God’s Rich Feast
Today we join our Lord Christ as He dines at the house of a Pharisee. Since it’s a Sabbath Day, we rightly remember the Sabbath Day and gladly hear and learn God’s Word. Jesus also tries to teach us some table manners in God’s kingdom. When God invites us to His rich feast, He wants us to feast on what He has to say.
Jesus tells the story of a man who puts on a great banquet and invites many people. But the invited guests refuse the invitation. Evidently, they have too many other things to do to make it to this feast. So the master invites other guests, people you would never expect to be at a grand social affair. And even some of them must be compelled to come to the feast.
Let’s remember what we’re talking about here. Even though one man at the banquet table was clearly trying to butter Jesus up, he did catch on. Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God. “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.”
As Christians, we are citizens of two kingdoms: the kingdom of the earth and the kingdom of heaven. In the kingdom of the earth people eat and drink, sleep and work, rest and play. Here they take care of all their physical and social needs. Here people are very glad to take part in picnics and barbecues, and sometimes they don’t even have to be invited to get some food. In the kingdom of heaven the food and life are different. Here the Lord of the Universe, the Creator of heaven and earth, throws a lavish, sumptuous feast. Here the food is richer and more nourishing than in the earthly kingdom. But here the invited guests are reluctant to come. It’s as if they’d much rather settle for watery chicken noodle soup than eat the filet mignon that God carefully prepares and freely gives.
So, the Lord Jesus is talking about God’s rich feast of heavenly food. God the Father prepares a grand, rich, sumptuous banquet. He invites us poor beggars on earth to eat and drink with Him at His heavenly supper table. The question is this: How will we earth-bound beggars respond to His gracious invitation? Will we be rude and spurn His invitation, or will we gladly feast on His divine delicacies?
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the true, spiritual banquet. Our heavenly Father is the rich man and host. He has prepared the banquet. Just as a chef prepares a lavish meal, the Father sent His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary, to suffer, to be slaughtered. And just as a good host puts juicy steaks on the barbecue grill, so the heavenly Father allowed His own Son to be roasted on the cross, and offered up in fervent love. Jesus is the Paschal Lamb sacrificed for the sins of the whole world.
But a good host never permanently leaves the filet mignon on the grill. No, when the meat is done, he removes it from the fire and serves it up for his guests to eat. And it’s in the feasting that people are refreshed, nourished, and strengthened. In the same way, our heavenly Father removed Jesus from the fiery grill of the cross, laid Him in the tomb, and raised Him from the dead. Now we, and the whole world, can feast on this food, on Jesus, the true, nourishing Bread of Life.
So, Christians gather together around God’s banquet table. The preaching of the Gospel is the main dish. The servers are the pastors. Christ is the food. Through the pastor’s mouth the food is laid on the table and served. When the Gospel is preached, this food is served and offered for you. And everyone gets to feast—rich and poor, old and young, healthy and sick, learned and unlearned. There are three essential ingredients to God’s feast: first, the dish, which is the Word of God in the flesh; second, the waiter, or servant-pastor, who puts the meal on the table; and third, the guests, who believe the message of Christ with the heart. When these three ingredients come together, our heart and soul start to eat and say, “Here is a juicy steak. Here Christ is proclaimed and given. Here the food is the roasted Christ. I get to eat divine delicacies and find my strength and joy and comfort in Christ alone.”.
And how does this food taste? A barbecued steak has a delicious flavor, it refreshes body and soul, it satisfies the appetite, and it strengthens the body. In the same way, when you hear and believe the Gospel, you partake of Christ. And this rich, tender “filet of Christ” nourishes and strengthens your soul with forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and heavenly bliss. This food gives life for all eternity, life that only Christ can give.
In John 6(:53-55) Jesus tells us more about this food: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.” So whoever believes with heart and mind that Christ has given His body and shed His blood for him or her need not fear death.
In our Lord Christ we have pure, everlasting joy. He is no longer sorrowful or fainthearted. He no longer sweats great drops of blood as He did in Gethsemane. But in Him there is true joy and gladness. And this same Christ, who is comfort and joy in the flesh, has become your food, served up in the preaching and on the Altar to be eaten with faith. So when you are forsaken, cast down, oppressed, and assaulted for being Christians, run to Christ. There you revive and strengthen yourselves. If Christ, your food, is filled with gladness, joy, and life, you too are filled with gladness, joy, and life. What a glorious banquet it is! All you have to do is come to the banquet table of Christ’s pulpit and altar, and feast on Jesus.
But here is where our Lord laments. He laments over the world’s callousness and indifference. He laments that people—even in the Church—ignore and despise this great, delicious banquet. He laments that so many—even self-proclaimed Christians—have no desire for the preaching of this Gospel or the heavenly food on the Altar, this feast of the roasted Christ. They refuse to come to God’s banquet table. And they excuse themselves with pretty flimsy excuses—real estate to see, animals or cars or trucks to take care of, or even family affairs, such as picnics, reunions, or remodeling the house.
No, these things are not evil in themselves. Yes, God gives the land, the animals, the vehicles, and especially spouses and children. But Jesus laments when people refuse His banquet of forgiveness and life because they are so attached to enjoying the land, or to using machines and technology for work or play, or to arranging so many family activities.
We must learn to put things in their proper perspective and order. We must learn the differences between coming to the banquet of Christ’s kingdom and enjoying the land, the machines and toys, and the family. God gives the good things of land, material things, and family to enjoy. In fact, He gives us spouses to avoid immorality and all family members to learn to serve and forgive. But what Christ laments is when we put these good gifts from God above coming to His kingdom banquet.
We can learn a lot from the Lord’s Prayer. First we pray for God’s name to be hallowed, for His kingdom to come, and for His will to be done. Only after these things do we then pray for daily bread—the things of physical and social life. When we put the things of physical and social life before the God’s rich feast of forgiveness and life, then our Lord laments. Then we deserve the wrath of God. But as Jesus says in Matthew 6(:33), “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” So our first priority in all of life is to hear and learn the Gospel, to eat and drink Christ’s Body and Blood, to dine at God’s banquet table. Only with that nourishment first can we truly enjoy the nourishment for the stomach and social life.
So, let’s not be misled by the world’s goodies, pleasures, and honor. Today our Lord warns us: “Be on your guard. Those who scorn My Gospel and My Meal will never get a taste of My righteousness, life, salvation, peace, and joy. But if you want to be a Christian, take care that you do not pass over this banquet. After all, in this banquet you have My righteousness, My life, My comfort, and My peace.” Amen.