Who's Coming to the Banquet? (2): Your Priorities Are Showing
Read Lu 14:15-24 – A husband turns to his wife as he turns on the first football game of the season and asks: “Is there anything you want to say before the season begins?” His priorities were showing, and we laugh hoping it’s not really true. But it demonstrates what many people, most of whom think they are heaven-bound, are saying to Jesus. “Is there anything you’d like to say – before I get on with my real life which is over here?” Well, actually there is a lot Jesus would like to say and it’s in our passage today.
Jesus is at lunch with a bunch of Pharisees, trying to get them to see their need for a Savior. He is responding to a man who says in v. 15, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” The Bible often likens heaven to a banquet to end all banquets. But Jesus warns him that there may be 1 less at that banquet than he thinks. And he lists 4 ways that those who accept His invitation must humble themselves for entrance.
I. Humble Yourself Under the Phasing of the Kingdom (16)
II. Humble Yourself Under the Pricelessness of the Kingdom (17)
Last week we saw first that we must humble ourselves under the Phasing and timing of the kingdom. We’d like it all right now. But Jesus has consistently warned that while His kingdom starts in hearts now; it plays out in history later, under Christ’s rule of perfection. Second, we must humble ourselves under the Pricelessness of the kingdom. No price we can pay can ever deflect God’s wrath against sin. But what God demands, God provides. So, our invitation to the kingdom is based on Jesus’ death in our place, not on our righteousness. It takes humility to admit that and accept His amazing offer.
III. Humble Yourself Under the Priority of the Kingdom (18-20)
17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses.” So, we have this twofold invitation system. First a banquet is announced. These people all said, “Yes, I want to come.” But when it’s announced the feast is ready – excuses come out of the woodwork. “Sorry, I can’t come. New field, new oxen, new wife. Can’t come.” This is an amazing turn. Such a feast by a very rich man might have been the event of a lifetime for some -- certainly a major highlight. Like being invited to the White House for dinner. Nobody’d turn that down. Not only would it be highly offensive to the president, but you’d be missing out on something very special.
And the excuses are so flimsy. V. 18, “I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it.” Really?! You wouldn’t have examined the field before you bought it? V. 19, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them.” You bought these oxen without seeing them? That would be like Mike or Dan or Lynn buying a new John Deere sight unseen. Not going to happen, is it? V. 20, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” Really?! You could not bring your wife along? Do you see the point? These excuses are trivial and they offend the Master of the banquet who rightfully “became angry.”
So what point is Jesus making here? If the Master is God the Father and the servant is Jesus; the banquet is the kingdom and those invited were initially the Jewish people and by application now us, then what is the point?
First, the banquet is ready. All that is necessary for our entrance into and enjoyment of the kingdom of God was accomplished by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We don’t merit the invitation; it comes to us by grace and right now – we can enter the kingdom. It just takes humble repentance. The full expression of the kingdom comes later, but it begins now. The invitation is now. Paul reminds us in II Cor 6:2, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Jesus says in John 5:24, “Truly, truly (two “truly’s” meaning this is critical), I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Not will have eternal life someday but has it now. The banquet is ready. Now is the time to come.
Second, those giving lame excuses are not totally antagonistic. They are not outright rejecters – not the people who say, “Oh, Christianity, what a lot of bunk!” That’s not these people. Initially they said they wanted to come. I call them “conditional accepters.” The start out believing. They start out saying, “Oh, sure. I’ll come. Count me in.” But in the end, they don’t come. They get distracted -- caught up in their own agenda. They want to pursue their own ends, and in the end, they don’t come! It’s a tragedy, Beloved. And some of us here this morning are living out this tragedy. Me is more important than He.
Jesus described these people in the parable of the sower. Remember? The seed (the Word) was sown in various soil types. One had a lot of thorns. The seed started to grow, but got choked out by the thorns. Jesus interpreted in Luke 8:14, “14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” That’s exactly who Jesus is describing here. They’re not flaming unbelievers. They want the kingdom of God. But they want the kingdom of self more. They are more taken by this world than they are the next. The cares and riches and pleasures and relationships of this life mean more to them than Jesus. Are you getting the picture?
