When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus replied: “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.’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (New International Version)
If the gospel of forgiveness in Jesus Christ is such good news, and God is so good, then why aren’t people breaking the door down to get into the Church?
Today’s Gospel lesson gives us one reason why: They just aren’t interested. The parable Jesus told was of people, when invited to come to the great banquet, kept making one excuse after the other why they couldn’t come.
Keep in mind that Jesus wasn’t talking to sinful outsiders, but the religious insiders – they were the ones making the excuses why they could not participate.
Let’s cut to the chase: If professing believers in Jesus Christ are not excited about the gospel… If Christians are not enthused over what they possess in the gospel… If the Church is content to go through the motions of Christianity without a concern to be with Jesus… If we are simply too busy to come and attend God’s banquet of grace…
Then, why in the world would any Christian or any Church believe that others ought to show up and be a part of their fellowship, that they would even remotely entertain a thought to profess Christ as Savior and break down the door to get into Christianity?
Jesus was offering a penetrating warning: The unresponsive religious insiders will be replaced by the responsive sinful outsiders.
If the insiders take for granted what they possess and have better things to do, then God is going to call people who will hear, listen, and respond to the gracious invitation.
The deeply probing question for every believer in Christ today is: Are we so familiar with Jesus, and so content with the way things are that when God breaks into our lives in the form of an invitation that we refuse to respond because we are not interested in going to some stupid banquet?
There is an incredible abundant feast for us – in fact, Jesus said that his food and drink was to do the Father’s will, that Scripture was his bread. (John 4:34)
It’s much too easy to take the spiritual abundance of grace and mercy – as well as our physical abundance of food and water – for granted. After all,…
- Being well-fed, it’s easy to assume that everyone else is, too.
- Enjoying good health, it’s easy to forget that others are hurting and in pain.
- Having money and the ability to work hard, it’s easy to think that there are not many poor people around.
- Living around other Christians all the time, it’s natural to assume that everyone knows the gospel of Jesus – but they don’t!
In Christ’s story, the people making excuses see no real importance to take the invitation to the banquet seriously. And so, they go off to take care of their business and their family.
Like them, we can be much too busy with mundane activities to notice that people need the Lord. And then, when we get around to acknowledging that there are people who need Jesus, we keep devising ways to reach them without having to change our own lives to do it.
Jesus has no intention of calling and inviting us to a discipleship that requires no change on our part. The refusal to alter our lives to accommodate God’s invitation will result in the invitation going out to others.
So, the master’s servant in the parable goes out into the roads and country lanes and invites any common person to come – anyone he can find.
And that is the scandal of Christ’s gospel – that the invitation to God’s abundant mercy is open to outcasts and failures, to problem people and unimpressive low-life’s, to backwater rednecks and uneducated hicks, to the jobless and the needy, to all sorts of people who are not like your circle of friends.
People who are flawed are especially dear to Jesus, and not just people who have it all together. It’s the people who outwardly have it all together that are being replaced wholesale with those who admit their guilt, shame, and brokenness.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy upon us sinners.
Gracious God, forgive me for wasting time in things that just don’t matter in the scope of eternity. I choose to go out and compel outsiders to come in, so that your house will be full for the great feast at the end of the age. Through Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, I pray. Amen.