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If you want to have brunch with Jesus in the future, you must accept his invitation now.
When one of those who sat at the table with Jesus heard these things, he said to Him, "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!"
Then Jesus said, "A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, 'Come, for all things are now ready.' But they all with one accord began to make excuses.
"The first said to him, 'I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.' Another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.' Still another said, 'I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come.'
"So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and the maimed and the blind.'
"The servant said, 'Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.' Then the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those who were invited shall taste my supper.'"
Luke 14:15-24 NKJV, condensed
Drop Everything and Come
The Pharisee who invited Jesus to supper was getting more than he bargained for. One of his guests responded to the unsettling words of Jesus with this statement which everyone could agree with, "Happy is he who will eat at the Lord's table in the kingdom of heaven." They assumed they would all be present for that meal. But Jesus hung a question mark over their confident airs by telling them another story.
A certain man planned a gala affair and invited a great many people. He barred no expense. The food was costly and abundant. The decor festive. He had planned the occasion with much joy and anticipation. According to custom, invitations were sent out early and responses tallied so he would know how many agreed to come.
When everything was ready, the excited host sent his servant around town with the message that now is the time. But those who had been invited--every one of them--began to renege. It wasn't convenient at the moment and they didn't want to be bothered. They had more important things to do. No one wanted to be forthright in saying "no", so they thought up some excuses.
It was free--a delicious meal, and they could fill their plates as often as they wanted. Why would people not want to come to this grand party? Why would they pretend they were coming and then not show up when the food and drink had already been prepared? Why would they be so rude and inconsiderate?
Jesus clicked off three of the stated reasons. One justified his absence by claiming he was on his way to view a new parcel of ground. Surely this man didn't buy land unseen! Another had just purchased, not one, but 5 new pairs of oxen and he needed to try them out! Well, good luck on that project. Surely he knew the oxen were compatible before he bought them!
Could they not do these things at another time? It's evening. The sun was going down. Did they have to pursue personal interests on the night of the big event? The third invited guest had just gotten married so he couldn't come. Are there not 365 nights in a year to enjoy his new wife! Surely he could spare one night to be with old friends.
When the servant returned and told his master what the invited guests had said, he was stunned. And angry at the waste. Surely there was someone, somewhere, who would appreciate his company for the evening. "Go quickly to the other side of town," he told his servant, "and bring in as many as are willing to come. Invite the poor and disadvantaged, young and old alike."
The servant did this but still there was room. The host was determined to have a full house, so he sent his servant out one more time. "Go further into the countryside," he told him. "Don't take 'no' for an answer. Reassure them I don't care who they are or how they look. Tell them to come as they are, to come quickly, right now." They came; until the house was full and the door was shut. And all those who were originally invited missed his supper and never tasted even a bite.
The air in the home of the Pharisee would be quite heavy by now, and warm. Luke added nothing more to this episode so we don't know what happened next. But it's a story that lingers in the heart and mind.
Those who made excuses were not bad people. In fact, they were very good people. There's nothing wrong with owning land, acquiring new things, or the pleasures of family life. But when we turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to God's invitation, we miss the party. The joyful bounty of God's kingdom doesn't come on our terms, nor at our convenience.
Those who made excuses were left out. Those who had plenty of legitimate concerns--nothing to wear, no one to go with, limited mobility, dirty, blind, distrustful, unworthy, not used to such extravagance--these are the ones who came and filled the banquet hall. They were hungry, delighted to be invited, surprised and grateful to find themselves on anyone's guest list.
Our Lord has planned a great feast, and sent out invitations to you, me and many more. Now, today, his servant is going about with the message, "Come for all things are ready." The rest of the story will be determined by how each of us responds to that invitation. Do we say, "Don't bother me now!" Or do we drop everything and come?
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: What is your favorite excuse when you don't want to do something?
If the President of the United States welcomed you to come to the White House, would you re-arrange your schedule and assume the cost of travel to get there? Do you think anyone would refuse such an invitation? If you didn't want to go, would you give an excuse or an honest answer?
How do you identify with the characters in this story? When have you "walked in their shoes"? The host with a meal but no takers. The invited guests who made excuses. The servant moving between the guests and the host. All the marginal people who got invited as a last resort. The Pharisees who listened to the story.
It's a parable about a great supper. What is your image of supper? Do you normally drop everything when it's time to eat? Why/Why not? Why the urgency in this story? What pictures come to mind when you think about the table of the Lord?
When you are offered food for your soul, do you accept the invitation? Give some examples of taking in eternal food and drink? When you refuse it, what excuses do you use?
Suppose the meal in this parable represents the theological concept of salvation. What would be in the serving bowls, trays and goblets? Explain how salvation is free, but it doesn't come cheap.
Maybe the invited guests didn't go to the party because they were reluctant to publicly associate themselves with the host. Why is it essential in matters of faith to stand up and be counted?
When you accept the invitation to God's banquet, how does that reorganize your priorities? How does it change the way you relate to possessions, work, and family?
Are you more like the Pharisees who assumed they belonged in heaven, or like those people from the fringes of society who wondered why they were being welcomed by the gracious host into his beautiful mansion? Explain your answer.