Thanks to Beth for the notes this week. As usual, the notes can be read here.
As a child, birthday parties are a really big deal. I remember the terrifying threat of, ‘If you do that, you’re not invited to my party!’ Thankfully, we serve a God who doesn’t behave like a petulant child and invites all to join the party.
Still at the meal with the Pharisees, one man comments to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’ Why he says this is unclear; perhaps he is uncomfortable with the pride that he has just witnessed, perhaps he’s trying to change the subject; we’re not sure. His comment does seem to touch a nerve with Jesus though. I wonder whether, looking at the Pharisees who he loves and knowing how they were getting their focus all wrong, he’s saddened and wants them to realise that their time to respond is running out.
Jesus tells them a parable about a man holding a great banquet who invites his friends. When the banquet is ready, he sends his servant to tell the guests but they all make their excuses and decline. Angered, the host tells him to go into the streets and find guests and then, when it’s still not full, to go further afield. The parable is talking about the Jews, who had the first invitation to the kingdom of God but now, having rejected it, the invitation is for all, gentiles, us! Hallelujah!
What’s significant here is that the guests didn’t outright decline, they delayed. This is so commonly people’s response to salvation. Not many decline but many delay. I’ve heard so many friends talking about how they believe there probably is a God but it just wouldn’t work in their lives right now. In fact, I can remember as a teenager, despite believing that Jesus had died for my sins, thinking that maybe I shouldn’t commit to Jesus while in school but, when I was older (and it would be easier), then I could commit. Of course, it doesn’t get easier. Perhaps peers get less cruel but we get more proud as we grow older and so it all evens out!
In the delaying, we see three different excuses from the guests. The first says that he has just bought land and wants to go and look at it. It sounds ridiculous to think that people would put possessions over their salvation but it happens every day. The second guest says that he has just bought five yoke of oxen and must try them out. He wants to work. He is putting work before the Lord. Again, it sounds absurd but even Christians can slip into this. The final guest says that he is just married and can’t leave his wife. Surely he could have taken his wife; there seem to have been plenty of seats! All of the guests seem to be thinking of the ‘right now’, rather than eternity. When you look at these excuses, they are completely ludicrous but so many of us put possessions, work commitments or relationships before our relationship with God. Jesus isn’t saying there’s anything wrong with owning land or getting married but he’s pointing out that He has to come first. The land would be there the next day but the invitation might not.
I think there’s also a message here about our urgency to tell others about this incredible invitation; the host tells the messenger to ‘compel them to come in’. We should speak for the Lord with this fervour.
Finally, the passage ends with the warning that there will come a time when the offer will be withdrawn (v24). We see this throughout the bible and it might make us uncomfortable but it’s true. Esau’s birth right could not be restored, the door to the ark was closed, the invitation will end and the places will be taken. We have a finite time to respond to the Lord’s calling and we should not delay.
Lord, help us to make you our priority and to put you before all else. Help us to gain perspective in the busyness of life. Lord, remind us to preach your gospel with urgency and eagerness. Thank you Lord that you have made a way for us to be invited into the kingdom of God.