In Luke 14, Christ was invited to a feast held in the home of a well-to-do ruler of the Pharisees. While the real purpose of this invitation was for the Pharisees to watch Jesus in hope of finding something against him, Jesus used the occasion to teach those present.
One of the guests seated at the table heard Jesus' remarks and declared, "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God" (Lk. 14:15). The Jews eagerly anticipated God would deliver them from Roman subjugation by the establishment of an earthly kingdom. The Jews believed that their nation would be elevated above all nations and only the Jews would belong to and enjoy the blessings of God's promised kingdom.
Jesus corrected this misconception with the parable of the Great Supper. The parable teaches that the Jews would reject God's invitation to the kingdom and then God would invite all men. The Jews who rejected God's invitation would find themselves outside the kingdom and God's blessings. While the main point of the parable is to teach that the kingdom was open to all, the excuses of those invited also hold fascinating and valuable lessons.
A Great Supper Prepared
"Then said (Jesus) unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, 'Come; for all things are now ready'" (Lk. 14:16-17).
Great suppers or feasts were common in the Middle East. The host would go to great lengths and expense to prepare an elaborate meal and celebration. The host would alert all his relatives and friends of his intentions to prepare a feast. Planning and preparations would take weeks for the great occasion. The master would direct the household. There was food to select and purchase. The servants would be busy fixing up the home and the table. The preparation of the food would take days. The table would be set and loaded, ready for the guests to arrive.
Although the intended guests had been previously invited, it was customary for a servant to be sent out right at the time the feast was prepared to give a final invitation. Jesus indicates this final invitation in his parable. "Come; for all things are now ready," the servant was instructed to tell the guests.
A traveler in the Middle East several years ago observed that this custom was still practiced. "If a Sheikh, beg, or emeer invites, he always sends a servant to call you at the proper time. This servant often repeats the very formula mentioned in Lu. xiv. 17. . . – Come, for the supper is ready. The fact that this custom is mainly confined to the wealthy and to the nobility is in strict agreement with the parable, where the certain man who made the great supper and bade many is supposed to be of this class" (Thompson, The Land and the Book, Vol. 1, p. 178).
The Spiritual Supper
The purpose of Jesus' parable was to teach spiritual truths. Jesus was not referring to a literal supper, but helping us understand God's spiritual feast. "[A] certain man . . . represents God. “[M]ade a great supper and bade many" represents God's plan for the redemption of man from sin, salvation through Jesus Christ. Isaiah foretold of this spiritual feast, "And in this mountain shall the lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. . . And it shall be said in that day, Lot this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation" (Isa. 25:6,9).
God has prepared a lavish spiritual feast of salvation. The table is set with the "bread of life"; "And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. . . . This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die" (Jn. 6:35,50). The beverage is the "water of life"; "Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (Jn. 4:13-14).
"And sent his servant. . . . " The sent servant is no less than the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus declared his role as a messenger from the Father, "For I have not spoke of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak" (Jn. 12:49-50).
"'Come, for all things are now ready."' This invitation represents the gospel invitation. Jesus invited all men, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Mt. 11:28-30). "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17).
All things are now ready! God's great spiritual feast of salvation took planning and centuries of preparation. He prepared the supper at great expense – the sacrifice of his own dear Son. Christ was sent to invite all men including you!
But Sorry Excuses Given
"And they all with one consent began to make excuse . . " (Lk. 14:18a). An "excuse" is a "pretense, pretext, beg-off, cowardly expression of preference"; "to give one reason to cover for the real reason or motive." A coward's way of hiding behind a lie. The skin of a reason packed with lies. A statement given to cover up, for a duty not well done, or not done at all.
When I was younger, my mother assigned me and my sisters each certain jobs to be done around the house. Somehow, I got the jobs of taking out the garbage and vacuuming the carpets. Sometimes, my mother would call me to the kitchen where she would be standing in front of the garbage pail, pointing and asking, "Why didn't you take out the garbage last night?" If you want to hear 101 excuses, just ask a 15 or 16 year old, "Why didn't you take out the garbage?" The point is, there were no reason for me not to perform my job or duty, only poor flimsy excuses.
When one makes an excuse toward God, it is a weak and cowardly attempt to justify non-involvement in his service. Excuses try to avert attention from those things which are important to those things which are not so important.
The Excuse of Property
"The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused" (Lk. 14:18b). "I must needs go"? Many excuses are made from something "I must do." Why did this first guest claim necessity of being excused? He claimed to have bought a piece of real estate that he had not seen. How likely is it that anyone buys a piece of ground sight unseen? Even if he had really bought ground without seeing it, why was it necessary for him to go see it now? If he had already bought it, there was no need to inspect it at the time of the feast. After all, the ground was not going anywhere!
Excuses to God of so-called "necessity" are not really any necessity at all. "Excuse me from becoming a Christian, I have a lot of other things I must needs go and do." Excuse me from attending services tonight because I must needs watch the Super Bowl game," "Excuse me from teaching the gospel, I must needs to and weed my front lawn. " "Please excuse me from going to visit the sick, I must needs go. . . " somewhere else. What is amazing is how many things "need" to be done when it comes time for the Lord's work to be done. Excuses fool no one, but the person who makes them. Instead of saying "I must" or "I need to," what one is really saying is "I want to".
