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Excuses, Excuses!

Luke 14:18-20 - But they all began to make excuses. The first said, "I have just bought a field and I must go and see it. Please excuse me." 19Another said, "I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me." 20Still another said, "I just got married, so I can't come."

If you've ever had someone give you a lame excuse, you know how easy it was to detect. If this is true on the human level, how much more on the divine level! Did you ever give God a lame excuse for what you were doing or not doing? Did you really think you could pull the wool over God's eyes with your excuse? How often we try to justify our questionable activities or lazy inactivity to the Lord and think that He is somehow impressed with stories that are nothing more than excuses. We know it and the Lord knows it! It's a wonder that God doesn't call out to us from heaven, "Excuses, excuses! All I ever hear are excuses!"

That's exactly what the Lord did in the Parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14. In this parable, God tells us in no uncertain terms that He reads right through our excuses and finds them unacceptable! Although the context of the Parable of the Great Banquet concerns salvation, the excuses made by the unbelievers in the parable can be applied to "excuse attitudes" on the part of Christians as well. Non-Christians who are unwilling to accept the Lord, and Christians who are unwilling to be more committed to the Lord often use the same excuses. The fact that these excuses were totally unacceptable in the parable (v24), would certainly indicate that similar excuses will be unacceptable when made by Christians at the judgment seat of Christ. Our salvation will be secure because that was settled when we accepted Christ, but our "service record" will be examined. 2 Corinthians 5:10 and Romans 14:10­12 speak of this time when our lives as Christians will be reviewed. Notice particularly that Romans 14:12 indicates that we will not be silent at the judgment seat of Christ, but will be requested to give a report. What's the status of your account right now? Will some areas of your report be filled in with excuses?

The basic items of the Great Banquet Parable are easy enough to determine. The master (or lord of the house) obviously represents the Lord. The invitation to the large prepared dinner represents the free offer of all the blessings of salvation. The question of who's invited to the banquet takes us further into the details of the parable. Remember that when the Lord Jesus gave this parable, He was addressing the self-righteous religious Pharisees (see Luke 14:1­3). The parable was given in direct response to a comment made by one of the Pharisees, "Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the Kingdom of God!" In the parable the Lord told the Pharisees that it is indeed "blessed to eat bread in the Kingdom of God," but that they would never enjoy the blessing of eating bread in the Kingdom because they were refusing the invitation to the Kingdom banquet.

Their lame excuses point up the fact that the self-righteous Pharisees considered this banquet and the particular Man who was giving the banquet of little importance.

How true of many unbelievers today. They are just too occupied with other people and activities which are of more importance to them than either the Lord or His blessings of salvation. Notice that in the parable the excuse-makers didn't doubt the existence of the master or the fact of the banquet or the invitation. The problem was a matter of what was important to them. Many unbelievers today do not doubt the existence of God and the facts concerning salvation. It is just a matter of what's of value to them. Because they are so busy with the affairs of this life, they can't be bothered with the inconvenience of attending God's banquet. They consider God and His offer of all the blessings of salvation to be of little importance and value. Tragically, their wrong priorities and their excuses will keep them from tasting the blessings of the Kingdom forever!

For the unbelieving Pharisees, to whom the Lord Jesus was addressing the parable, the fact that there were three phases to the banquet invitation is significant. The first phase represented the announcement of the Kingdom of God to the Jewish nation. The Old Testament prophets had circulated the banquet invitation. The banquet was to begin with the coming of the Messiah. Then John the Baptist burst on the scene and announced that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand and that the banquet was about to begin. But the leaders of the Jewish nation refused to honor the Host of the banquet. They were too occupied and satisfied with their current way of life to listen to the invitation. They preferred to miss the banquet rather than have their way of life disrupted--even by God Himself!

The "poor and the handicapped" of the parable who were brought into the banquet during the second phase of the invitation were the ordinary people of Jesus' time, such as the "tax gatherers and sinners" mentioned in Matthew 21:31­32. Many of these common folk acknowledged the Lord Jesus as Messiah, accepted the invitation to come into the Kingdom of God and experienced God's forgiveness and blessing. They were outcasts as far as the established religious community was concerned, but they began to enjoy the blessings of the Messianic banquet. "He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. But as many as did receive Him, He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:11-­12).

