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Summary: There are many excuses we can offer for not accepting the invitation to come to the banquet which God has prepared, but none of our excuses are valid because Jesus deals with them all.

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Friends in the Lord,

One thing you can guarantee when you have Jesus over to your place for dinner is that the table conversation will always be very interesting. Which is exactly what is happening in our text. But the teachings of Jesus aren’t recorded just because they are “interesting”. The teachings of Jesus are recorded because they tell us something important about the sort of God we have. That’s what parables are:- stories … often based on real life … which have a hidden message about who God is ... what God is doing … and how we are to respond.

I’ll say that again … parables are stories with a hidden message about who God … what God is doing … and how we respond. We have to keep this in mind otherwise we are going to apply the parables in the wrong way. You see, when we first look at this parable we can quickly find many questions to ask about it.

• Why didn’t any of the original guests come to the banquet?

• Aren’t they being a little rude?

• I know the master of the house is angry at the rejection of the original guests but why would he bother inviting all these poor, cripple, lame and blind strangers into his house?

After many questions like this we can easily turn the parable into a "Days of our Lives" report about a man who had a very interesting banquet. But that is not the point is it. The point is to show us something about … what? … who God is and what God has done for us.

So, as we look at this parable, what are we being told about God? Well we are being shown that God is like the host who was preparing a great banquet and who invited many guests. God wants to have some sort of celebration with His people. That celebration will be like a banquet. And God’s banquet has taken much preparation to put into place. And celebration, joy, laughing, excitement, praise and happiness will be found at this banquet. And invitations have been issued to come to God’s banquet. It’s a special thing to get an invitation to such to this banquet. And, even though the Pharisees were often at odds with Jesus, they had to agree with Jesus about the feast with God. One of those dining with Jesus said, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God” (verse 15).

To be blessed is to be happy, thankful, and full of praise. To be blessed is about having peace even in the midst of chaos. Jesus knew it. The people who were eating with Jesus also knew it. It’s a blessed thing to have a close relationship with God. And this parable makes it clear that God wants us to be with Him and God is looking forward to that time. That’s an important truth we learn about who God is. God wants us to be with Him and God is looking forward to that time. So often, when people think about God, they start with a negative picture.

Often people start by picturing God as a God who quickly punishes people when they do wrong. They have a picture of this bald, stern God sitting behind the bench with the gavel in His hand always at the ready to pronounce people guilty.

Others see God as One who is always making demands – like a slave driver who continually pushes the slaves even though they are exhausted … and when they falter He has the whip at the ready to encourage them along.

Still others picture God as One who is constantly angry. Like a renegade Santa Claus who is making a list and checking it twice … but He never finds anyone who’s nice.

That’s the picture some people have of God. But that is not the picture of God which we are being given in this parable. In fact quite the opposite is true. God wants us to be with Him. God has gone to great lengths to bring us into His home. There may be times when God does punish – but let us get a straight picture of God. God’s desire to have us with Him is of higher priority then His desire to punish us. A verse in the Scriptures tell us that “The Lord ... is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). In other words God would love to see you at the banquet – He loves to bring you through the doors of His home.

And that is what we see God doing in this parable – it’s as if He has opened His home and put the welcome mat on the front door. But how are people responding to God’s invitation? To see what is happening here you need to understand a bit about the culture of the day. We need to realise that the servant who was sent out to say “Come, for everything is now ready” is actually approaching the guests for the second or third time. The first time would have been to give the invitation … and maybe some guests confirmed they were coming. The second time would have been to seek a confirmation, “Will you be there?”. This occasion is now the third time basically to say “You said you were coming; well now it is all ready”. These guests have been personally invited and they have made a commitment to come along, knowing its going to be a great banquet:- lots of good food; plenty of entertainment; heaps of wine; many people. Basically the servant was saying, “Go and get your dinner jacket and come and join in”.

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