"Go and see." Today the island of Manhattan, in New York, is one of the most valuable areas of real estate in the world. Property in Manhattan is rented and sold for thousands of dollars per square foot. Yet years ago, the island was purchased from the Indians for worthless trinkets amounting to about $20. There are people today who laugh at the Indians' failure to understand what was valuable, then they turn around and sell their soul for a worthless excuse.
How quickly and easily the baubles and trinkets of the world become excuses standing between us and God. Will a new house or a new car keep you from eternal life? For a few dollars more will you lose your soul? P.T. Barnum is said to have approached a young woman and propositioned her. She huffily replied, "No." Barnum then asked, "Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?" and the woman said, "Yes, for a million dollars." "How about a dollar?" Barnum asked. "What kind of woman do you think I am? " the woman replied angrily. To which Barnum responded, "Madam, we have already determined what kind of a woman you are, now we are just haggling over the price." This is the same position Satan has so many.
If you had to give up all that you own and could keep one thing, what would it be? Your car, your house, a book, an heirloom? Could this one thing become an excuse that bars you from heaven?
"Please excuse me." Those who make excuses are usually so polite. Somehow, they feel God will accept their excuse as long as it is given so delicately. Whether one is rude and insulting or polite, the rejection of the gospel invitation is still a slap in the face of God. God calls this "politeness" "lip service." "Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men" (Isa. 29:13).
The Excuse of Business
"And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused" (Lk. 14:19). "Bought five yoke of oxen." How many excuse themselves from the Lord's invitation, the Lord's assembly or the Lord's work because they have a business to run or a job that conflicts. These same people would never think of allowing money or property come between them and their service to God, and then excuse themselves to go buy and sell or work a job. Jesus warned, "Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed" (Jn. 6:27).
"I go to prove them." Consider how unlikely it is that anyone would buy oxen without proving them and how unnecessary it would be to prove the oxen during the feast. It is just as unlikely anyone would get into a business or obtain a job without first proving the time and cost. Nor is it necessary to prove your oxen on the Lord's time. Yet time after time people use their business or job as an excuse! When the Lord's invitation is given, "Excuse me please, I have a business that keeps me too busy." When Wednesday night Bible study comes around, "Excuse me, I have a job that requires me to work then."
Isn't it strange that an excuse always finds time to do now, to replace what God wants done now? ". . . [B]ehold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). Time wasted thinking up an excuse would be better spent avoiding the need for them. The person who really wants to do something finds a way, the other finds an excuse.
"I pray have me excused.." Certainly this excuse is polite, but there is no pretense of a necessity or compulsion. This excuse maker is just lax or careless. There is indifference to the host, his invitation and his great feast. How long can we be lax and careless with the Lord's invitation?
The Excuse of Family
"And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come" (Lk. 14:20). "1 have married a wife." How easily does one's family become his or her excuse. "I would obey God but my (wife), (husband), (family), (friends). . . " "I would attend more services but my. . . " Your family or friends are not a hinderance in serving God, but for many they certainly become a convenient excuse. How sad it is to use someone you love and care for as an excuse not to properly serve God. Do you really love your family and friends? Then stop using them as an excuse and start trying to convert them. There are always excuses available, if you are weak enough to use them. There really are not enough crutches in the world for all the lame excuses, and using one's own family as an excuse is the lamest excuse of all.
"I cannot come." This third man did not suggest a necessity to be excused, nor was he polite in is excuse. He did not even ask to be excused. He flatly refused the invitation. This man could have accepted the invitation and brought his wife and both of them could have enjoyed the feast. Jesus warned, "He that loveth father and mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Mt. 10:37).
A Sad Conclusion For Excuse Makers
"For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper" (Lk. 14:24). Dr. Thompson in speaking of the invitation to a feast of a Middle Eastern host said, "It is true now, as then, that to refuse is a high insult to the maker of the feast, nor would such excuses as those in the parable be more acceptable to a Druse emeer than they were to the lord of this 'great supper'" (Thompson, Ibid.). God's great feast of salvation will not go to waste. But those who make excuses shall not have any part of it.
What Is Your Excuse?
Too many exhibit a great talent . . . for making excuses. For every temptation, God provides a way of escape while Satan provides an excuse. What is your excuse? If you need one, just ask any preacher; they hear all the excuses, over and over again. "We missed services last week because company came." "I would teach people the Gospel, if I knew more." "I would visit the sick, if I had more time." "Something always happens that makes us late for services." "We do not attend Bible study because we cannot get anything out of it." "I do not come to Wednesday night Bible study because you cannot prove it is necessary." "I would give more, but I have too many bills." "I attend more services, but my work is so hard."
The next time you start to make an excuse, stop, get down on your knees and tell God your excuse. Then remember the words of Jesus, "None of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper" (Lk. 14:24).