Summary: Come, for everything is ready now. And there is no legitimate excuse to refuse.
Dwight L. Moody once preached a sermon from this parable; something I’m going to tell you about at the end of this sermon. His title was “Excuses” and as a sort of salute to the great preacher I’ve given mine the same title.
I’ve never seen his sermon so any resemblance in this sermon to his is purely due to the fact that it comes from the same passage of scripture. But I had no qualms about borrowing his title since excuses are really what the parable is all about.
Well, on second thought, the excuses men make are really the secondary focus of this passage. We’ll get to the primary one in a few minutes. But let’s talk about the excuses first.
‘THE SKIN OF A REASON STUFFED WITH A LIE’
Early twentieth century evangelist, Billy Sunday, called excuses ‘the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie’.
In this parable we’re given several very good samples of what Sunday was talking about.
When a feast was to be given the tradition was to invite guests and get R.S.V.P.s from them so that the host would know how many to prepare for and how much food to supply.
So when the dinner was ready a second invitation would be sent out telling those who had promised to come that everything was ready.
We can imagine, and some of us don’t need to imagine because we know the feeling of having been told by some number of friends that they would come to a function we’ve planned and then had none of them show up.
It hurts and it inconveniences.
But in the times these people lived feasts were a big deal and they were treated like a big deal. A great amount of money would be spent on the best wines and foods and the appropriate number of animals would be sacrificed to feed the expected crowd.
So we can understand why a host would be made angry if a large number of people responded positively to the initial invitation then at the last minute bowed out with a bunch of ridiculous excuses.
In fact, one commentator pointed out that in the Arab world such a move would constitute a declaration of war; something to keep in mind as we discuss the spiritual types in Jesus’ story.
Let’s look first at the excuses offered here.
The first one says he has just purchased a piece of land and he has to go look at it.
Now these feasts were usually held late in the cool of the day and into the evening and even the late night. So it would be a bad time to go examine a piece of property anyway. Remember, there was no industry, there were no halogen lights, no flashlights; it would have been very dark anywhere away from a candle or lantern lit room.
But more absurd than the idea of going out in the dark to look at grass and rocks is the implication that the guy bought land without looking at it in the first place. In that culture the buying and selling of real estate involved a lot of dickering and bargaining and examining and stalling. If the purchase has already been made, which the man clearly indicates in verse 18, then the host can be certain that the man has already spent a great deal of time looking at and probably walking over this piece of land. Therefore the excuse is tantamount to saying outwardly, ‘I’ve changed my mind and I’d rather do almost anything else than go to your feast’.
Excuse number two. The man has bought five yoke of oxen. I think that means 10 oxen. That was a large purchase and in fact probably indicates the guy is pretty well off financially in order to buy 10 work animals at once.
When was the last time you heard of someone purchasing a new car without test driving it? Even a used car?
Let’s just assume for the moment that this man had so much money he sent someone else to make the deal for him. Well, if that’s the case then he probably never has to harness himself to the plow either. He’d have others doing that also.
Even if he is the one who will use the oxen, surely they will be safe and warm and fed for a few hours in the barn while he goes to the feast he has already committed himself to.
Another lame excuse.
Excuse number three. “I’ve married a wife”. Ok, considering the culture the wife probably wasn’t invited anyway. Just the man.
But if he just got married then he must have accepted the first invitation to the feast prior to his wedding. And unless it was a shotgun wedding (and they didn’t have shotguns then), he would have known about and been planning the wedding before getting the invitation to the feast.