Many good times involve food. We can all remember special family times around the table at Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter. We may remember that first dinner out with a special someone. In my home growing up supper time was always the time we connected as a family. We continued that practice in our own home and tried to guard supper time as “our time”. We make lots of friends in life but the ones that seem to be the most special are the ones with whom we have shared meals.
The Bible has many accounts of Jesus at a meal. We remember the Last Supper; there was also the meal where Mary anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. The story of Mary and Martha was set in the context of a meal. Jesus was at a meal when He performed some of His miracles. One of His miracles actually involved a meal in the feeding of the 5000.
In Luke 14:15-24 the context is again a meal. The passage is tied to the previous passage so Jesus is still at the home of a Prominent Pharisee. Jesus had just spoken about the importance of inviting the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind to a meal. That created an uncomfortable situation and one of the men tried to perhaps change the subject (which is what we often do when under conviction).
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
Isn’t it interesting that Heaven is often pictured as a place where we will eat with God? It denotes intimacy in relationship. To eat with Jesus at the Great Banquet was to be known as a friend of God.
In response to these words Jesus tells a parable. The parable is not about showing courtesy to others. Jesus is teaching us valuable spiritual truth.
16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.
In the gospel of Matthew the account is anchored to a wedding reception. Today a family will send out wedding invitations to carefully chosen people and request an RSVP weeks in advance of the reception so that the family can prepare for (and pay for) the right number of people. You need to know how much food to buy, how many tables you will need to decorate, how many hotel rooms to reserve for out of town guests and you need to prepare the church for the crowd that is coming.
Verse 16 implies that invitations were sent out in advance for the banquet being prepare. Invitations were sent, responses were received.
Now the story takes a twist.
17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
The people who said they would come to the banquet now give a bunch of excuses when it is actually time to attend the banquet. You probably have had this experience. You made plans for certain people to attend an event (it may have been a birthday party, a wedding, or even a family get-together. You made preparations (sometimes costing a good deal of Money) and then people don’t show up. If you ask them why they did not attend, you will get any number of excuses. Usually the excuses are pretty poor.
Listen to the excuses this man received,
- A man had just purchased a field so he needed to go and see it. There is one thing for sure; this man did not buy the field without looking it over. Why did he need to go see the field right now? How long does it take to “see” a field?
- The next guy says, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out.” That’s like saying, “I just bought a new car and I need to test drive it.” You test drive before you buy. Imagine buying a new (or new to you) Tractor and you tell some friend you can’t come to the party you said you would attend because you need to “drive your Tractor”. There’s a good chance that person would no longer be your friend.
- The third man seems to have the best excuse: He just got married. Perhaps the man was saying, “I just got married . . . and my wife won’t let me go to the meal!” But here again we must ask, “Was this marriage sudden?” “Was it a surprise?” “Did you not know about the wedding when you declared your intention to attend?”
What is the point of the story? It seems clear that the people who received the invitation represented the Jews. God chose Israel (invited them) to be His special people. God promised them a Redeemer and a new life as the children of God. The people said they wanted to be part of God’s family. However, when that Redeemer came on the scene they all made excuses for why they would not follow Christ.
The same thing continues to happen. There are many who declare their desire to follow Christ at the time of conversion, when they are received as members of a church, or when they are talking to fellow church members. But, when it comes to actually following Christ . . . when action needs to be taken. . .you get excuses
There are a host of popular excuses for why we can’t read the Bible, can’t pray, can’t worship with the believers, can’t share our faith, can’t conduct our business in a Christian fashion or why we can’t pursue the life of holiness:
- I’m too busy
- I’ve got more important things to do
- I don’t have time
- I’m not feeling well
- Too many demands at work
- I can’t do everything. I have to make choices.
All of these are shallow excuses. We have time to eat meals, play games, visit with friends, and watch television. We have the time. We make time for things that truly matter to us. So apparently, following Christ is simply not important enough to us. Why?
- Because we are lazy. We just don’t want to put out the effort needed. We have all had times when we have planned to do something but when the time came we just didn’t want to put out the effort. Following Christ takes effort also. So in this case we just don’t want it bad enough. Isn’t that what we say to athletes, musicians and students who are lazy?
- Because we are controlled more by our desires than our principles. If something else seems more desirable when the time comes to follow through on a commitment, we forget about what we said and pursue that which seems most pleasant at the time. This can happen in marriage. You meet someone (other than your spouse) who seems to make you “feel alive” and you conclude that you should ignore your promises to your spouse and you should pursue your own “happiness”. It is faulty reasoning on two fronts. First, the most important thing in life is not happiness but faithfulness before the Lord. God will not ask us on the final day if we have been happy. He will ask us if we have been faithful! Second, the result of faithfulness is a happiness that is much deeper than following the whims of our emotions. True and deep happiness (or joy) comes through obedience and faithfulness, not apart from it!
Because we do not understand the blessing that is before us. As I read about the devotion of Christians around the world I am deeply humbled. These people are giving up everything to follow Jesus. They give up their families, their jobs, and even their lives. If you were to ask them why they do this they frankly wouldn’t understand the question. Their response would be: After what Jesus has done for me, how could I even think about doing anything less. It is a privilege and honor to suffer for Him.” They get it. Sometimes we don’t.
Think about it. When someone gives you an excuse for something you asked them to do or attend, are you fooled? No. You know that the truth is simply that other things were more important and desirable to that person than we are. When we make excuses for why we don’t practically and fully follow the Lord, He is not fooled either. Save your breath God knows the truth: you value others things more than Him.
21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
22 “ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ ”
When the servant (servants in Matthew) returns without the guests the master is angry and immediately sent the servant back out to bring in the common folk from off the streets. Don’t misunderstand the passage. It is not teaching that God was surprised by the excuses of men and had to go to His “Plan B”. Giving the gospel to the Gentiles was not a consolation prize. Jesus is simply saying the reason He spent so much time with sinners and tax-collectors was because the “religious people” had rejected Him!