But there is a third point Jesus is making which is -- this a really stupid decision. The decision to hold this world tighter than Jesus is extremely near-sighted. The flimsiness of excuses make that point. It would be like being invited to William and Kate’s wedding and saying, “Like to come, but I have a haircut appointment that day.” Really!? But, to care for things more than Christ is just as dumb! The parable shows it. How stupid these people are. How offensive to the Master. They are turning down so much to get so little. But in rejecting or “postponing” accepting Jesus’ invitation to follow Him, we are doing the same thing. Kingdom entrance demands kingdom priorities.
Jesus said it this way in Matt 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” So what means more to us this morning – our own business and personal concerns and hobbies and recreations and relationships – or Jesus? Deep in our heart, that is the question we must all answer. Because Jesus will not play second fiddle to the trivialities of this life.
On Dec 29, 1972, Eastern Airlines Flight 401, an L-1011, was flying NYC to Miami. During the descent for landing the pilot noticed an indicator light signaling that the landing gear was not deployed. The pilot pulled up and circled while the crew investigated. They speculated that perhaps there was a short causing the light to go on for no reason. The flight engineer went below to check the landing gear. The co-pilot began to fiddle with the bulb to see if it was plugged in correctly. The pilot put the plane on autopilot so he could help. Soon the co-pilot was looking at the light. The pilot was looking at the light. The engineer was checking from below. Meanwhile, the plane began a descent so slowly that no one noticed. Minutes later the pilot asked, “What’s going on here?” and then silence. The plane crashed into the Everglades, the first US crash of a jumbo jet: 101 killed, over 260 injured. Why? Because the pilots were distracted with a $.75 light bulb while forgetting to fly the plane.
You say, “How foolish,” but no more so than those who will wake up one day in eternity, having spent their whole life on $.75 trivialities while ignoring the invitation to the banquet, bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. The people in the parable thought the banquet would not disturb normal life. They thought they could be part of the kingdom and not disrupt their agenda and their goals. They could not accept that the rules and values of the kingdom might make it harder to make as much money, or have as many friends, or enjoy the same pleasures. But the day will come when they see all of those as trivial in light of eternity. Only – it will be too late. The invitation is now. It brings joy in this life and the next. The excuses will look very flimsy in eternity. Our priority must be His kingdom, not ours! C. S. Lewis put it this way: "Put first things first and we get the second things thrown in: Put second things first then we lose both first and second things."
IV. Humble Yourself Under the Proliferation of the Kingdom
21 So the servant came and reported these things (the excuses) to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ Jesus is aiming this parable primarily at the Pharisees with whom He is having lunch as representatives of the people in general. The Jews thought they were a lock for heaven as God’s chosen people. But they were rejecting God’s offer or salvation thru Jesus and He was rightfully angry.
Let’s stop to think about that for a moment. R. A. Torrey was preaching in Chicago one time when a friend brought a friend to him who considered himself a Xn. He said, “I was brought up a Christian, and I am not going back on the training of my parents.” Torrey asked him, “But have you been born again?” He said, “What?” “Have you ever been born again? Jesus said, ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Have you ever been born again?” The young man said, “I don’t know what you are talking about. I have never heard of that?”
Torrey said, “My friend, you have committed the greatest sin a man can commit?” The man replied, “No. I never did in my life. I was raised well. I have lived an exemplary life. I never committed the greatest sin a man can commit – never!” Torrey asked, “What is the greatest sin a person can commit?” He replied, “Why, murder, of course.” Torrey opened to Matt 22:37-38 and said, “Read this.” He read, “Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’ ” “Which commandment is that?” Torrey asked. He replied, “The first and great commandment.” “If this is the first and great commandment what is the first and great sin?” “Not to keep this commandment.” “Have you kept it? Have you loved God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind? Have you put God first in everything—God first in business, God first in politics, God first in pleasure, God first in study, God first in everything?” “No, sir, I have not.” “What have you done then?” “I have broken this commandment.” “Which commandment?” “The greatest commandment.” “So what have you done?” He replied, “I have broken the first and greatest of God’s. I have committed the greatest sin a man can commit, but I never saw it before in all my life.”
