Luke 14:15-24 “Great Dinner”
Readers’ Digest recently published an article on the lamest excuses ever told. They listed some of them for their readers: A lady was told not to fly across the country to visit her boyfriend because “all his clothes were dirty.” Other reasons for not getting together: “I have to spend more time with my dog.” (I liked that one. I will have to try it out one day.) “I have to focus on finding out the truth about Benghazi.” “If I were ever permanently injured in an accident, I do not think you would stay with me, so I am getting out of our relationship before that happens.”
I think we could all remember a time in our lives when someone has given us such a lame excuse we did not know whether we should laugh at it or get angry that the other person thinks that we are that stupid. The lame excuse is nothing more than being dishonest with the other person. I think as Christians were are empowered towards offering truth in our dealings with others.
The word that appears in our scripture παραϊτομαι in the Greek literally means to talk around what someone else has said. In this way it is really not a valid excuse at all. I mean, if one has a valid excuse not to do something, then it is a valid and honest excuse. Not so for this word in the Greek. This word means “lame excuse.” This implies talking around or avoiding the issue. This means refusing the other person for no particular grounds.
As we know from the scripture, Jesus is at and is referring to the evening meal that has been prepared. This is not breakfast, brunch, lunch or high tea. This is supper, dinner, the last meal of the day. This is pointed out in the words that are given in the Greek. This banquet is being held in the evening. Now, remember that as we consider the lame excuses that are given by these people who do not want to come to the dinner.
The first man says: “I just bought property and I want to go see it.” Really? You are going to go out in the middle of the night to see this property that you have bought? Good luck! And really? You bought a piece of property site unseen? You never looked at it? And, if you did buy this property site unseen, why is it critical to go just now to see it? This is all very lame. It is a lame excuse for not coming to dinner.
The second man says: “I just bought oxen and I am going to try them out.” Really? In the middle of the night you are going to yoke up five pairs of oxen and “try them out.” Try them out doing what? Are you foolish enough to plow a field in the dark? Truly another lame excuse! Also, this is assumed to be the Sabbath meal; one should not be working.
Lastly there is a man who says, “I have just been married”; therefore, I cannot come. You do not think your wife would not want a free meal? What? Does she have to cook for you? We have a church council meeting this morning after fellowship, but maybe I cannot be there because “I am married.” I do not think that will work out too well as an excuse. Besides, my wife is also on the church council!
I actually like our church council meetings. We have a real good group of leaders in this church, and I enjoy being with them in the decision-making process. So, I do not need any excuses for not being there!
What about this man, the leader of the Pharisees in that place? Why do these other Pharisees make lame excuses not to come to the banquet? It crossed my mind that perhaps the issue is that Jesus was also invited to the feast. You see, Jesus is at a dinner talking about a hypothetical dinner that others did not attend. Is he really talking about the dinner he is having with the Pharisees just now? Jesus maybe knows that people have stayed away from the dinner because of him.
At the same time that hundreds or maybe thousands are gathered outside the gate of the Pharisee’s home waiting to see Jesus, the friends of the Pharisee himself might have elected to stay away altogether because Jesus had also been invited. We read in the text that the men were in “one accord” not to come to this dinner. They had conspired against showing up at the dinner. Can you not just hear them talking: “Well, if you are not going, then I am not going! And, if I am not going, then I am sure Joe is not going either. . . .”
There was recently a big long article about why people are not going to church anymore. A lot of reasons were listed. People now have to work on Sundays. Sporting activities are now on Sundays. Church is not interesting enough. I think we have all heard lame excuses. In my prayer time it came to me that the real reason that folks are not coming to church is that “their friends are not coming to church.” People give each other this lame excuse for not coming to the banquet that God has set before them. “Why should I have to go? My bud over here is not going!”
Why does the buddy not want to come to church? He might meet Jesus. His life might change. Then, he might have to invite his buddies to come to church too, so that their lives might change. This is not just about having dinner, if you are going to meet Jesus there! This is about sitting down with God face-to-face!
The master of the house is angry. That is what the bible says. One good reason for meeting with Jesus at this banquet is that if you do not go now, then you might have to one day go face-to-face with an angry God. Would you not rather go to accept that invitation now than wait to meet God when God is angry? I do not believe a lot of people think about that!
The master sends his servant (by the way we are all servants of the master) out to invite the lame and the sick, the poor and the hungry. The servant does not go! Why not? Instead the servant says, those folks are already here. I love this part of the parable. Of course the people who are in need are already at the banquet with God!
The master sees that his house is not yet full however. God likes a full house, a big room--no empty seats! He tells the servant to do what? Go out even further in the byways and highways to find whomever!
I like to point out that word here in the Greek for “go out” is the exact same word that is used for “church” in the Greek. This word is “ekklesia” and means “going out.” So, when the master tells the servant to go out further, He is saying in essence “Be the church!”
Then, we hear that we are to go out to the byways and highways to find folks. This word in the Greek is “odos” and is the exact same word that Jesus uses in John 14 when he says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” So the term, “Go out to the highway” may also be translated as “Be the church in the Way of Christ.” Cool! No?
Verse 23 is a tough one: “compel people to come in.” Yes, the Greek word here “anagkazo” does mean to physically force people to come to the banquet. Now, before you go out and get your machete to force people to come to church, I want us to consider that that kind of compelling force has never worked in regards to bringing people to Christ. A redo of the Spanish Inquisition is not really going to bring about the kingdom of God.
How are we to compel people to come to the banquet of Christ? I think we have to—with our words and deeds—grab them, hold them, and then move them. This is important because we must realize that if we do not reach out to others in the name of Christ and offer the invitation in a compelling way, then those folks might miss the only opportunity they would ever have to come to know Jesus. YOU might be the closest someone you care about ever comes to hearing about Jesus, coming to church, or entering into the feast in heaven. So, you need to be compelling. You need to grab people’s attention.
When I was a boy and flying out of Los Angeles International Airport, there was a group of people that always grabbed my attention. They were not Christians. They were the Hare Krishna cult followers who wore white robes and had flowers and tambourines. For obvious reasons, they got everyone’s attention. They handed out pamphlets that were really colorful and had artwork that was so exotic.
I am thinking that it is all right to be a little outrageous in our faith. We can carry the Bible around with us. We might even quote scripture in public when asked a question or for our opinion. We might even go so far as to pray in public, or pray over someone else in public. People will begin to look your way and wonder what it is that you are doing.
Now that you have grabbed someone else’s attention, try holding on. This can be like riding one of those mechanical bulls. You really have to hold on tight because that other person might try to shake you off. This is when you have got to ask them the tough questions that you know they have no answer for—but that they would love to have an answer. Ask them about forgiveness, truth, love, and grace.
Lastly, you have got to move them. From wherever they are in their lives to a place where they can meet Jesus is the goal of that movement. Sometimes, that is not the church proper. So, be creative! Invite them to your own house. Not everyone will accept an invitation to church, but they will accept an invitation over for a barbecue at your house. This means, you might have to make your house kind of a “house church.”
This is your chance to move that person to a new life in Christ. They can meet God through you. Then, and sometimes only then, the banquet invitation is accepted and they come to be with other Christians in the room—that which we call “church.”
God wants a full house. Those who were invited made lame excuses. Reach out to those that you can grab onto. Hold them. Move them into God’s house. No excuses could ever be good enough to not come to this feast.