"Come, for everything is now ready!” That is the Church’s cry of 2,000 years. Salvation is accomplished! Eternal peace is yours! Come to Christ, all who are heavy-laden by this sinful, dying world with its poisoned air and dark despair. Come, for everything is now ready! Come, find rest for your souls and restoration for your bodies.
The cry goes out, but the invitation is returned. In each generation, the Master of the House sends His servants out with a singular message: “Come, for everything is now ready,” but the people respond with excuses and apathy, and even hatred. But take note of the Master of the House. When Jesus tells Parables, He is revealing to us how the Kingdom of Heaven operates. And the Kingdom of Heaven operates in ways you and I don’t. The Master of the House is angry, but He sends His servants out again and again. Through each passing generation God has sent prophets, apostles, pastors, and Christians of all vocations to proclaim that Gospel message to all. How comforting! How gracious! The Master of the House had every right to close the door, to cancel His banquet. But instead He sends out His servants again and again to call people to His banquet, that His house be filled.
This Parable is about urgency and invitation. All things are ready, except the guests. They all have things they want to do for themselves first. So they make up excuses. They don’t come right out and say they don’t want to come. They do, just not now. So the Master of the House casts a wider net, inviting the dregs of society—the poor, the lame, the maimed, the blind, and there is still room. Thanks be to God, because that means there is room for us!
But remember the urgent cry. Think through all of the Parables about the Gospel call, about the end of all things. There is always urgency. The cry comes at midnight, the Master returns unexpectedly. The cry, “All things are ready” continues to sound forth by God’s grace, but how much longer? This is a Parable about urgency, about the desperate, current need we have now. We look at the excuse-makers in the Parable and belittle those who thought themselves too busy to attend. But what of us? Are we ready for the doors to the banquet to be shut? Are we eager and expectant? Do we conduct ourselves with a lifestyle appropriate to our need? Not quite.
We all make excuses for our sin. We give in and plan to repent later. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32), so I’ll repent after I’ve had my fill. But remember the Parable Jesus told not long before today’s Gospel. The rich man built his larger barns, satisfied himself, and rested content, only to be caught by God unaware and told, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you” (Lk. 12:20). None of us are any better than the men in the Parable who bought land or oxen or married wives and thought that was a sufficient excuse to disregard the cry of repentance and salvation. In our hymn we prayed, “Shine on the darkened and the cold; recall the wanderers to Your fold. Unite all those who walk apart; confirm the weak and doubting heart.” We prayed for ourselves! We prayed that the call of repentance and absolution would still ring out, and that it would be heard in our ears and work in our heart.
And by God’s grace that prayer is answered. Our own Vicar is living proof! The Lord of the Church sustains His Bride, He always sends new laborers into the harvest, new messengers to call from the highways and hedges, compelling the people to come in that the Lord’s eternal home be filled. So long as there are congregations who preach the Word in its truth and purity and administer the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution, it is proof that His mercy endures. That we, by God’s grace, continue to open our doors twice a week, is proof that the Lord wants you in heaven, that He is calling you, calling all, to His eternal banquet.
Your seat at the table is ready because God has come in the flesh to make the one sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Christ has been crucified, has destroyed sin and death by His death, has risen from the dead, has ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit has been given, and all things necessary for your salvation have been accomplished. The feast is ready! It was all prepared for you and costs you nothing. The Father, through Christ, bore all expenses, in order that you might enjoy the fullness of His treasure.
So, as much as the Parable warns, it also shows us that Jesus is reaching out. There is still room. It is not too late to repent and receive the gracious invitation. The Lord is not angry or disgusted with you. He wants you at His Marriage Feast, in His Kingdom for eternity. His life, death, and resurrection are proof that He will give everything, even His very life, to save you, to give you a seat at His table. No matter how defiled you are by sin, how mangled and broken the devil’s lies and alluring sins have left you, Jesus doesn’t care. In Him is perfect healing. He loves you more than you can ever know. He is eager to receive you, to forgive you, to love you forever. That’s why He calls, day in and day out, why He gives you His Holy Spirit to point you back to Him at every turn. He wants your salvation, He wants you at His banquet.
So in the Gospel, in the Sacraments, see that Jesus, Divine Wisdom, has prepared His house and His feast. He cries out to you “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here! … Come, eat of My Bread and drink of the Wine I have mixed. Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding.” In that Feast you know love, because it is the Body and Blood Jesus laid down for you, to give you life. In the Sacrament you see for what purpose God created you: to be in communion with Him, to live as His dear child and He as your dear Father. And the more time you spend in communion with Him, receiving from Him at His Table, the more you realize that there is nothing on earth that can give you what God can. Here is the love and joy and peace and forgiveness for which your soul longs. So come to Jesus, be found at His Table, for all things are now ready.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.