Years ago I heard that there was a tremendous emphasis on eating, drinking, and banqueting in the Gospel of Luke.
This past week I counted them…32! (more than 1x per chapter) Every time you turn around in the Gospel of Luke Jesus is either talking about eating or he’s eating at somebody’s house somewhere! Not a coincidence. It’s also not a coincidence that some of the most important teachings Jesus gives in Luke are set at dinner parties!
Probably everyone here today enjoys and looks forward to celebrations. Celebrations are a significant part of our lives. We celebrate growing another year older with birthday parties. We celebrate pregnancies and new births with baby showers. We celebrate wedding anniversaries, home purchases, New Year’s Day, etc. We even celebrate good friends moving away by having a “going away party.”
Nearly everyone loves to celebrate; we all enjoy a good party. Since that is the case, every one of us should be interested in today’s Bible passage because it is about the greatest celebration or party of all. The banquet being referred to in this parable is figurative for what we would call a celebration or a party. In this illustrative story, Jesus gives us some insight into this greatest of all celebrations.
In our text today, Jesus was in the middle of a Sabbath dinner at the home of a prominent Pharisee. One of those seated at the table with Christ blurted out, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” This sort of blessing was not uncommon (See Luke 11:27, 28). Scholars differ in their understanding of the blessing, however. Some say that the man said what he did out of admiration for Christ. He saw practiced a hospitality that was truly reflective of loving nature of God. Others, however, see it differently. They argue, and I agree, that the speaker betrayed a superficial idea of the kingdom of God. It was a privilege that only people just like himself (righteous and law abiding) could secure. In an effort to clarify the misguided man’s thinking, Jesus told the parable of the Great Banquet. In it He exposed the ignorance of the Pharisee when it came to his assumptions about the Kingdom of God. It is only by God’s grace and not by man’s achievement that we can fellowship with Christ in the kingdom of God. This Parable is about the invitation coming from God to receive His grace…The word “grace” means favor. To understand the word and its meaning let’s look for a moment at what the Bible has to say about it.
- Grace is not payment for services rendered (See Romans 4:4). It is a free gift, unearned and unmerited.
- Grace is offered to us through Jesus Christ (See John 1:17).
- Grace is the basis for our salvation (See Ephesians 2:8, 9).
As you can see it’s pretty important that we understand Jesus’ teaching on grace. This message are for both Non-Believers and Believers…Why believers, because sometime in our Christian walk we tend to forget God’s grace in our life…we tend to forget His Lordship…and tonight both believers and non-believers will see grace in the Parable of the Great Banquet…So let’s look more closely at what He has to say about this important subject in the parable of the Great Banquet.
Note with me three things about this wonderful invitation of God.
1. GOD’S GRACE CAN BE RECEIVED. (See Luke 14:15-17, 21-23).
Why? Because God himself extended the invitation.
As Jesus gathered at the table of a ruler among the Pharisees with other socially elite Pharisees and scribes, He tells the story of a great banquet hosted by a great man. The guests would be his peers and associates. Though it is not stated in the parable, the assumption is that they are invited and agree to come.
The first invitation was serious and acceptance of it is a firm commitment. When the host knew how many guests were coming, he would have enough meat prepared to satisfy their appetites. Once the preparations began, the affair could not be stopped for the meat had to eaten the same day or it would spoil. The guests who accepted the invitation were duty bound to attend. Then, at the hour of the banquet a servant is sent out with the traditional message: “Come, all is now ready.” This is the invitation that is extended to those other “great men” who would have considered themselves equal to the host, and it fits within the appropriate norms of the Jewish society. This is a great illustration of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ…he came for his people, right…the Jews…but they rejected the invitation.
What doesn’t fit is the second and third series of invitations mentioned in vs. 21-23. In these acts of grace, he stands ready and willing to include anyone among his table guests.
No one is too sinful or too wretched to be excluded from the table (See Luke 14:12-14). Grace is available to all!
Jonah knew something about the grace of God and it was precisely this attribute that kept him from going with a warning from God for the Ninevites (See Jonah 1:1-4, 4:1-3).
