When somebody invites us to supper our first response is often “Can I bring something?” And then, if it’s a woman, she spends hours in the kitchen making her hallmark dessert that everybody ooh’s and aah’s over. Or if it’s a man he promises to bring some beer and tries to impress by bringing some micro-brewery brand with obscure names about dead frogs or such-like.
But, in the parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24), Jesus speaks of a meal where there is nothing we can bring. He’s made it all. To offer to bring your awesome salad is the biggest social faux pas of all time. "A certain man made a great supper" (v.16). It doesn’t need a few more drinks or a few more sauces or a few more vegetables. Just come. “Come, for everything is now ready” (v.17).
Nobody will be the least impressed by whatever you try to put on the table. Your righteousness, all your best dishes and most successful recipes, are as filthy rags. Nobody is going to ask, "Please pass the bowl of dirty dishcloths - I really must try one of them!" All things are ready.
As we look at the communion table spread before us on a Sunday morning, we get a glimpse of that great day when we "will eat bread in the kingdom of God" (v.15). We see that Jesus has done it all. I love the way Samuel Rutherford described it [Sermon IV: Communion Sermons, p.67f (Blue Banner Productions)]:
“He has dressed the whole supper himself, covered the table, and there is no more to do but sit down and eat. If we look to this dressed supper, Christ dressed it all himself, in the furnace of God’s wrath, and the bread that we eat here is his flesh which he gave for the life of the world. The wine which is mingled and drawn is his blood. And O, sirs, was not our Lord a hot man in making ready this supper? Not one dish is mis-cooked, all is set before us in the Gospel, and Jesus craves no more for all his pains than that his friends come to the banquet and eat and be merry; and if ye will come, Christ will pay all the reckoning... God be thanked, Christ bears all the expense!”
“…Look to the Supper and ye shall find it very expensive to Christ, for the fire that made it ready was the wrath of God; the fuel and the wood for the fire was Christ, and a great burden of the sins of the elect on his back. And if Jesus had not been green timber He had been burned all to ashes. Christ was first boiled in his own blood in the Garden of Gethsemane; then he was roasted and burned on the cross, and carved all to pieces with nails, spears and buffetings to make him God’s bread for the mouth and stomach of believers. And the sourest sauce in this supper to Christ was his dear Father hiding himself. And when all is done you cannot do him a worse turn than not to eat heartily.”
“…There is not a plate set on this table by angels, far less by man. A curse upon them who bring in Mary’s Milk, with Martyr’s Blood as a dessert [a timely reference in Rutherford's day to Roman Catholic attempts to add the merits of the saints to make our salvation possible – and while we are unlikely to think that the merits of the dead saints contribute to our salvation we are still prone to imagine that our niceness, our moral uprightness, our good work ethic, our spiritual gifts and acts of service in some way make us more acceptable and lovable in God’s eyes. But, Rutherford continues…] No! Christ’s blood is in every dish, Christ’s flesh is in every bowl and Christ’s merit is the sweet sauce to all the dishes. Other meats have no taste in this Supper. No, they are plain poison put in by the devil’s hand who would wish never a living man to rise from the table.”