Luke Parables of Jesus: The Great Banquet
“But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’ And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.’ ”
Luke 14:16-24 NASB1995
In this second parable in Luke 14, Jesus is answering the Pharisee who responds to His parable about the invited guests with this response: “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God!” (See the last devotional). The Pharisees are all assuming that they will be invited and will be “first” in the Kingdom because of their dedication and service to God. Jesus then tells them this story of a man giving a big dinner and sending out invitations to many. The day of the great banquet approaches and the host sends his slave to tell everyone to come, as everything is now ready. But many who were invited now have excuses for not showing up (more on those excuses later).
Have you ever planned a dinner event and had people bail out at the last minute? I have had it happen a few times over the years. We would spend a lot of time preparing the house and the food, only to have someone call right before the arrival time and give their regrets. Occasionally there would be a couple that wouldn’t even call with an excuse - they would just not show up (those types didn’t get invited again). I also recall many years ago we decided to throw a big New Year’s Eve party and many of our friends were enthusiastic and promised to be there. We expected up to 100 people throughout the evening, so the place was sparkling and many snacks and drinks were ready, along with fun games. The weather was good, too. When less than ten people showed up and everyone had left before midnight, we were quite disappointed and much less inclined to host another big party.
The invitees in this parable all have last-minute and pretty lame excuses for not attending. One man has bought property (apparently sight unseen) and must go look at it. Another has bought 5 yoke of oxen (ten animals) and suddenly has an urge to try them out in his fields. A third person begs off because he is newly married (he knew this was going to happen when he accepted the invitation). The host becomes angry and asks the slave to go round up the poor, the lame, the blind and the crippled to come and be guests, but there is still room at the banquet. He asks for his slave to round up anyone else and implore them to come to the banquet (the word used in the text is “compel”, which was wrongly interpreted by many in Christian history to force people to convert). The host does not want any of the men that were originally invited and begged off to taste the dinner. The implication in the rounding up of others is that grace will be extended to the Gentiles, too. The Pharisees, who loved dinner parties, would likely have been appalled at the people making excuses to not attend but, as usual, didn’t recognize themselves in the story.
Obviously, this parable is describing the free offer of grace and forgiveness from God to sinners through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. He is ready for us if we come to Him. The offer is made, many consider it and perhaps RSVP “Yes”, but far fewer follow through, repent, believe, take up their cross and eventually come to the joyous eternal Messianic banquet! David Guzik has some good commentary on Enduring Word on the excuses that are made:
c. But they all with one accord began to make excuses: Central to this parable are the excuses that were offered. The excuses are different, but really all the same – they all with one accord began to make excuses.
i. Excuses are made. They are fashioned for convenience and are clung to in desperation. Hope doesn’t begin until excuses end. “Excuses are curses, and when you have no excuses left there will be hope for you.” (Spurgeon)
ii. The excuses begin to explain why such a wonderful invitation was rejected. This answers an important question asked by many: If Christianity is so true and so good, why don’t more embrace it? Why don’t more accept the invitation?
d. I have bought a piece of ground… I have bought five yoke of oxen: The first two excuses had to do with material things, and were foolish excuses. Only a fool first buys a piece of land, and then goes to check it. Only a fool buys ten oxen and is only interested in testing them after the purchase.
i. When we buy something new, we are almost always preoccupied by it. Preoccupation with material things and experiences is a common excuse for not following Jesus.
e. I have married a wife: The third excuse had to do with a man who put his family before everything. The best thing we can show to our family is that they are not first in our lives, but that Jesus Christ is.
i. These excuse makers condemned themselves; their excuses were only a thin veil hiding the fact that they did not want to come. “Back of an excuse is a lack of desire.” (Morgan) There is no rational reason why someone would not want to be part of this feast; they just didn’t want to.
I read another commentary about this parable that talked about a man who had shared the Gospel with a friend who was initially intrigued and interested, but then the friend said that he could not accept the invitation, as he was afraid he would have to give up his favorite pastime of bird hunting with his dogs if he became a Christian! Short-sighted preoccupation with material pleasures will cost many people eternal life. I thought about that story - God does want us to focus entirely on Him, but that man who wanted to hunt with his dogs could still be saved and perhaps start a ministry for young people showing them how to to work with hunting dogs while worshipping God in His creation. God loves us, is ready for us, and we just have to accept that glorious invitation and look forward to start our new life journey!
My next devotional will be about the third parable found in Luke 14 (28-33): The Cost of Discipleship.