Whatever or whomever we value, either in terms of the event itself or the host of the event who invited us, if it is something or someone we value, of course, we’d drop everything to accept the invitation and be there.
The same principle applies here. When God invites us, when He calls us, the ball is in our court to respond. Luke’s version seems to fit our generation well. We don’t accept the invitation because we don’t recognize who it is that invites and we don’t recognize our desperate need to go to the banquet. On the surface, we give what sounds like legitimate excuses. I’m too busy. Work is too demanding. My kids need me. I’m pulled in a million directions with family and work and friends. I have no time to come to God. Or, your excuse could be, I’m too comfortable. I just want to veg out at home in front of the TV or surf the internet. Whatever the reason, if we are honest, I think we’d admit that the excuses why we don’t go to God are pretty lame in light of the person who invites us and our desperate need to be at that banquet.
If you are invited to a study group, but everyone in that group is flunking the class and you are the top student, you probably don’t feel a great need to attend the study group. But if you are flunking the class and your professor has mercy and wants to help you and he invites you to his office hours, you’d be a fool not to attend. Unless you just didn’t care about your grades. How you perceive the invitation depends on your self-perception and what you value. If you think your life is fine without God and you don’t care about your eternal destination and you care more about your friends or your career, then the invitation will not seem like a big deal. You’ll blow it off. And your excuses might seem to you like legitimate excuses.
God invites sinners who are flunking out of life–the poor, the maimed, the blind, and the lame–people who recognize their sin and desperate need for a Savior and have no real options. What if we were the opposite? What about the rich, those who are healthy and have two functioning eyes and strong legs? We have many options and thus we give God excuses. To God, our excuses are not merely lame excuses. Matthew’s version describes the failure to come to the banquet as tantamount to murder. They murdered the servants of God and this outright rejection is punishable by death. Spiritually speaking, our refusal to come to the banquet is equivalent to killing the Son of God by our own hands. Not only that, our refusal to come to banquet also leads to God’s judgment coming upon us in the form of eternal, unending spiritual death.
We don’t often think of our refusal to come to God as murder. Me not coming to the banquet is not that bad. Call it a lame excuse, but it’s not murder. You’re taking it too far. But let’s think about it. What’s worse? Hatred or apathy? Apathy is infinitely worse. If you are fighting with your spouse, there’s hope for that marriage. If you stop caring and apathy sets in, there is no hope.
All that God asks from us is to come. Come to him. Come and receive forgiveness of sins. Come and receive His rest. Come and start or rebuild a relationship with him. Come to the banquet. But often, we just don’t care. We’re apathetic. It’s like murdering the Son of God all over again. If we know what we ought to do and we don’t do it, that’s wicked. It’s evil. And we bring God’s judgment upon ourselves.
God sees beneath our thinly veiled excuses and He sees a heart that is apathetic towards him. In our spiritual blindness, our intentions seem good. I want God. If I had more time, I would come to the banquet. After I get settled in my marriage, I’ll come. After I get established in my career, I’ll read my Bible and attend church. Maybe when I have kids, I will come because I want to expose them to good moral teachings. Maybe when I get my life in order, I’ll have the room to consider coming.
I want to come, but not now. God sees the kind of heart that offers these kinds of excuses. Just like the tier 2 friend who invites you to the wedding that you don’t really want to go to, God sees through our excuses. He is not fooled. When you give a polite excuse why you are not coming, God knows you don’t really want to come. To God, the response, “yes, but not now” is the same thing as “no.” I don’t care is worse than I hate you.
There is nothing wrong with a field or oxen or marriage, but the issue is that those things preoccupied these recipients of the invitation to such an extent that they couldn’t accept God’s invitation. They became blinded by these idols. And they failed to recognize who it is that invited them and they were unable to recognize their desperate need as sinners to come to the banquet to be forgiven and to be loved and to receive eternal life.
11 But when the king came in to view the guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed for a wedding. 12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Back then, every guest to a wedding banquet got a robe at the door. This person didn’t have a robe, meaning he did not come through the front door. There is only one door through which we enter heaven. Jesus is the only way to eternal life. No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. The robe is Jesus’ blood and righteousness. For those who repent and place their faith in Christ, we are clothed with Christ and our sins are washed away. And God in his holiness can still accept people like us, sinners, because we are in Christ. We have put on Christ, the same way that the guests have put on the robe they received at the door.
Don’t treat God like he is one of many options. Like Starbucks, you can get a soy vanilla latte unsweetened with only one pump of vanilla at a temperature of 140 degrees. No wonder we are messed up. We have too many options. Don’t treat God like he is just one of the many options.
God wants every single one of us to come to the banquet. Whether it’s your first time to answer the invitation from God or whether it’s your 100th time or your nth time, he wants all to come. God is not insecure like us. If God invites and only a few show, God is not diminished in any way. In fact, God warns in v14 that the turnout for the banquet will be small.
14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
God doesn’t beg. He doesn’t twist your arm to attend. He will choose you. And if he chooses you, you will choose him in return. Guaranteed. Is there anything more important in life than choosing God? Because he chose you first, choose God. Not just once, but over and over again. And as you are choosing God moment by moment, spend the rest of your life helping others choose God. Nothing else ultimately matters.