The Great Supper
Luke 14:15-24, "Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, 'Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!'
Then He said to him, '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.' And 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 our quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.' And 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 men who were invited shall taste my supper.'"
Contained in Luke 14:15-24 is the account that is commonly known as "The Great Supper." The basis of this story is found in vs. 16, "A certain man gave a great supper and invited many..." Even though it is not specifically stated, it would seem to me that it is implied that those who were invited accepted the invitation. At any rate we are not told of any who declined. In vs. 17 we find that it is time for supper to be served, so this certain man told his slave to approach those who had been invited and tell them, "Come, for all things are now ready." The servant did as he had been commanded, but here's what he found: "But they all with one accord began to make excuses" (vs. 18). The following is a sampling of the kind of excuses that they offered.
The first excuse was, "I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it" (vs. 18b). Even though we are not told what the man intended to use this piece of ground for, it is not often that one purchases a piece of property sight unseen, but, I suppose it happens. If you are thinking like I am thinking, this physical inspection of property already purchased could have been delayed an extra day or so. He could have delayed and attended the banquet, yet it is plain to me that he simply didn't desire to attend. Other things were now more important!
The second excuse was, "I have bought five oxen, and I am going to test them" (vs. 19). Once again the purchaser has done something that is rather uncommon. He has made a significant purchase sight unseen. He has purchased five yoke (i.e. five pairs) of oxen. My mind tells me that oxen, beasts of burden are not purchased to be someone's pet. Rather they are purchased to perform certain duties and tasks. They are animals that are used for work. Were they still strong enough to pull the wagon or the plow? At this point the man could not be certain. Therefore, it seems reasonable to first inspect and try these animals to see if they are still fit for the work that you have planned, then purchase them. This man like the first man had lost his desire to attend the banquet. Other things were now more important!
The third excuse was, "I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come" (vs. 20). Out of all of the excuses offered thus far, this may be the more reasonable, and for sure the more original of the three responses. Some suggest that his could have been an appeal to the Old Law (Cf. Deut. 24:5) that pictures a man at home with his wife during the first year of their marriage. While certainly this could have been possible, there is no indication that it was. It was still called an excuse, and this excuse was just as transparent as the others. It is obvious that this man, like the previous two now had something that was more important! He had lost his desire to attend the banquet!
The word excuse is defined for us in The American Heritage Dictionary as a word that means: 1. a. To explain (a fault or an offense) in the hope of being forgiven or understood. b. To seek to remove the blame from. 2. a. To grant pardon to; forgive. b. To make allowance for, overlook. 3. To serve as justification for. 4. To free, as from obligation or duty, exempt. 5. To give permission to leave; release. In our text in Luke 14:18, the Greek word paraiteomai which is translated excuse means, to beg off, decline, shun. In short, I am not coming, now here's why.
I am confident that it takes a long time to properly prepare a banquet. It is said that such a banquet in the Jewish culture was quite an event. An event of great importance that normally took quite a while to prepare. Thus, when the banquet had been prepared and the slave was sent to bring in those who had previously accepted the invitation, the master became upset because one by one they asked to be excused. But, the master was determined that the banquet would take place in spite of those who now refused to come. His slave was sent to the poorer sections of the city, to the poor, maimed, blind and lame, (those also mentioned in vs. 13) asking them to come to the banquet. The slave did as the master had requested and reported that there was still room for more. The master then sent his slave outside the city where the derelicts and the homeless could be found, instructing him to compel them to come to the banquet. He must not take no for an answer, the house must be filled. The slave made the effort that the master had asked of him.
The account ends with a strong verdict pronounced on those who were first invited and who made their excuses. They had squandered their opportunity, thus, none of them would be able to taste of the supper that had been prepared (Cf. vs. 24).
The story that Jesus tells is speaking of the Jewish nation as being those first invited to enter into the kingdom. The New Testament records for us that they were the first invited. Not only did John the baptizer and the Lord give many years of their lives attempting to prepare them for the coming of the kingdom, (Cf. Matt. 3:1; 4:17, 23; 10:6; 15:24) the Day of Pentecost (Cf. Acts 2:1ff) maked the day when they were invited to enter. However, even though thousands and multitudes of the Jews would come to the Lord (Cf. Acts 2:41; 4:4, 32, etc.) as a nation, they refused. Thus, the invitation (as was also according to prophecy, Cf Isaiah 2:1-2; 62:1-2; Micah 4:1-2) was extended to others, those outside the nation of Israel (i.e. the Gentiles). They too would be compelled to enter the kingdom. The coming kingdom (church) and the bringing in of the Gentile nation were still in the future as Jesus spoke. It would be somewhere around 37 A.D. before the gospel message would be formally taken to the Gentile Nation. In Acts 10:1ff we find that it would begin with a Gentile man in Caesarea named Cornelius. However, at this time the Jewish nation was being compelled to make themselves ready for it's (i.e. kingdom) arrival.
There are some additional thoughts that are contained in this story that are worthy of our consideration. They surround the excuses that were made by those who refused to come when beckoned. Very simply stated, nothing is as important as our faithfully serving the Lord. This would include all of those things that in this life that we hold to be so near and dear to us. But friends, whether it be business, financial or family related, the Lord Jesus Christ must find Himself "FIRST" in our lives. The message of the Lord in Matthew 6:33 is to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." It is the Lord who demands and I might quickly add, deserves preeminence.
This tells me that when I prioritize things in my life ahead of my service to the Lord that I have made a mistake. Brethren, we not only have an invitation to worship God on Sunday mornings, that same invitation is also extended on Sunday and Wednesday evening. Have you attempted to excuse yourselves from that commitment? I can assure you that your excuses are no weightier than those that we have just considered. That master rejected their excuses just like he will reject ours.
You can do better! I know that you can. Now is the time for us to make some necessary changes in our lives so that when our Master comes back, He will find us faithfully waiting and watching for His return.
By Randy Reynolds
From Expository Files 1.3; March, 1994