When one of those at the table with Jesus heard him say this, he said to Him; ‘blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God. ‘
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 have 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 have ordered has been done, but there is still room. ‘ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and the 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.’ (Luke 14: 7-11)
Planning a special occasion
As a mother of three daughters two of whom are already married and the third soon to be married I have experienced being part of planning and organising a special event and understand some of the stresses involved! One of the first things to consider is who to invite. This can cause considerable heartache as, with a certain number of places available, difficult decisions have to be made and not everyone in our wider circle of family and friends can be included.
Inviting the guests
Once guests have been invited, we then have to wait for their replies. Some guests reply very quickly and with a definite answer. This helps enormously in the rest of the planning as we know where we stand and if others can now be included. It is wonderful when someone gladly accepts the invitation and this adds to the excitement and anticipation of the big day. When an invitation is declined, however, it can bring a touch of sadness, though often there are valid reasons why the person cannot come. The most frustrating responses are the ‘maybes’ and those who do not reply at all until asked again, sometimes right up to the deadline.
They made excuses…
In this parable, the first group of invited guests make excuses why they can’t come. These include business, property and relationships. We know that the master is angry and disappointed at their refusal and he sends his servants out to ask others who were not on his initial list. In fact, he is desperate for people to come, as he orders his servants to go everywhere they can to find people and ‘compel’ them to come. Of course, the master represents Jesus, the Son of God, inviting people to accept His invitation to salvation and eternal life made possible by His sacrifice on the cross. The invitation first went out to the Jews, God’s chosen people, but they failed to recognise Jesus as their Messiah, so the invitation was extended to include everyone else – that means us too! God longs with a passion that everyone should respond to Jesus’ invitation of salvation. He does not want anyone to decline. He is desperately calling to those who do not know Him to make that choice, accept His free invitation to be present at the Banquet and be with Him for eternity. Who would want to say no to such an invitation? It carries a promise of forgiveness from sin, eternal life after death and abundant life here on earth if lived in close relationship with Jesus. Why then, do so many not respond to this amazing invitation from the King of Kings? After all, anyone who receives an invitation from Queen Elizabeth is deeply honoured, proud and delighted to accept.
Make a relationship with Jesus your greatest priority
I think that clues may be found when we look at the excuses given in the parable. How easy it is to allow our work, possessions and relationships to become so all-consuming that they become all that matters to us and occupy our minds to the extent that we cannot see beyond them. Yet Jesus tells us to ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you’. (Matthew 6:33) I believe this means that as we surrender our lives to Jesus and get to know and love Him more, we will find that our relationship with Him becomes more important. Our perspective shifts, so things which were important to us become less so as we devote our lives to pleasing Him. In the process we discover that He takes care of every detail of our lives so we do not have to stress about them.
A personal example…
Although I am definitely a ‘work in progress’ and still have areas of my life where I am not fully surrendered to God I will try to give an example of a personal challenge I faced when I knew I had to make a choice over a particular issue. I love my job, yet found that working full time was becoming all – consuming of my time and mental energy, leaving little room for prayer, Bible study or developing gifts God had given me. I had been writing my own songs for a few years but never had time to devote to working on these in more depth or to find ways of using them to bless others. Friends of mine of a similar age had reduced their working hours and I found the thought of this attractive, believing it would lighten the load and allow more space for me to devote myself to growing the Kingdom of God. After praying about this I felt that God was confirming to me that it was the right way forward. There was a problem, however. Reducing my hours would mean less pay. I had always relied on a regular income for security and although I knew in my head that God would provide I had never had the faith or courage to take Him at His word. The time came when I knew I had to make a decision soon because of the cut- off date for change of contracts. After prayer and seeking agreement from my husband I knew that the right choice was to step out in faith and reduce my hours. I know that others have given up far more than this, but for me at the time it was the step God was encouraging me to take. Decision made, I approached my boss and received approval that my request could be granted. I thus reduced my hours to four days a week, then two years later to three days, and finally to two days. Never once did I look back. The Lord was faithful and provided for us in every way. Indeed, I really felt that the kingdom of God was ‘added to me’ after seeking to put God first in this matter.
Do not refuse the invitation from the King of Kings
If you have not yet accepted Jesus’ invitation to the Great Banquet, take time today to consider what you have to gain…and lose if you reject it. Making the choice to receive Jesus as your Saviour and Lord is the most important decision you will ever make. My heartfelt prayer is that you will accept it and enter into a new life with the King of Kings. Do not delay!