God is the One extending the invitation and that God’s grace can be received, but:
2. GOD’S GRACE CAN BE REFUSED (vv. 18-20)
Let’s talk for a moment about “Buts”. We all have them, they are usually pretty big, though some may be bigger than most. Some are so big that others try to hide behind them. Some of us use them more than others; however they always end up getting in the way. You know what I’m talking about…the big ’buts’ of life…“But, I can’t; But, I’m too old; But, I’m too young; But, I need more time; But, I don’t have any money; But, I’m in the wrong position; But, I’ve been through so much; But, I don’t have anything to offer.” Excuses, every one of them, for why we are not able to follow after the will of Christ. Here’s a definition of EXCUSE – that which is to make (an offense or crime) seem less serious or something used to justify a fault. In this parable the invited guests, who have agreed to come, have a series of excuses for the servant when he informs them that the banquet is ready to begin.
Let’s take the time to examine each of the excuses, for that is what they are, excuses.
a. WE MAKE EXCUSES BECAUSE WE ARE PREOCCUPIED WITH THINGS! (v. 18) “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.”
If the man had not previously seen this piece of land, how could he see what is like after dark? Seeing that he was invited to supper which was the evening meal, it seems unlikely that he could see it now. Specifically, the invited guest announced that he had purchased a plot of ground and now needed to go and see it. Anyone who might have heard this story would have recognized that this excuse was nothing short of a bold-faced lie. No one bought a plot of ground in the 1st century without knowing every square foot of it like the palm of his hand. The springs, wells, stone walls, trees and paths were carefully included in the contract! This is nothing less than an intentionally insulting reason for avoiding the banquet to which he has been invited.
The man with the land did not say that he had not already seen it, he just was more concerned about his investments than his invitation to supper. This man reminds us of the individuals in our day whose possessions demand all their attention, robbing them of spiritual wealth. The excuse makers were considered successful people in the eyes of their friends and associates but God considered them miserable failures.
b. Secondly, WE MAKE EXCUSES BECAUSE WE PUT MAKING A LIVING BEFORE GOD! (v. 19)
“But, I have to do something.” The second invited guest said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen and I’m on my way to try them out.” Before a prospective buyer would ever purchase a yoke of oxen, he would watch the animals work and even drive them back and forth across a field to test their strength and evenness of pull. All of this would take place before a price was even negotiated.
The first man let his possessions be his excuse, then the next let’s business get in the way. It’s true, you gotta make a living, but it is God Himself who will bless you and Who allows you to make a living in the first place!
In my years of ministry I’ve sat by many deathbeds, and never has anyone said, “I wish I had worked more, had more, or made or money.” I hope it’s not on your deathbed that you realize that when you are gone, business will go on as usual without you.
This man represents all men who are so absorbed in their occupations as to leave leisure and spiritual pursuits completely out of their lives.
The first two excuses had to do with material possessions and the third has to do with affections.
c. Third, WE MAKE EXCUSES BECAUSE WE CHOSE TO PUT OTHERS BEFORE GOD. (v.20)
“But, I have to see someone.” The third invited guest offered the excuse, “I just got married, so I can’t come.” In this case, he is not asking to be with his wife because he married her that day, for no one would schedule a great banquet on the day of a wedding. No village could host two grand occasions on the same day. The guests would not know which one to choose. In effect, then, the man was saying that he had no intention of leaving his wife even for a few hours to attend a banquet hosted by a great person.
This man represents for those whose domestic cares and responsibilities control so much of their time as to rob them of any other pursuits or interests. Family obligations if rightfully undertaken and scripturally balanced, never keep us from God or fellowship with the church.
Many in our world today are invited to the gospel feast, but respond in much the same way as those described by Jesus over two thousand years ago. In each case it was self-interest that prevented men from coming to Christ. Our society is perhaps more permeated by self-interest than any other people who have ever lived. People today make the same mistake that these people in the parable did; they delay in responding to the invitation because they settled for second best.
