[Proverbs 9:1-10; Ephesians 2:13-22; Luke 14:15-24]
The master of the feast made doubly sure that the guests received their invites. He issued two to each: the first was to tell each one that he was invited; and second, on the day of the great supper itself, He sent a special messenger to announce that dinner is served: "Come for everything is now ready!"
All of which teaches us much about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "Come!" The Gospel is not so much a command as an offer; not so much a demand, as a gift -- an invitation to share in the unbelievable joy of the kingdom of God.
"Come!" God is expecting you! He is ready for the poor, the maimed, the blind, the lame. He is ready for those who spend their lives in the highways and byways of life. He invites all: "Come; for all is now ready."
As a shepherd seeks for the lost sheep, as a woman gets down on her knees to look for a lost coin, and, yes, as a father looks down the road, waiting for his lost son to come home again, so God is ever seeking, calling, inviting us into relationship and communion with Himself. In that he shows us what "fatherhood" is to be about: seeking opportunity and opening doors for relationships, for sharing both hurts and happiness, sorrows and joys. The godly father is the one who keeps the door of his heart open to his children, a picture of God the Father's open heart and constant invitation to us.
God cries out: "Come; for all is now ready!" Come, you who seek meaning for life. Come, you who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Come, you who falter under the burden of sin and shame. Come, you who are anxious and fearful. Come, you who mourn.
"Come you all; enter into the joy of your Lord. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted on; let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let none grieve over their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no weep over their sins, for pardon has shone forth from the grave; let none fear death, for the death of the Savior has set us free." (John Chrysostom - Easter homily)
Christianity is not first and foremost a "should" religion. It is first and foremost a "come" religion. The great drawing power of Jesus Christ is not in His "Thou shalts and thou shalt nots" but in His "Come to me." Come, be filled with the Holy Spirit. Come, be filled with the power of God's presence. If we come to him, then we shall do certain things, not because we "should" do them, but because we delight in doing them as an expression of our love for the One who laid down His life to give us life.
Commenting on this word "Come" and in particular on the words of Jesus, "Come to me all you who labor..." John Chrysostom wrote these precious words: "His invitation is one of kindness, His goodness is beyond description. 'Come to me, all' not only rulers but also their subjects, not only the rich, but also the poor, not only the free, but also the slaves, not only men but also women, not only the youth, but also the old, not only those of sound body, but also the maimed. All of you, He says, come! For such are the Master's gifts. He knows no distinction of slave and free, nor of rich and poor, but all such inequality is cast aside. 'Come,' He says, 'all you who labor and are burdened!' And see whom He calls! Those who have spent their strength in breaking the law, those who are burdened with their sins, those who can no longer lift up their heads, those who are filled with shame, those who can no longer speak out. Why does He call them? Not to demand an accounting, nor to hold court. But why? To relieve them of their pain, to take away their heavy burdens."
Now when Jesus says, "Come!" He does not stand on the top rung of a long, high ladder in heaven to signal us to start climbing. For He himself has climbed down the ladder to stand at our very elbows. He has come to us. "Who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man." "She brought forth her firstborn Son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger." He came, born in a stable. He came and died on the cross. He came to prepare the banquet of salvation for us. And now--today--He sends His servants to extend us His invitation: "Come, for all things are now ready." There is nothing you can add to this feast. He has done the lot. "It is finished!" He cried from the cross. He has prepared the feast of salvation for you and the only request He asks of you is that you let Him serve it to you.
Ah, but far from being accepted, this gracious invitation was rejected. "I have bought a field...I have bought five yoke of oxen...I have married a wife...I cannot come. Have me excused..." This was the response. The response of so many of His own people. "He came to His own and His own received Him not." Is it not the same response today? Our great tragedy is that we end up accepting the wrong invitations in life. We miss the banquet, the abundant life of Christ, and settle for the lesser, for the fleeting. And Jesus still laments, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wing, and you would not."
"Come, for all is now ready." "But" you object "I am not worthy to come. My clothes are not suitable. I wouldn't know how to act in the Master's palace." None of this makes any difference. The invitation goes out to all:to those who are on the back streets, to those who live in little, dirty places, as well as to those who live in fine houses. Come! The good news is that you don't have to be perfect to come. Come as you are -- with all of your sins and sorrows, weaknesses and failures, problems and anxieties. Come to the only one who can forgive you and heal you. Come to the one who on His cross opened His arms wide to you. "Come, for all is now ready."
Coming to Jesus isn't a one time thing. None can say: "Oh, I did that years ago." Coming to Jesus is a way of life. It begins with baptism. It involves living out our baptism in daily repentance and sorrow for sin and turning from sin to God. We come to Him and find Him where He has promised to be for us. We come to Him in worship for "where two or three gather in my name, there am I in the midst of them." We come to Him in Bible reading, for "if anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." We come to Him in regular communion, for "he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me and I in Him." You see He who came down from heaven to meet us on our level, meets us on our level still.
No, He doesn't stand at the top of the ladder and call us home. He stands at the bottom and lifts us up on His strong shoulders and carries us up the ladder Himself. None of us will ever know the wonder of the brightly lit banquet hall, the goodness of the food, and the joy of being part of this amazing fellowship until we lay aside the excuses and dare to accept the invitation. Yes, dare to accept it daily! Come to Him now, come to Him today and tomorrow and the next day and the next and so live in the assurance that on the last day He will direct to you the greatest "Come" of all: "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Amen