Come Now! The Parable of the Great Banquet

Come Now! The Parable of the Great Banquet

Have you ever received an invitation to “Come Now!” to a function? In many cultures, it is rude to refuse such an invite. Perhaps, you were already committed to other plans, were exhausted from work, or it was poor timing for you. There could be many reasons to decline an impromptu engagement.

We might request a rain check from the host or hostess, hoping to meet at a later date when it is more convenient. Sometimes, the delay may be justified. Other times, we create excuses for having other priorities — even misplaced priorities. Although a similar opportunity may come again, we must carefully consider each offer.

Jesus told a parable, a simple story revealing spiritual truth, about a great banquet. In the parable, the host offered no rain checks. “Come now!” he announced to his chosen guests.

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.’”
Luke 14:17

Excuses

Without even considering the gravity of their response, they “all alike began to make excuses.

What? Everyone invited declined? Sadly, their excuses sounded strangely familiar to those we might use.

“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 just got married, so I can’t come.’
Luke 14:18-20

Politely, they all requested a rain check on the dinner engagement. Preoccupied with newly purchased property, the potential of owning his own land flooded the thoughts of the first guest. The second, an obviously wealthy man to buy five yoke of oxen, felt secure in his possessions and wealth. He wanted to try out his latest and greatest investment. Besides, he could prepare a banquet for himself whenever he wanted. The third could think of nothing but the pleasure of being with his lovely bride.

Most of us can relate to at least one of these fine gentlemen. Just like them, things, money, and people occupy much of our time, energy, and focus too. We easily justify how much time and effort we place in these areas of our lives.

The Master

The host planned for months. He prepared for weeks. All his servants worked diligently to present the choicest delicacies for the master’s guests. Elaborate decorations adorned the great banquet hall. Everything was ready.

The master of the banquet saw through the feeble excuses of his chosen guests. At great expense, he had prepared his best, freely and liberally offering it to others without any expectations in return. Their refusal would not stop the banquet.

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.’”
Luke 14:21

The servants obeyed. Up and down the city streets the servants ran, beckoning the outcasts and neglected to come now to the great banquet.

Still Room

The wealthy elite who rejected the master’s invitation went about their personal pursuits, enjoying their luxuries and pleasures. The most unlikely of guests flocked into the great banquet hall. They sat around tables overflowing with delicacies. Their eyes bulged in disbelief and bellies rumbled with hunger as they gazed upon the abundance of provision. But there was still room for more.

 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’  “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.”
Luke 14:22-23

Can you hear the heart of the master? Can you feel his generosity? His compassion? The intent of his purpose? “My house will be full!”

The servants ran with haste into the countryside, beckoning everyone they saw to come now. The master desired every seat to be full. He had prepared for maximum capacity.

No Rain Checks

Jesus spoke not just to the listeners of His day. He speaks just as clearly to us — whoever and wherever we might be. The invitation of the Father, the Master of the house, reaches to you and me. It extends to our family, neighbours, and friends. Everything has been made ready.

The banquet points directly to the future marriage supper of the Lamb, Jesus Christ (Rev 19:9). It cost Him everything. It costs us nothing to accept His invitation. He waits for our, “Yes!”

One way or another, the banquet will be filled. Those who decline will miss out. Those who are ready will feast with Him. For some who delay, their place will be given to others.

There will be no rain checks — no opportunity for a change of heart once the seats are full. The Master commands His servants with an urgency, “Compel them to come in!” Then, He gives this warning,

“I say to you all, no one who receives an invitation to feast with me and makes excuses will ever enjoy my banquet.”
Luke 14:24

No More Excuses

How many excuses have we spoken or heard from others. Either verbally or through our actions, we tell God, “Later! When it is more convenient, I will follow You. When business isn’t going so well, I’ll come to You. If my relationships fall apart, then I’ll call on You.”

God’s invitation is to “Come now!” Jesus warned that there will be no room for those who refuse. And there will be no grounds for excuses then.

I weep as I consider all the Master has done for us. I also weep as I consider the consequences of those who decline His invitation.

The parable tells a true story — one lived out daily and being fulfilled throughout eternity. May the parable inspire each of us as God’s servants through the streets of our cities and down the roadways of our countryside, inviting others to come to the Master. May we each sense the Holy Spirit compelling us to come now.

Lord, like the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame, we accept Your gracious invitation. We come without excuse to sit at Your table. We thank You for the great preparation You have made for us. With humble hearts, we say, “Yes!” to You. And with urgency, we invite others to join us. As unworthy beggars, we feast of Your goodness and mercy. Thank You, Lord.

**********

Do Clothes Make a Man or Woman? Are You Ready?

Do Clothes Make a Man or Woman? Are You Ready?

How important are the clothes we wear? Do clothes really make a man or woman? Is our dress that closely associated with the success of an individual?

