God’s Word for You
Luke 14:16-20 Come, for all things are now ready
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, September 24, 2018
The Parable of the Huge Banquet
16 Then Jesus said to him, “There was a certain man who was preparing a huge banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time for the banquet, he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’
Following a Pharisee’s outburst that “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (verse 15), Jesus seizes the opportunity to give a warning. We (and the other guests) might have expected a story from Jesus depicting the wonderful glories of heaven but instead we are told that many who are invited reject the invitation altogether. Jesus knows our hearts, and he tells us exactly what we need to hear.
The “certain man” is God, who “was preparing” this banquet since before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). He has invited many, many guests to his banquet, which is eternal life in heaven. “The time” of the banquet, when at last “all things are now ready” (words we often say when we invite our people to the Lord’s Supper) is the moment when all of Christ’s atoning work was done and accepted by God the Father. This would be following Jesus’ sinless life (“him who had no sin,” 2 Corinthians 5:21), following his atoning death on the cross (Colossians 1:20), and following his resurrection by which the Father showed his acceptance and approval of everything the Son had accomplished. “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).
Notice the tense of the phrase, “those who had been invited.” In Greek (and Latin) this is the perfect tense (κεκλημένοις, invitatis), something that had taken place in the past with continuing results or implications that extend to the present time and beyond. This reminds us that God’s invitation has gone out regularly with each generation, each new Sunday School class, every single Confirmation group. God invites and invites and invites. His banquet would be large enough to give more than enough to everyone who was invited, just as the Feeding of the Five Thousand fed everyone and left twelve small baskets of leftovers (John 6:13), and after the Feeding of the Four Thousand left were seven huge containers of leftovers (Mark 8:8,20).
18 But they all began to make similar excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 Another said, ‘I just bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
The three excuses are just some examples of the reasons people turn away. Some classify the excuses differently. Werner Franzmann calls the field-buyer’s excuse a plea of necessity, the ox-buyer’s excuse a plea of inconvenience, and the newlywed’s rude excuse a desire for pleasure. We recognize that nobody would buy a field without first having looked at it, so the first excuse isn’t even valid. Nobody would buy an ox, let alone ten of them (five yolk or pairs) without looking them over or trying them out, so the second man didn’t have a valid excuse, either. As for the third man, why not bring his new bride along to the banquet? A free meal is a free meal, and this was clearly something special. Also, the third man didn’t even ask to be excused. I’m delighted by the translation choice made by Jerome in his Latin version, that the phrase “please excuse me” (habe me excusatum, 14:18,19) echoes 1 Kings 15:22 “No one was exempt” (nemo sit excusatus). There should have been no excuses.
We don’t need to analyze and categorize these three excuses in great detail as if they account for every single rejection of God under three broad umbrellas. The message Jesus delivers is that people will find any excuse to reject God. The truth is that “the sinful mind is hostile to God” (Romans 8:7). These are people who “hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord” (Proverbs 1:29).
Why would anyone reject the Lord’s invitation? Unbelief has many names and many varieties. It is good to note them to warn those who have not considered the devil’s foul fruit from all its angles.
1, Intellectual doubts, which Chytraeus calls “Epicurean or academic doubts” about God and the way he provides all things for us. The Roman governor Festus was guilty of this kind of unbelief when he rejected the doctrines of the atonement on the cross and the resurrection of the dead (Acts 26:23-24).
2, Outright unbelief, or lack of knowledge of God, usually due to being untaught. It is this unbelief of ignorance and is often the fault of one’s parents. Naaman was a victim of this unbelief until he was instructed (2 Kings 5:3).
3, Doubting forgiveness, in which someone doubts whether they are covered by the grace of God or whether it is possible to please God. Paul gives us comfort about this in Romans 6:14-15, but many people struggle with it in greater or smaller degrees.
4, Despair. Some think that they are beyond salvation at all, and despair so that they know they deserve hell, but reject the possibility of rescue by Christ. This was the sin of Judas in his particular suicide (Matthew 27:3-5).
5, Stubbornness or presumption. Some unbelief will not be budged from a faith in false gods or faith in some other system. This was the hardened heart of Pharaoh in Moses’ day (Exodus 8:32; 9:12) and some of his officials (Exodus 9:34).
6, Confidence in “human aids,” as Professor Chytraeus puts it. This means that some people reject the forgiveness offered through Christ by preferring an imagined treasury of merits established by the saints. They imagine that Christ’s blood is too precious for them in a false sense of humility or fear and prefer to rely on the blessed life of St. Anne or St. Mary or St. Hugo or some other saint. But those sainted Christians have no merits at all upon which anyone can draw. “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him… that he should live on forever and not see decay” (Psalm 49:7,9). I cannot save myself, nor can I rely on the Christian lives of my mother or grandmother. We must rely on Christ, who said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Here also must fall the false and damning notion that the dead can be rescued from their judgment by the merits of those who are now living. There are those who appeal to 2 Maccabees 12:44-45 on this account, and yet that passage is by no means definitive in what it says, even if it were to be considered part of the Canon of Scripture. For there the text says that Judas Maccabaeus prayed “for those who fall asleep in godliness” (12:45). And where the text says that “he made atonement for the dead,” it could not have been with his good works, for no Israelite of the centuries before Christ would ever have imagined such a thing. No, Judas Maccabaeus must have made an atoning sacrifice—the sacrifice of the Day of Atonement—through which the High Priest atoned for the sins of Israel for the previous year. In this I believe that Judas was mistaken, since those who die go immediately to the judgment (Ecclesiastes 12:7), and since true atonement is only possible through Jesus. Either one believes Judas or Jesus, and Jesus is the one who forgave us all our sins (Colossians 2:13).
7, Superstition. Relying on the movements of the stars to govern our lives or similar beliefs is the sin of rejecting the reason for the creation of the sun, moon and stars in the first place. God made those things specifically “to separate the day from the night, and to serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years” (Genesis 1:14). They are a light source, a clock, and a calendar—not an oracle. A similar truth is to be found in the entrails of an animal, which are there to aid in the animal’s life or, after its death, to serve in certain aspects of human life such as the strings of a harp (Psalm 43:4), lyre (Psalm 33:2), or zither (Daniel 3:5). The guts of an animal, tea leaves, and other such things have no prophetic meaning at all.
8, Witchcraft. This is thoroughly condemned in the Law of Moses as part of the moral law. That is to say, witchcraft is still condemned under the Ten Commandments, specifically under the Second Commandment. God said, “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12, see also Galatians 5:20; Micah 5:12; Nahum 3:4). King Saul fell into this sin (1 Chronicles 10:13). The punishment under the civil law of Moses was death (Leviticus 20:27), but although the moral law still stands today, the civil law does not. Yet a witch or medium cannot walk in our fellowship, as the Lord said to Isaiah “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Isaiah 8:19-20).
God has invited you, and your invitation is your faith in Jesus Christ. Come, for all things are now ready.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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