The point that Jesus is making is not that God will not accept lame excuses for rejecting His offer of celebration and abundant life. The point is that God will not accept any excuses, whether they are legitimate or not.
Since the invitation is “come” (v.17) it is suggestive of the responsibility a person has to act on God’s gracious invitation. You might expect that everyone would enthusiastically respond to the invitation. But that is not the case. Three of those who had previously accepted opted out of coming to the banquet. Each of these individuals considers that he has a good excuse. These people do not reject the invitation because they were involved in bad activities. These people simply thought they had other more important things to do. Most of the people today who reject God’s gracious invitation do not do so because they are involved in some kind of gross immorality. They are just too involved in the everyday affairs of life and too busy to think seriously about spiritual things.
People have long been giving excuses as to why they cannot follow Christ when He calls them, and have missed out on many wonderful blessings as a result. I’m reminded of Gary Kildall, who in 1973 wrote the first popular operating system for personal computers named CP/M. In 1980 IBM invited Kildall to develop the operating system for IBM PCs. Kildall, however, snubbed IBM officials at a crucial meeting and instead offered the excuse that he was busy, when in fact, he was going to fly his new airplane. The frustrated IBM executives turned instead to Bill Gates, founder of a small software company called Microsoft, and his operating system named MS-DOS. Today Bill Gates is worth billions. Gary Kildall, on the other hand, died in relative obscurity. In a similar way people who offer excuses to God when He calls are left to wonder what might have been (See Romans 1:20).
The application for this parable comes I think, in looking at the different excuses given. You see, God wants us to make Him a priority. The parable is all about this prepared banquet that all of these people were supposed to attend and were supposed to make a priority. God wants to be a priority in our lives. He wants His Word to be the primary influence in our lives. He wants our Sabbaths to be dedicated to Him. He wants our worship to be directed at only Him. He wants our money to honor Him first. God wants to have a relationship with us and He wants that relationship to be the most important. But, we make excuses.
- Maybe your business has taken over your life and you have no time for God. What is your excuse?
- Maybe the ‘things’ of life and the pursuit of them is more important than God. What is your excuse?
- Maybe you haven’t cracked open your Bible in quite awhile. What is your excuse?
- Maybe you are holding onto a grudge and just won’t forgive someone. What is your excuse?
- Maybe you are living like a Christian on Sundays, but not Monday through Saturday. What is your excuse?
- Maybe all the praying you ever do is here at church. What is your excuse?
- Maybe you have decided not to tithe. What is your excuse?
You see the Christian life is all about giving God the priority and living under His Lordship. When you accept Jesus Christ into your life, you accept Him as Savior and Lord. Most of us have no problem with accepting Jesus as Savior. We know that we cannot earn our way into Heaven and we need our sins washed away. We need Jesus. Yet, we cannot forget that He is Lord as well. He is the priority and it is His will that should be sought after. I have no idea what your excuse is for God or what the issue is. We all do it. We all give God excuses of why we can’t be faithful. I want to encourage you this day to rid yourself of your excuse and commit yourself to being faithful to God, to put Him once again in your priority list.
GOD’S GRACE CAN BE REFUSED BUT
3. GOD IS ANGERED WITH OUR EXCUSES (vv. 21-24)
No doubt each of those who declined thought only to delay the response and anticipated that there would be ample time for them to enjoy the benefits of the banquet at a latter time. These three guests expected to get another invitation in the future, but invitation was never to come. The parable continues by answering just such a thought in verse twenty-one and following. “So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry. . .”
The master of the house, which represented God, became angry. The truth is that we do not think often about the anger of God. This parable tells how God feels about our excuses for rejecting his wonderful and costly offer of life. (Hebrews 2:3)
How did the host show his anger? He sent his servants to invite other guests. He did not plead with the guests who had insulted him; he simply found others to take their place. In the last part of verse twenty-one the host tells his servants, “… Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.”