My mother always dressed beautifully. She knew exactly what accessories to put with whatever top to go with whichever shoes. Me, on the other hand, missed the gorgeous-garment-gene completely. There was nothing glamorous about most of my life doing farm work. Carhartts and steel-toed boots hardly qualify as a fashion statement. Jewelry? Any deer, rabbit, or coyote I encountered would have been non-appreciative of such accessories.

Not that I haven’t tried on rare occasions to “doll myself up.” One failed attempt at dressing-for-success ended up with arriving at church only to realize I had completely forgotten to wear shoes. Horrified I discovered I had left home with incredibly comfortable, fuzzy, blue slippers! An illustration perhaps of God humiliating the proud.

Seriously though, God has a lot to say about the clothes we wear that have little to do with appealing to the human eye, but rather the heart.

So, before I worry about dress codes and fashion statements, the latest trends, and hot new looks, let’s check out what is far more critical. God points to quite a different wardrobe for clothes appropriate for any man or woman.

The Old for the New

When we moved off the farm, I happily traded in those muddy boots and work clothes for casual office attire. The transition was easy and inexpensive thanks to second-hand stores and bargain hunting.

Paul compared the new life of a Christian as being similar to a wardrobe change, taking off the old and putting on the new.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life,
to put off your old self,
which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;
to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
and to put on the new self,
created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ephesians 4:22-24

Sounds easy, right? Maybe for some, but it certainly hasn’t been for me! I may not even own those old clothes anymore, but I still smell the stench of them from time-to-time. Deceitful desires are deceitful because I’m the last the recognize how deceived I am in them. My attitudes can become downright foul before I catch a whiff of my own disdainful aroma.

Unfortunately, I’m not alone.

“We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our unrighteous deeds are like polluted garments.”
Isaiah 64:6

Humility

If you think I might be exaggerating, I’ll be specific. I’ll begin with the truly gritty and tough.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people,
holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion,
kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Colossians 3:12

Taking off the old man, or garments, may appear like an instantaneous magic act for some, but for me, it has been more like peeling layer by layer slowly and painstakingly off my entire being. Oh don’t get me wrong, I would love to be clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. These are the real attributes making any woman or man great.

The selfishness, inconsideration, pride, harshness and impatience of my old man sticks like crazy-glue, showing itself in the most unexpected ways. I fear I grieve the Holy Spirit far too often, in my failure to rid myself of these old offensive garments. As a matter of fact, the more I try to rid myself of them, the more hopeless the process appears to become. If these godly qualities make the man or woman, without divine help, I’m in big trouble!

I, like everyone else who acknowledges the Name of the Lord Jesus, have been robed in His righteousness. But the message has taken longer than I hoped to seep into the essence of my whole being.

Salvation

I love Isaiah’s declaration:

“I delight greatly in the LORD;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
Isaiah 61:10

“He has clothed me with garments of salvation!” Don’t you love it? Do you hear the past tense? It’s a done deal, an irreversible act, an undeniable fact. These garments truly make us women and men of God.

Unlike my personal wardrobe transition, this garment change cost the highest price, the life of Jesus Christ. But God looked at each of us and said, “That one is worth it! Look at her. See how valuable she is. Look at him all you heavenly host, watch how I clean him up and transform him into someone that turns heads, capturing attention. Everyone will know it is My doing when they see these children of mine in their new clothes.”

Garments of salvation . . . robes of righteousness . . . fit only for the bride of Christ. Yes, Lord, bring it on!

My meager wardrobe change is nothing in comparison with the magnificent exchange that God has orchestrated. God’s clothes do make the man or woman.

Magnificent Exchange

In Matthew 22, Jesus tells a parable about a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent out invitations far and wide to the elite and the chosen — the list was long and impressive. Few responded; most vainly excused themselves. Quickly the invitation list was changed.

“Go into the street corners and invite . . . anyone you find.”
Matthew 22:9

The anyones and the everyones gladly came.

“But when the king came in to see the guests,
he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes.
He asked, ‘How did you get in here
without wedding clothes, friend?’
The man was speechless.
Matthew 22:11

Don’t miss the compassion and intimacy with which the king called him “friend.” The king knew him and loved him. The king had both extended the invitation and provided the necessary apparel for the occasion. The man was without excuse.

Obviously, when our Heavenly Father throws a wedding for His Son, He fully expects us to come dressed in the righteousness that He has already provided.

Fit for a King

Jesus spoke in parables while John witnessed the grand occasion through a vision.

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder shouting:
Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)”
Revelation 19: 6-8

God has given us everything we need, but it is up to each of us as the bride of Christ to make ourselves ready. I, for one, don’t want to have the King ask how I got into the wedding, still wearing the old garments of my past.

So, here I am kneeling in prayer, peeling away the old, receiving the new, and doing whatever it takes to be ready. Won’t you join me? If you are an anyone, the invitation still stands.