Parables of Jesus - The Great Banquet
I was sitting in a sermon a few weeks ago talking about what all we do in our life. We have on average 44 million minutes in a person’s life. Statistics were given on how we use this time. We sat amazed at how much time was spent sleeping, eating, and using the bathroom. We spent years doing these activities. I will not even mention how much time was spent in our lifetime watching the television. But when it came to how much time a Christian spent with God, we hung our heads in shame. While years were spent on other activities, we might spend seven months praying, studying, or fellowshipping. Wow! What a surprise. What a disappointment.
How much time do we give God? Is He really our first priority in life or just a “if needed” tool to use in times of distress? How many times have we turned something down that He gave us? How many times have we rejected His gifts? Let us look at Luke 14:16-24 (NIV).
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 make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.' "
God is a generous person. He loves His children and gives them many things. One of the greatest gifts He gave us was eternal life through His personal sacrifice. We will fully realize this gift as we enter the pearly gates and sit down at the great banquet He has prepared. Who is invited to this feast?
The Religious Leaders
The obvious invitees are the ones God choose centuries ago to be the light to the world. The Jews had an advantage. They had the Word of God. They had a relationship with Him that was unheard of in other cultures. God invited them, but what happened when the bridegroom first game to bring them to the feast? The very people that should have arrived turned the King down. So, many of the religious leaders turned against Jesus. In fact, they plotted numerous times to have Him killed. They knew the Scripture inside and out. They should have realized who the bridegroom was and what they were invited to. Instead, they claimed to be busy. Things were not on their schedule and plan.
The plan was for His chosen people to be the light for others to come to God. “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles.” (Isaiah 42:6) They were invited to participate but instead choose their own way and their own paths. The chosen turned down the invite.
Who instead were the ones who sat at the feast? Those who were least expected. Jesus went to the plain old fishermen and invited them. He went to the possessed and the despised. He reached out to the ones in the temple and was turned down. He went to the ones in the street and in the fields and they accepted. He opened the door to the Gentiles and they appeared. What happened to the ones who were first invited? They got left out in the cold.
How does this apply to today you might ask? After all, Jesus came over two thousand years ago. Ah, but the question should be how are you accepting His invite. When God calls on you, do you answer, “Here am I, send me” or do you say, “I will in a year or two when things are more to my liking?” He is inviting. There is no question about that. The entire question turns to you to see what you do when the invitation is in your hand.
Does the invite involve helping someone? “Sorry, God, I already have plans at the country club.” Is He asking you to listen to someone who is having a bad day? “Sorry, God, I have more important things to do.” Is He asking that you stop what you are doing and pray? “Sorry, God, the dishes just have to get done.” The feast will go on. But will you be able to be in attendance? Going to church and giving some money is not accepting the invite. That is trying to appease the King and hope it is enough. Answering the invite completely is the only way of true acceptance.
How many in the church today are turning down the invite to be a part of the great plan? How many are refusing to look beyond their own wants and desires to see what they can do to help? Many in the church today will not be sitting at the feast. They will be shocked when they arrive to find the door closed. “Our church is the largest in town,” they will cry. “We bring in thousands of dollars a week and have added so many additions for all those ministries. Why can’t we come in?” And God will answer, “I asked you to feed hungry. You gave money to shelters but I asked that you give yourself to the hungry. Why didn’t you go the shelter yourself and after giving your money help to serve and clean up? You attended prayer meetings, but why did you not pray at midnight when I woke you for the woman down the street who was being beaten by her husband? You gave to missions, but why did you not pray for them and go on the trip to help the unwed mothers learn how to be God-fearing mothers? I asked that you get into the trenches where I am. Instead you sent others and felt that you had done enough. My true servants are invited to the feast. They are the ones who accepted my invite. They are the ones who will sit at my table. They gave me everything of themselves. I give them life.”
Where in our life do we sit? Are we going about our lives and pushing aside the invite that comes to us over and over? Are we too occupied with family, hobbies, work, or even church? Or are we the one who is willing to go out at two in the morning to rescue someone from bleeding. Are we the ones who call everyone we know to get a coat for someone we know who is without? Are we ones who will give up our personal time to care for a sick person? Are we ones to give of our bounty even when it feels slim? Are you accepting His invite and sitting at His table?