Do you see, Beloved, if the Father has bought, paid for and prepared the banquet at His own expense, the life of His Son, He is right to be angry those who insist on writing their own rules, denying His worth and diminishing His offer. It’s the greatest sin and man can commit to turn down the invitation. And there are consequences.
Notice the next step. 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” This was a devastating ending to the Pharisees. Jesus is saying to those who thought they had a lock on the kingdom, “Sorry, you won’t be there.” That was bad enough. But what really ticked them off was what came next. The poor, crippled, blind and lame of Israel will be there. Not by Pharisee standards they wouldn’t. Their very disability was evidence that they were sinners and ineligible for the kingdom even tho they were Jews. To the Pharisees, they were out. But not to Jesus.
But the servant goes even further, outside the city, which meant, symbolically Gentiles. They are compelled to come in. Compelled because they couldn’t believe it was possible for them. But grace means all are welcome. All can receive eternal life. There is no discrimination here, no favorites, no one with an inside track. Only repentant sinners who are receiving and accepting the invitation to come. This the self-righteous Pharisees would not do. Humility was not in them.
They are representative of the educated and influential and powerful people in every society who find any religion more palatable than Christianity. Christianity is the only one that says, “You are a lost and hopeless sinner who can do nothing to save yourself. Jesus Christ had to die a bloody death to pay the penalty for your sins so God the Father could adopt you by His grace.” Every other religion says, “You have the power within. Live a good life. Live a life of compassion and you can come in.” But it’s not true, Beloved. The gospel is humbling. It means all must come thru repentance, not goodness. We are all equally in the same lost boat. But salvation is equally available to all. The invitation is without discrimination.
And so there will be Muslims there. Poor people from back alleys will be there. Drug dealers and prostitutes and potheads will be there along with people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9), who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. Equally sinners. Equally repentant. Equally saved. They will all be there, but will you be there? Only if you too have confessed your sin and thrown yourself on God’s mercy. But the invitation to the banquet is equally open to Simeon who held the baby Jesus in the temple at the beginning of his life to the thief who believed at its end. The death and resurrection of Jesus opens to kingdom to everyone.
An evangelist was at the Indiana State Penitentiary shortly after Stephen Judy was executed. That is always a time of special tension in a prison. But the message was powerful and as the evangelist and a few volunteers later visited the death row area, inmates were allowed out of their cells to visit briefly. When it was time to go, an inmate named James Brewer was walked back to his cell by a volunteer. The man remained in the cell, standing shoulder to shoulder, reading the Bible until the evangelist gently told them time was up. The volunteer replied, “Please, please, this is very important. I’m Judge Clement. I sentenced this man to die. But since then he as accepted Christ. He is born again and we need just a minute to pray together.” So there they were – one black, one white; one powerful, one powerless; one rich, the other poor – but equally in need of a Savior, equally humble before God, equally accepting the invitation to the banquet thru repentance and equally forgiven before God. Impossible by human terms. But that’s the kingdom, Beloved.
Conc – Have you humbled yourself before the Phasing, the Pricelessness, the Priority and the Proliferation of the kingdom? When we lived in CA, we lived just up the hill from a train track. On April 22, 2002, death visited the track. A mile long freight train ran thru a stop signal and crashed headlong into a commuter train filled with rush hour passengers killing 2 and injuring 260 others. It was later determined that the engineer of the freight train was texting at the time and failed to see the signal. Distractions can be deadly, Beloved. Don’t let the trivialities of this life – the fields, the oxen, the business interests, the career, the relationships – don’t let anything distract from the main thing and make a train wreck of your eternity. Accept Jesus’ invitation now. "Put first things first and we get the second things thrown in: Put second things first then we lose both first and second things." Let’s pray.