The final phase of the invitation was extended outside the city limits and represents the gospel going out to the whole world. The great commission of Christ was, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15). As the parable indicates, the command to spread the gospel worldwide was not given in the early stages of our Lord's ministry. At first the disciples were told to go only to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" and not to go "in the way of the Gentiles." (See Matthew 10:5­6.) The Lord Jesus announced the final phase of the invitation after His resurrection and before His ascension into glory, when He told them that the gospel must now go out into the "highways and hedges" of the world so that the banquet hall would be filled. Notice that in this final phase of the invitation the servant was commanded to compel the people who were outside the city to come to the banquet. This depicts the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who is drawing people from all walks of life around the world into the Kingdom. This final phase of the invitation has not ended yet. The banquet hall is still not full. The door remains open. Is it possible that you are still on the outside because you're still making excuses?

Growing Christians can be thankful that we have accepted the invitation and are on the inside. We are already enjoying the banquet blessings of our eternal salvation. Or are we? We should be, but the sad truth is that many Christians are not enjoying the banquet blessings. The same excuses that kept those in the parable from coming to the banquet keeps many Christians from enjoying the banquet. Let's see how these excuses can be applied to Christians.

The excuse of the first person concerned some newly purchased land. What an excuse! Normally you check out new property before you buy it, not after the contract is signed. Even so, arrangements could have been made for looking at the land at a time other than during the banquet. The fact of the matter is, the person's possessions were more important to him than either the banquet or the host. Some Christians have similar priorities. Enjoying their earthly possessions is of much more importance to them than enjoying their blessings of salvation. The size of their home and the accumulation of things take precedence over fellowship with other Christians, for example. In fact, these possession-occupied Christians look down on many of their fellow-believers. They may make up excuses in order to avoid having to share with them or spend much time with them. As a result, they lose out on the banquet blessings of Christian fellowship and caring for others.

The second excuse-maker used his newly purchased oxen as his "out". Here again it's hard to imagine a farmer, whose occupation and livelihood depend on plowing the fields, making such a major investment--five yoke of oxen--without already proving them! Sounds like a very lame excuse! And if the man had waited this long to test his oxen, why not wait a little longer and prove them after the banquet? The truth is that he was just too occupied with his way of making a living to give any attention to other matters. How true of many Christians as well. Jobs and careers keep them from giving much attention to the banquet. Chances are that they became Christians as children when they had more time for the Lord, but now the goal of making more money and getting ahead in this world has become priority number one. As a result, they may never know and experience certain kingdom joys, such as bringing others to the banquet or time spent in studying God's Word.

A third excuse was given by a man who had just gotten married. Even a child would be able to read through this excuse! Why not bring his new wife along to the banquet? Married people were expected to bring their spouses to banquets in those days, just as they do today. What newlywed couple can't enjoy dinner out together? The man's answer that they could not come was a cover-up for the fact that they didn't want to come. They were too occupied with themselves to be concerned about the host and his banquet.

It's not impossible for Christians to become so preoccupied with relationships that they lose sight of the most important of all relationships. Communion with the Lord Himself is one of the blessings of the banquet. If other relationships become selfish and all-consuming in nature, they can keep us from enjoying this blessing of our salvation. Let's not let good relationships degenerate into self-serving connections. Many single Christian guys and girls have lost out on banquet blessings because they have permitted beautiful love relationships to become opportunities for indulging in selfish desires. And many married people over-use the phrase "spending time with my wife" (a very important and legitimate part of married life!) as an excuse for not spending time with the Lord and His people.

All of the excuses in the Parable of the Great Banquet involved activities that were not wrong in themselves. Buying property, making a living and getting married are God-approved wholesome activities. But good things can become excuses for staying away from the best. Let us not lose out on some of the greatest banquet blessings because of selfish priorities and lame excuses.
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