16 But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; 17 and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. Luke 14:16–18 (NAS)Read Luke 14:16-24, Parable of the Dinner
When I was growing up, if a Billy Graham Crusade was on the television we were watching it. Back in those prehistoric days he was in his prime. He was a fiery orator, compelling, and convicting. He’d bellow “the Bible says,” and the sound would reverberate throughout the stadium. At the end, of course, he’d invite the attendees to come forward to receive Jesus as their Savior. His close always included something like you may be with friends and family, they’ll wait for you, or you may be in the upper deck, we’ll wait for you, or you may have come by bus, they’ll not leave without you. Just come! Then he’d fold his hands, bow his head, and pray.
This parable, which comes with no explanation from Jesus by the way, tells of a banquet meal that a man has prepared and is finally ready. The invitations had gone out and he tells his slave to go out and tell the invitees to come. The slave is met with a rash of lame excuses and returns to tell his master the news. In this case, he didn’t wait, and the response was not patience and prayer but anger.
We’ve all been in situations when we’ve been invited to something and we just didn’t want to go. It may be a ways away and we say things that give the impression that we’ll come, but we don’t intend to. If the shoe is on the other foot, we’ve witnessed some masterful—or so they think— creative last minute excuses why someone can’t come to our event, and we think immediately they knew all along that that was going to be an issue before they said yes! Suddenly, it’s the most important thing in the world?
In this parable, one asks, is that piece of land you spotted and went to all the trouble to buy really need to be inspected now? Do you really need to take the oxen out for a spin over a well cooked meal? After the long betrothal, marriage ceremony and feast, and honeymoon of some sort, you can’t fit in a dinner that’s been on the calendar for weeks?
What is striking in this parable is the finality of the decision not to attend. There was no entreaty made to change their mind. They were out and many from the highways and byways who hadn’t planned to be anywhere were in. This has to represent how God switched his attention to the Gentiles when his own people refused him. But it could also mean that there is one moment in time when the invitation is made and we must make the effort to come to him. You can’t risk the possibility that the opportunity will not come again. Perhaps you’ll be attacked on that piece of land and killed. Or run over by the five yokes of oxen, or led astray by your new wife.
For now it appears that the Lord patiently waits and prays, but the motor in the bus is running.