I am sure that each of us know the difference between “learning” versus “an education”; the same as “eating” versus “dining”. A dog, a pig, a rat, can learn how to do certain things in order to get a reward of food or some positive stimuli. The same can be said for humans. We learn what to do and not do. All of us have learned how to exist on this earth, but an education is different. You can be learned, intelligent, and taught a lot, but if you focus upon and talk only of yourself, you will also think only of yourself. And those people who think only of themselves are hopelessly uneducated. They are not educated, no matter how instructed they may be or how much they have learned. Do you see the difference?
But the same can be said of eating and dining. Animals eat—-so do one gnats and flies! People and animals eat, but only mankind can dine. It’s different. Our present generation, more than others, has lost an understanding, perhaps, of the joy of a dining, a banquet…a formal meal …a properly set table and good manners. We rush through meals that we get at drive-throughs, rarely say a blessing, use a napkin or know the proper purposes of the flatware set upon a properly set table. Eating well is one of those things that separate us from chimpanzees! And yet we hurry through the meals so that we can watch a football game or a movie about people that eat fancy meals!
But today let’s try to imagine the image Jesus was calling to mind when He told the parable of the banquet:
Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
“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.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“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.’
“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (Luke 14:16-24, NIV)
So please realize that we’re ALL invited to to go to heaven, , but Jesus was speaking frankly and directly to the Jews here—especially the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees. Have you ever thrown a party, done all the preparing, cooking, decorating, etc, invited your family and closest friends, and then the day of the event have folks cancel and not show up? How does it feel?
This happened at my youngest son’s birthday party—he was turning eight. His best friend and some special adult friends promised to come, and then, something else came up and they called to say they could not come. It hurt Tyler but infuriated me. Sometimes people have the silly excuses for not accepting a kind invitation, but it’s inexcusable to accept it and then say you could not come because they got invited to another party (kids do this all the time) or have to watch the News (that really is the excuse one family gave me for missing the dinner party.)
The master invited the guests and then reminded those that we already invited to come. They knew about the party and should have made arrangements. But as often happens when I throw a party (or when my sons invite someone to the house for the weekend), guests ends up not coming because something better has come along—-or at least, something that the guest thinks is better. It’s rude to accept an invitation to a party and then send an excuse— unless you are physically unable to attend or because of some emergency. But that’s rarely the case; it’s boorish behavior that stops most people from following through on invitations.
Jesus told the parable to illustrate what had been happening for centuries to God’s invitation. The Messiah had been long promised to the Jews—He is the banquet, in a real sense. God's invitation to the feast had been out for some four thousand years. But now, in this story, the Messiah was among them. God says, "Come for everything is ready.". But the Jewish leaders don't come. They have other preoccupations. So Jesus teaches that others will be invited and come to the feast instead. Gentiles will enter the kingdom. (“Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.”)
Look at excuses these folks used in the parable for not coming to the banquet after they had already been invited and agreed to come:
“I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
Now again, this was directed at the religious folks, that is, the Jews, that knew about heaven and God’s invitation. Sometimes folks that are externally religious aren’t real excited about the same things that “excites” God. Ask yourself: “Do His pleasures give you pleasure? Do you hate what He hates and loves what He loves??”
So what does the master do after his special guests refuse to come? He invites the very ones that his special guests probably looked down their noses at. The common folk, the simple people of the village, the ones that perhaps worked for or were the servants of the ones he first invited. Man looks at the outside….God looks at the heart. The parables turn things upside down.
So in this parable, Jesus tells us that becoming a Christian, or accepting God’s call to enter into His Kingdom, is like attending a wonderful soiree. This picture of the banquet, or being at this incredible place called heaven, reminds us of three things:
It’s God’s Party and He will take of everything. This is the significance Jesus is pointing to. Friends, salvation from sin, deliverance from eternal death, and an abundant life everlasting is God’s idea. What idiot would turn down such an invitation? God has done everything necessary to make salvation and new life available. He did it all by sending Jesus to earth and revealing to us His will. Jesus fulfilled his Father's will by offering himself as a sacrifice for man's sin. It was well done, it was lovingly done, it was perfectly done. The cloth has been spread, the table laid and the feast prepared. God stands at an open door and says, "Come! All is ready. Enjoy!"
D.L. Moody once illustrated the difference between religion and true faith. He said to church goers that trusted in their good works to get them to heaven, "Your salvation is spelled, 'Do.' Mine is spelled, ‘Done.' God’ done it all. And if you’re concerned about the music, or the food and drink being served, the One that knows the number of hairs on your heads knows your tastes and choices better than you do! Heaven is going to be two things, I believe: Something that explodes our imaginations, but at the same time, something we’ve always known about, but somehow forgot. Heaven might well be a remembering of how things were and how things ought to be.
God has prepared with such care so many good things for the you and me—-sinners that don’t deserve such a feast. He is ready and waiting for you to respond to His invititation. And He wants you to come - NOW. Paul wrote in his epistle to the Corinthians: I tell you, now is the time of God's favour, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthiais 6:2.
When you’re invited to a party, a fancy wedding, or grand banquet you’re well aware of all the hard work has been done for that event. The entertainment, food and drink are all free and they’ve been carefully selected. The guests are able to relax and enjoy themselves knowing that there is nothing else for them to do. Count me in!!
Similarly speaking, salvation is free. Entry into the Christian life and all its attendant blessings are free. Jesus has paid for everything. But that’s the rub for some folks… don’t like for someone else to pay the tab—-it’s insulting to them, somehow. They don’t want to be indebted to you for your generosity, so they tell you, “No, no, let me pay for the meal.” But not because they are generous so as much as they don’t like anybody else doing something for them. Jesus did it all friends—-you can’t do anything but confess your sins, repent and believe—-the rest is on Him.
All people have to do to enjoy a party is come - but they are responsible for getting up, putting to bed all their excuses… and coming! Throughout Luke's gospel Jesus stresses the part we play in establishing a relationship with him is simply coming to Him.
And at this party, or non-stop banquet, we will be in the company of people, like you and me, that had the good sense to say “yes, I’’ll be there”, and the good taste to then show up! And we are sure to find at a party are other friends of the host who come from all over the world, from all over human history. Can you imagine the size of the table and the quality and quantity of what He will be serving?!
But for the time being , the church is the place where God's family meets. You attend Mass or church for a “rehearsal dinner” every Sunday morning. It is there that we meet with people who love the Lord Jesus Christ and have accepted His invitation, Christians have Jesus in common—that’s the reason you go to church. And because of that the atmosphere should be celebratory every Sunday! Who would invite a guest to a fancy party that’s alway grumpy, angry, in a foul mood, or ungrateful! Joy should be most common description of our congregation each Sunday—a place abounding in anticipation of what’s coming.
But what silly excuses men make for not coming to Jesus Christ and accepting the invitation to eternal life, the same excuses many folks make for not coming to church on Sundays.
In heaven we will not communicate with excuses, or flattery or gossip or hidden innuendos! Praise God! And that’s how it’s supposed to be, right now, in our Christian fellowships, as we have these rehearsal dinners every Sunday! People make excuses for refusing God's offer of salvation for imaginable reasons, and yes, it grieves Him.
But make no mistake - when people do not accept Christ’s call to salvation God knows the truth. There is something fundamentally dishonest about all the excuses.
If you are not planning on attending the banquet, what’s your excuse?