The positive message is this: God will not be discouraged by the refusal of a few people to follow Him. He will continue to offer the message of forgiveness, new life, and an intimate relationship even to those we might consider unworthy. If you refuse His invitation, if you continue to make excuses for why you cannot (and let’s be honest, you really mean “will not”) serve and follow Christ, it will be your loss and not His. The Banquet Hall of Heaven will be filled with those who have been transformed by God’s grace. The question is whether you will be part of the celebration.
Let me give you three applications of this text. First, we see that God Invites Us to His Banquet in Heaven. In other words, God has invited everyone to be part of an intimate and eternal relationship with Him. Regardless of who you are, He has extended to you and invitation. God has made great provision for our salvation. Everything we need for redemption has been provided for us by God’s grace
- A payment for sin in the Sacrifice of Christ
- The power for holy living in the Holy Spirit
- An enduring Intercessor and Advocate in Christ
- A clear set of instructions found in Scripture
This Gospel is graciously offered to everyone. Jesus has paid the price for the forgiveness of our rebellion. He has demonstrated His love. He offers His wisdom, guidance and strength for life. He offers to repair the damage of our sin stained lives. It is an astounding opportunity. It is yours for the taking.
Many will Refuse the Invitation in One Sense or Another, Some people will refuse the invitation outright. They will, if you will, respond “No” on the RSVP card. They do not want to talk about faith, they don’t want to hear about sin and judgment, and they just want you to go away.
There will be others who mark “yes” on their RSVP, but don’t follow through. These people will talk about faith, make professions of faith, sing songs of faith, and may even call themselves Christians. However, when it comes down to actually following Christ in the everyday decisions of life. . . they give one excuse after another.
J.C. Ryle writes,
It is not ignorance of religion that ruins most men’s souls. It is an unwillingness to act on the knowledge. It is not open rebellion against God that fills hell. It is excessive attention to things which in themselves are lawful. – It is not avowed dislike to the Gospel which is so much to be feared. It is that procrastinating, excuse-making spirit, which is always read with a reason why Christ cannot be served to-day. (Expository Thoughts on the Gospel, Volume 2 p. 162)
Over the past several weeks we have addressed this theme several times because it has been in the text repeatedly. This leads me to conclude that this is an issue that concerns the Lord. I can see why. I believe the greatest problem in the church today is apathy. There is no fire in the soul of people for the glory of God in America. We are much more passionate about our sports team or our favorite reality television show that we are about the Lord Jesus Christ! I’m afraid that there will be many people who will end up in Hell who if you asked them why they did not respond to God’s invitation of grace will simply say, “I just never really gave it a thought. I was busy doing other things.”
Jesus is trying to get our attention. He is calling us to devoted discipleship. He calls us to love Him with the kind of passion that He has for us. He wants us to get off the fence and decide whether we are going to follow Him or whether we are going to continue to wander after one thing after another. It is time for us to take a hard look at our lives as ask: “Is Christ truly the passion of my life?” if you aren’t sure of the answer, look at your calendar, your check book, and ask yourself, “What occupies the focus of my mind?” If Christ is not the passion of your life, then you are guilty of idolatry. Something else has your heart and you had better correct that situation before it is too late.
You can continue to push this decision aside. You can say “Someday you will get serious”. This is not only a risky move but a foolish one….you are missing out on the riches God wants to give us.
Our Task Is To Proclaim The Message Forcefully. The man told his servants to compel people from off of the streets to come to the meal. Jesus is not telling us that we must force people to come to church, read their Bibles, and live by God’s standard. This isn’t a call to go back to the time of the Crusades. He is calling us to be passionate and determined in our evangelism.
If someone was in the water drowning, we wouldn’t simply demonstrate the swimming stroke and hope that people figured out what we were doing. We wouldn’t just stand on the boat or the shore and wring our hands while we reflected about how nice it would be if the person knew how to swim and could be kept from drowning. That would be absurd. We would throw the person a life preserver, a rope, or something else. We would cry for help. If you had the training, you might even swim out to the person to rescue them.
Likewise, when it comes to gospel and how we relate to people who are not followers of Christ, it does no good to simply say, “I testify to my faith by the way I live.” The Bible tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing comes from the Word of God. It also doesn’t do any good to sit around and merely discuss the dire state of people who have not responded to the invitation of God’s love. What is needed is for us to get involved and to make every effort to communicate the truth to people who do not know that Jesus has died for them and wants to set them free from the futility of life.
Understand, Heaven is not some work camp or prison; it is likened to a banquet. Heaven will be a celebration of the grandest sort. We won’t need to get drunk or eat ourselves sick in order to have a good time. The joy of this banquet will come from being with Jesus. One author writes,
“The metaphor of feasting, as distinct from merely eating a meal assures us that no true potential appetite, desire, or longing given us by God will prove to have been a deception, but all will be granted their richest and most sublime fulfillment.” The “great banquet” is a lavish, sumptuous image of the kingdom of Heaven that will be exceeded by its reality—joyous satisfaction! And, of course, the ultimate convener and host will be Christ himself.
There is a grand banquet coming. It will be the banquet of all banquets. The main attraction of the banquet is not the food . . . it is the host. You are invited! God wants you to be part of His family and part of the celebration. The invitation has been extended and now it is time to begin heading toward His home. You can make all kinds of excuses. You can convince yourself that you are a true believer even though you do not follow Him. But if you do, you will miss the banquet. The other alternative is to drop everything and run with single-minded determination to follow fully. Those who choose this option, will eat at His table, they will know a blessing for all eternity, and they will never be hungry again.