The Great Refusal   Leave a comment

The Great Supper

The Great Supper

A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I now have a wife, so I can’t come” Luke 14:16-20

Jesus was invited for dinner at the home of a leader of the Pharisees and He was carefully  scrutinized by the guests and host. Luke does not tell us why there was this man with a swollen arm at the dinner but we can guest that it was an opportunity to trap Jesus again healing on the Sabbath day. These malicious Pharisees knew that our good Lord was sensible to people’s pain and would eventually intervene to heal but He wisely responded while doing this miracle.

Jesus saw that the guests were trying to sit closer to the respectable leader. The pharisees were there and most probably the relatives, friends, neighbors of the leader present. Jesus was probably not given a seat close to the host though He was the Holy One. Jesus had the guts to make remarks to the guests present by teaching them humility since they considered that they deserved to sit closer to the host. He also rebuked the host, the respectable chief of the Pharisees, for inviting only people who were important and could repay him. Jesus recommended to invite the least, the crippled, the poor, the blind who were not worthy.  The poor and sick will not naturally seek to draw closer to the host but would rather feel their unworthiness and try to avoid him. Our God is Almighty, He will not accept that man ever considers that he is worthy to stand in His presence because of his deeds. All creatures should humbly admit that it is all of grace that they have part in God’s Kingdom. From this parable, we can also foresee how the Gentiles were called whilst the Jews rejected (See Matthew 21:28-46).

Matthew 22 tells us a similar story about the kingdom of heaven. Matthew talked about a king who was preparing a great wedding feast for his son. A royal feast is first of all expensive and restricted to special guests. We know from the scripture that the Jews were God’s chosen nation. That king sent servants to notify the selected guests about the wedding but they all categorically refused to honor by their presence the king.  Our Lord wanted to emphasize the offense the Jews made unto God by rejecting His servants, Son and divine rest.

These were the points our Lord wanted to emphasize:

1. Everything has been well prepared for that great day.Jesus said in John 14 that He went to prepare a place for us. So there was this pressing invitation to attend.

2. Ignoring the invitation and doing one’s own thing is rebellion. The guests did know about it but considered it futile. They had more interesting things to do. This is still a lesson to us nowadays. God often calls us to serve Him but we ignore His call. Should we be surprise if other people take our place? This is God’s Kingdom and He will build His church even if the called refuse to assume their responsibilities.

3. The reason given by someone was that he just bought a land. I can myself identify to it because it is a massive investment that requires much time. I guess it makes sense to make careful inspection of a land before building a house or growing crops, is not it? Does that though justify that we reject God’s call because of material things?

4. Another just bought five pairs of oxen. These oxen could represent his daily bread or business. In today’s context ,we could illustrate it as the work we do to sustain ourselves. It’s like someone just got a new job and needs to give his best. Does this justify that we no longer spend time with the Lord and serve Him?

5. The other one just got married and he needs to look after his wife. I recently told to my fiancee and church fellows that I will take a break and not take church responsibilities because I’ll need to spend time with my future wife. This sounds a legitimate need and request. At the same time it can be a selfish reasoning if obeying God is no longer our priority. I believe that God should be first in my life, then my wife, then the immediate families, then my ministry, then the church, then my job and then other activities. Paul said that a spouse will naturally struggle to serve God more because he’ll  have marital responsibilities.

I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided.” 1 Cor. 7:32

Since marital responsibility is the next more important role for a spouse, it can easily take God’s place. We have not all been gifted by God to be single and will therefore not be able to entirely devote ourselves for His kingdom as an unmarried person would. Marriage is an institution God established and blessed for those who do not have that gift of celibacy. It is an institution that God takes pleasure in.The blessing of marriage however bears new responsibilities which can sometimes consume the time which would have otherwise invested in the kingdom. On the other hand, there’re ministries that a married couple can assume that it would have not been possible if they were both single.

6. It is interesting to note that those who made excuses have just achieved in a business or relationship and it was not the right moment for them to think about anything else. Why did that banquet fall at this critical moment? Should we be surprised that our good Lord calls us within our turmoil and not wait when we have “become stable”? God has His own agenda, are we going to dictate Him when we are available for service?

7. The story does not end there. When the Master or King learned about all these replies, he was furious and ordered to invite everyone they could find whether they were crippled, lame or blind. Those who did not deserve (Gentiles) were called to take the place of the special guests (Jews). I recently heard a minister say that the church is struggling to have godly men to lead the church. From my observation this is a worldwide phenomenon(due to selfishness?).  Since those who were called into leadership rejected the invitation, we see those who were not supposed in leadership position assuming it. Our God will not beg for people to serve Him.

When told that there were still vacant places, the Master told his servant to even look in hedges to have people in his banquet!

After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet

The King/Master wanted to make a feast but no one wanted to attend. How would you feel if all your relatives and closest friends did not come to your wedding because they had other things to do? How would you feel if those you sent to invite were beaten?

Others seized his messengers and insulted them and killed them.“The king was furious, and he sent out his army to destroy the murderers and burn their town. And he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor.” Mat. 22:6-8

The Master or King wanted guests who were ready to rejoice with Him. He was despised and considered the guests not worthy of honor to attend.  This is what Paul tried to explain in Romans 9 and 10. God showed mercy to the Gentiles because of the Jews’ rejection.

But I ask, did the people of Israel really understand? Yes, they did, for even in the time of Moses, God said, I will rouse your jealousy through people who are not even a nation.I will provoke your anger through the foolish Gentiles.”And later Isaiah spoke boldly for God, saying,“I was found by people who were not looking for me.I showed myself to those who were not asking for me.”But regarding Israel, God said,“All day long I opened my arms to them, but they were disobedient and rebellious.” Rom. 10:19-21

When Jesus taught about the faithful servants and the Kingdom of heaven, He said:

A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.” Mat. 24:45-46

He commended the faithful servant and wanted to celebrate what was done.

The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together” Mat. 25

God is looking servants who are ready for service. When Jesus said there was a cost for following Him, He really meant it.

He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead!Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:59-62

When we decided to follow Jesus and committed ourselves to give absolute allegiance to Him, we were at that time excited to engage ourselves. We should not find is strange that our Lord calls us when we are not ready. For some, they are waiting for their parents to pass away to serve Christ and others have family responsibilities keeping them away to fulfill God’s call for them.

Jesus also said:

If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?” Luke 14:26-28

This parable of Jesus particularly caught my attention as I am preparing myself for wedding and land purchase.We will have to give an account to God for each of these responses we gave when He called us.

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