, that comparison doesn’t even begin to do justice to Christ’s sacrifice. His blood is infinitely more valuable than all the money in the world.
So out goes the invitation: “Come, for everything is now ready.” Here’s a feast that’s paid for by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. So when it comes to the excuses, the Master’s lack of tolerance is understandable. At the end of the parable, He says, “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.”
Jesus says the same thing. No excuse is good enough to miss out on this, not even family. He says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”[i]
Whoever would come to this banquet must love the Gospel above all else: family; health; riches; possessions. When you love anything or anyone more than Christ, you end up making the same foolish excuses as those in the parable. Repent.
Notice that those who made the excuses weren’t living wicked, scandalous lives. Their excuses revolved around family and hard work. Their problem was they loved the world more than its Maker.
Like Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, we must be willing to give everything up if Christ required it. Sooner or later everything will be taken from you anyway. Like Job said, naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return.[ii] So why cling to the perishable and perish? Why not cling to that which is imperishable and gain back a hundredfold what you had in this life?
Put yourself in Abraham’s position and imagine God commanded you to sacrifice your only child. Now that would never happen—these days God only speaks to us through His Word[iii]—but put yourself in Abraham’s position anyway and think of how well you’d have done with that particular test.
Our unwillingness to do what God commands—even when it comes to things much smaller than what He asked of Abraham—stems from a fundamental mistrust of God.
Abraham’s attitude (at least, in this case) was, “If God commands it, it must be good.” How sacrificing his son could be good, I’m sure he had no idea. But then again, that’s the point of faith: to fear, love, and trust in the God who, unlike Abraham, did not spare His only Son, but gave Him up for us all.
This is really just a matter of getting the First and Second Great Commandments in the right order: love for God, then love for neighbor. Genuine love for neighbor flows only from the cross. Only the blood of Christ reconciles you who have not loved God above all things to Him. Only by the Holy Spirit’s work can you love God and neighbor rightly. God comes first for a reason, lest we find ourselves making the same lame excuses as those in the parable.
Of course you should love and serve your family, your children; your friends; your country. But as you do these things, just make sure that you don’t neglect your first love: Christ, and the invitation to His Table.
Putting Christ first means sacrifice. It means everything else is secondary.
Peter once asked Jesus what they’d have who left everything to follow Him. He began to count the cost was worried that maybe he’d be better off not following Jesus.
And there’s a sense in which he was right. Following Christ means missing out on more than just a few Judge Judy reruns. It means giving sacrificially of yourself to Christ’s cause, not just when it’s convenient.
But whatever loss you incur is nothing compared to living each day in the assurance of Christ’s love, a love which will be fully realized on the Last Day.
As Jesus told Peter, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.[iv]
Beloved, take these glorious promises of Christ to heart, for there is nothing greater or more comforting in the whole world than this, no mightier fortress to keep us safe from the assaults of Satan.
[i] Matthew 10:37–38.
[ii] Job 1:21.
[iii] Hebrews 1:1; 2 Peter 1:18–19; 2 Tim 3:16; Luke 16:29–31; John 8:31–32; John 14:23; Luke 11:27–28.
[iv] Matthew 19:27–29.