Those first invited (in v. 17) who refused to come, represented the general rejection of gospel by the nation of Israel. It is a reminder to his audience that those are striving for first place in the kingdom better be certain that they are even going to make it at all.
The good news of verses 21-23 is that we are on the guest list. No matter what you may have done, where you have done it or how many times you may have failed. It is an explanation that the blessing offered to the Jews can be experienced by the Gentiles and how the majority of the Jews can fail to grasp what God is doing and accept it.
Tony Campolo tells the story of a trip which he took to Hawaii. Jet lag kept him awake late into night and he went for a walk on the streets of Honolulu. At 2 in the morning, he found himself in a doughnut shop. Sitting at the counter, he overheard several prostitutes who were sharing a booth. One of the girls whose name was Agnes mentioned that it was her birthday.
After she had left, Tony turned to the cook and the other prostitutes and said, “Let’s throw a party for Agnes.” The other girls agreed to bring decorations and the cook said that he would bake a cake.
The next night, they all gathered at the shop and when Agnes walked in, they brought out the cake and began to sing, “Happy Birthday.” Tears streamed down Agnes’s face and, when it came time to cut the cake, she just stood there. Finally, she said, “Could I buy another cake and we eat that one? I want to take this one home and show it to my mother.”
With that, she took the cake and left. In the sudden silence that filled the shop after she left, Tony bowed his head and began to pray. “Lord, we thank you for Agnes and for your love for her. You loved her enough to send Your Son to die for her on the cross. We thank you for the best present of all – the present of your own Son. Amen.” When he raised his head, he saw that all of the prostitutes had their heads bowed and had been praying with him.
The cook looked at him and said, “You’re a preacher!” When Tony admitted that he was, the cook asked, “What kind of church do you have?” In a sudden flash of insight, Tony replied, “The kind that throws parties for prostitutes and gives invitations to sinners.” [Tony Campolo. The Kingdom Of God Is A Party. (Dallas: Word) pp. 3-7.]
In the parable the less desirable element is invited and still there is room, verse twenty-two,
“And the servant said, “Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ (23) Then the master said to the servant, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” It is interesting to note that the first invitation in verse 17 was “come,” when these refused Jesus sent his servants out with the admonition in verse 21 to “bring in” the poor and the blind and the halt. Not just the rejected lower classes of Israel were invited, for when there is still was room in verse 23, the servants are told to “go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in”.
Jesus’ closing words in verse twenty-four, “For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper” most certainly must have settled a dark cloud of gloom over the guests. This was a extremely personal confrontation. Those present were those who were portrayed in the parable as those originally invited to the banquet and the implication is that unless they repented they would not make into the kingdom. It is sobering to consider that at that moment the only saved person in the room was Jesus. They had received their two invitations, the first through the law and the prophets and the second in the person and message of Jesus and they would not accept it. The message must be that we must not let anything stand in the way of responding to the invitation of Jesus. We must be careful not to presume that we will be given another opportunity. There are many excuses given for not responding to the gospel but the bottom-line is that they are just that, excuses.
Matthew Henry warns us that, “They that will not have Christ when they may, shall not have them when they would. Even those that were bidden, when they slight the invitation, shall be forbidden when the door is shut.” There is only one way to escape the righteous and holy wrath of God…to turn from our rebellious, self-centered way of life and through faith in Christ to enter into His kingdom and take a seat at His table (See Isaiah 25:6-8).
The story is told about a frontier town in the late 1800s where a horse bolted and ran away with a wagon carrying a little boy. Seeing the child in danger, a young man risked his life to catch the horse and stop the wagon. The boy who was saved grew up to become a notorious outlaw. Upon his capture, the man stood before a judge to be sentenced for murder. The outlaw recognized the judge as the young man who had saved his life years before. He pled for mercy on the basis of that experience, but the words from the bench silenced his plea. “Young man, then I was your savior; today I am your judge and I must sentence you to be hanged.”
One day Jesus will say to rebellious sinners, “During that long day of grace, I was the Savior, and I would have forgiven you. But today I am your Judge. Depart from me you who are cursed into everlasting fire.”