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“Excuses, Excuses”, Luke 14.17-20

weddinginviteI’m going to a wedding in January. I was invited even before the couple got engaged, and then received an official invitation via email two weeks later. I was already going, but now I’m double-going. Some invitations we treat with greater significance than others. Let’s see what happened in this parable.

“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 NIV11)

A second ‘invitation’ was necessary because no one had a watch, and time was ‘elastic’. This second invitation meant “come now” because the meat was ready and would soon go off. Come within the hour. The word “come” is in the present imperative, meaning, “continue coming”, because it was assumed the guests were coming on the basis of the original  accepted invitation. It might be inconvenient, but you knew it was going to happen.

We get ‘invited’ in various ways, and on multiple occasions, but there comes that time when we must respond. Everything is ‘ready’ because Jesus has come, and now, for us, he has done all that is necessary for us to enjoy the banquet since he has died for our sins and risen to give us life. But many make excuses. Let’s look at these:

  1. Money“The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’” (Luke 14:18 NIV11) Fields do not change. Surely he would not buy a field without prior inspection. The dinner is at the end of the day. Is he really going to view a field in the dark? We might not think buying a field is a big deal, but in that culture it was and still is. Agricultural land was scarce. Some plots had proper names, and negotiations could last for years.The contract would specify wells, walls, springs, trees, paths, previous revenue for the plot and anticipated rainfall.  All this must have already been settled. It looks like excitement about material wealth got in the way of honouring an invitation already extended. It’s easy to forget that people matter more than things. Perhaps a modern equivalent might sound something like this: “I can’t come because I bought a house over the internet and I must go and inspect it.” You’d just not do that.
  2. Toys“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’” (Luke 14:19 NIV11) He could examine them another day – in any case he would not have bought them unless satisfied of their adequacy. Team of oxen were demonstrated in front of potential buyers either at market, or on the owner’s land. This is a wealthy landowner. Having this many oxen meant he had much plough-able land. One of his employees could test the oxen if they really needed trying out. One other thought – animals are unclean. Is this person saying that even an unclean animal is of more value to me that you, O host? It’s a little like saying, “I can’t come over because I’ve just taken delivery of a new smart TV and need to try it out.”
  3. Relationships. “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’” (Luke 14:20 NIV11)  The rule that allowed a married man to stay at home during the first year of marriage (Deut. 24:5) was aimed at preventing him from going to war, not at social isolation. This excuse is as transparent as the others. It’s not the wedding day. A host wouldn’t plan a banquet to coincide with a wedding feast – no village could cope with both at the same time. In any case, he’ll only be away from his wife for at most a few hours. In this culture, to make a woman the source of the excuse was especially insulting. Men did not talk about women in public. Bailey (Peasant’s Eyes, p99) cites an example of a man addressing letters home to his hoped-for son rather than his two extant daughters. This third excuse is the rudest of the replies.

This feast is not a food bank where people turn up to get what they need then go off to pursue their lives as they wish. It is a banquet where people come to feast with the host – leaving other things behind. Devotion is essential in the kingdom.

The people listening to Jesus would have laughed at these excuses. They are lame, transparent and insulting. No one is fooled by them – they are calculated insults. How will the host respond? We’ll look at that tomorrow – and in the sermon on Sunday. Come along if you can: 10.30AM, Laurance Haines School, Vicarage Road, Watford.

God bless,

Malcolm