Summary: In the parable of the great banquet Jesus gives us a graphic warning about excusing ourselves from God’s feast of salvation in time and in eternity.
“Are you looking for just the right excuse for a certain situation? Ask your pastor he has heard them all.” Although more of joke than advice there is some truth to it. Pastors do hear a lot of excuses. But I think it would be more correct to say that only God has truly heard all the excuses ever given. And sadly the majority of the ones He has heard are related to His free gift of forgiveness and salvation. In our foolish pride, sinful lust, and spiritual stupidity, we humans have sent a constant flow of excuses to the LORD. Through these excuses we are often rejecting his love and turning our noses up at His desire to have a close relationship with us.
In the parable upon which we will focus in our sermon we hear some samples of excuses that three guests made for not attending a banquet. Jesus used some powerful images to bring home an urgent warning. May His words touch our hearts as He says to each of us:
“DON’T EXCUSE YOURSELF FROM GOD’S BANQUET”
I. Realize what you will miss if you excuse yourself
II. Recognize the foolishness of excusing yourself
III. Remember the eternal consequences of excusing yourself
How do we interpret parables? We have been taught that they are “earthly stories with heavenly meanings.” That is true but how do we find the point of a parable and apply it to our lives. First, we must remember that generally parables express only one or two central truths. In other words we have to be careful that we don’t get lost in the details of the story and miss the main message. Secondly, to find out the central point in a parable it helps to look at the context in which Jesus spoke it. Was he answering a question? Was he responding to something that someone said or did?
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to us that Jesus told this parable of the great banquet at dinner party to which he was invited. Luke 14 tells us that Jesus had been invited to eat at a prominent Pharisee’s house. Before the meal he healed a man who had dropsy. He did this in front of his host and the other guests. Then he taught a lesson on humility by pointing out the way people picked seats of honor at the dinner table. Finally, just before telling the parable of the great banquet Jesus told his Pharisee host to be generous to those less fortunate by inviting them to luncheons and dinners.
Perhaps to break the awkwardness of the situation someone at the table with Jesus said, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Seizing the moment Jesus took up that thought and told the parable of the great banquet. Indeed those who will feast in the kingdom of God will be blessed. But eating at God’s banquet in eternity begins by eating at his banquet during one’s earthly life.
Jesus said, “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.’” Since his listeners were at a dinner party they would have been familiar with the customs of that day connected to banquets. The person giving the banquet would send out an initial invitation to his guests. Then when the day arrived and everything was ready he would send out his servant or servants with the final call to come to the banquet.
Remembering that the parables “reveal and conceal” we have to stop and look closely at the scene Jesus described. It was no ordinary banquet that the man had prepared. It was a “great banquet.” And he didn’t just invite a few family members and some friends. No, he invited “many guests.” In just a few sentences Jesus retold the whole the history of God’s interaction with the Jews. The man in the parable is obviously the LORD. His great banquet was his plan to save his people from the bondage of sin. Once the curse of sin was cured God then wanted to have fellowship with his people and enjoy their company. He wanted their lives to be an ongoing banquet with their God. And he had now sent his “servant” Jesus to tell them that everything was ready.
Before we look at the excuses the guests made for not attending we need to read the menu for God’s great banquet. No longer shrouded in images and prophecies we have been given a clear picture of what God has prepared for us. Of course the main entrée at God’s banquet is His Son Jesus. Those who eat Him who is called the Bread of Life will be satisfied forever. Through him our sins are removed. He then fills our longing to be right in God’s sight through his perfect life. When we eat Jesus by faith we are given the perfection and holiness we need to be loved by God and to love him. At God’s great banquet we are also given unlimited refills of living water to drink. That beautiful beverage restores and invigorates us as the Holy Spirit directs our lives of service to God. Course after course of spiritual food is set before us at God’s supper of salvation. On top of all that he promises us a rich and creamy dessert. It won’t make us fat. It has no calories and yet it lasts forever. It’s the perfect joy of an eternal home in heaven.