Christ as "the Servant" in the Parable of the Wedding Feast

Every time I preach on the Parable of the Wedding Feast I am torn between taking the servant as Jesus and seeing it as summarizing the work of Christ’s prophets and apostles. The linked sermon is based on Matthew’s version, but the text I will be looking at is Luke 14:17 ff:

(17) And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ (18) But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ (19) And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ (20) And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ (21) So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ (22) And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ (23) And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. (24) For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.'”

Simon Gathercole makes a convincing argument that the servant should be understood Christologically, that it is speaking about Jesus as the apostle (sent one) of the Father. Frankly, I like it. The context of the parable is Jesus dining in the house of a leading Pharisee (Luke 14:1-14) and one of the guests makes the statement: “Blessed is the man who will eat bread in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14.15). This statement elicits the parable from Jesus. Here is Gathercole:

The Parable thus identifies Jesus as the servant going to summon guests to the heavenly banquet: “The action corresponds to Jesus’ invitation of his contemporaries into the Kingdom of God” (Nolland, Luke 9:21-18:34, 755). The sending of the servant in Luke 14.17 here corresponds to the master’s instruction “go forth!” (ἔξελθε) at two further points in the parable (14.21, 23). Here, then, there is another correspondence between “sending” and “coming/going,” and the image of the heavenly banquet reflected in the parable may well reinforce the christology of preexistence in the “I have come” sayings.

I think what Gathercole is suggesting here is that when understood in light of the “I have come forth” sayings of Jesus, the language of being “sent” also implies a preexistence christology, and in the case of this parable makes Jesus the servant who was sent by the Father to invite people into the heavenly banquet. Of course, it is not much of a stretch then to think in terms of the apostolic ministry, through which Christ continues to extend his call/invitation to partake of the heavenly banquet. If Jesus is the apostle of the Father, then ministers of the New Covenant are the “apostles” (sent ones) of Jesus. As St. Paul says in Romans 10, “How can they preach unless they are sent?” And the end of Matthew has Jesus commanding the apostles to make disciples of “all nations.” I think I will preach this text much more christologically next time.

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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