One of the things I miss about most about being a schoolteacher is the incredibly inventive excuses children make up.
• I was late for class because I was fighting with a kid who said that you weren’t the best teacher in the world
• On the way to school I was feeding the ducks and my homework fell in
• I made my homework into a paper plane and it was highjacked
• I ate my homework because I didn’t have any ice cream, but it had all the answers on it so it made me smarter.
• Best I ever heard, from my own schooldays. “The train had a puncture.”
Mind you, in ordinary times adults make all kinds of excuses, expecially for missing work.
• I can’t come to work because I lost the house keys, I’m locked in.
• It is against my religion to work on Mondays and Wednesdays.
• I’d love to come to work today, but I got on the wrong train and I’m now in Edinburgh.
• I can’t come to work because the aliens are coming tonight and I’m baking cakes to give to them as peace offerings.
• I am not coming in because I tried to dye my hair blonde, but it came out green!
• “I am busy converting my calendar from Julian to Gregorian.”
• “The dog ate my car keys. We’ve got to hitchhike to the vet.”
I’ve come across some other bizarre reasons for avoiding doing things over the years.
Id love to but… I’m teaching my cat to sing … my dog is teaching me to bark ……. I’ve got to go and walk my turtle. I’d love to but… None of my socks match.
All kinds of wild excuses – but none as crazy as the messages sent by the party guests in the story Jesus told.
16 Jesus replied: ‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.”
18 ‘But they all alike began to make excuses.
The excuses they made could sound like plausible reasons for missing even a great banquet, until we read carefully and see that the excuses came on the very day of the great feast. Let’s take a minute to see the background to this story. In those days people didn’t have diaries or organisers or even calendars. So when they gave a banquet, the host would do the invitations in two stages. Firstly, weeks or months ahead, he would say, “Would you like to come to my banquet?” and people would say yes please or no I can’t. Then, ON THE DAY, when the banquet was prepared, the host would send a message to those who had already accepted his invitation saying, today’s the day, the banquet is ready, come and eat! So that’s why these excuses are not just crazy. They are also incredibly rude. These are people who had ALREADY accepted the invitation to the feast. It was only ON THE DAY that they are saying, “I can’t be bothered to come!
18 ‘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.”
In Jesus’s time NOBODY would buy a field without seeing it first, getting the lie of the land and feeling the quality of the soil!
19 ‘Another said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.”
That’s ridiculous. Nobody would think of buying oxen without trying them out first and seeing if they ploughed straight!
20 ‘Still another said, “I have just got married, so I can’t come.”
In Jesus’s day weddings took even more planning than a great feast. Nobody would get married on short notice! When they accepted the invitation to the banquet the person would have fixed their wedding date already! Field. Oxen. Wedding. These weren’t even the feeblest of excuses. They were red herrings. In each case the person was saying, “I can’t be bothered to come to your feast.” And that was just plain rude!
Jesus told this story of the Great Banquet on an occasion while he was eating a very special meal at the house of a prominent Pharisee.
15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’
The feast in the kingdom of God. For centuries the Jews had been looking forward to the day when God would send their Saviour, the Messiah to them. One of the important pictures of salvation in the Old Testament which we looked at in our Advent Reflections is the promise of a wonderful banquet.
Isaiah 25 6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death for ever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces;
The Messiah’s banquet with the best of meats and the finest of wines, where God wipes away every tear and even destroys death. That is the feast in the kingdom of God, the banquet which Jesus is talking about in this parable. God is the one giving the feast, offering all the blessings of salvation.
What is the most lavish meal you have ever eaten? In Brentwood I got invited by the Mayor’s Office to the Civic Dinners. They were very posh occasions, black tie and all. As chair of Churches Together in Brentwood I was invited to say grace before the meal. One year I was talking beforehand with the Mayor and the Bishop of Brentwood. It occurred to me to suggest that surely it would be more appropriate for the Bishop to be the one to say Grace and that I would gladly defer to him. Bishop Thomas graciously explained to me that when it came to saying grace, that duty always fell to the least of the clergymen present rather than the greatest.
The greatest banquet I ever attended was in the historic Main Hall of Durham Castle when I was a teacher as a guest of the Salters’ Company. I can’t actually recall whether there were 11 courses or 13 courses. Only that every one of them was delicious and champagne sorbet featured between some of the courses to cleanse the palette. We started at 7 and were still eating and drinking at midnight. My memories of that banquet in Durham castle give me a tiny glimpse of the Messiah’s banquet, the feast which is a picture of salvation,
The feast in the Kingdom of God. Wonderful food, wonderful companionship, celebration. A picture of God’s amazing salvation which is not just pie in the sky when you die but cake on your plate while you wait! Life in all its fulness, eternal life which begins now and which even death cannot take away.
Jesus came to announce that salvation. Those who ate with him during his earthly ministry were enjoying a foretaste of God’s banquet which is the greatest joy anybody can experience. So when Jesus came and announced that God’s salvation had arrived, how crazy it was that some people were making excuses and rejecting that salvation!
The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
Some people put their possessions and their money before God. But Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 6 19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
We must not allow money or possessions to come between us and God.
Then in Jesus’s story, 19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
Lots of people say they haven’t time for God because they are too busy with work. But God is more important than fortune and success! Jesus told a parable about a rich fool who tore down his barns to build bigger barns to store all his crops in and then put his feet up and said to himself, “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”
Luke 12 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ (And Jesus said)
21 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich towards God.”
Nobody should put work before God. Then the third excuse in Jesus’s parable of the Great Banquet is about relationships.
20 “Still another said, ‘I have just got married, so I can’t come.’
For lots of people, their relationships are more important to them than God is!
Luke 8 19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’
21 He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’
GOD is more important than anybody else. Knowing God is more important than any other relationship.
The salvation Jesus offers us is like a marvellous banquet. There are many people who think they would like to accept the invitation God gives, but then don’t turn up for the banquet! People who want God’s blessings but when the time comes can’t be bothered to turn up. People who like the idea of salvation but let other things get in the way. CRAZY!!
The parable tells us just how much God really wants everybody to enjoy the blessings of his salvation!
21 ‘The servant came back and reported this to his master. 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.”
22 ‘ “Sir,” the servant said, “what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.”
23 ‘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. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.” ’
God doesn’t want anybody to miss out on the blessings of his salvation.
One of the things people are missing most in these times of lockdown is getting together. We really missed our family Christmas dinner. Lots of delicious food and drink and spending time with family. We all love to receive invitations to those special occasions. I am very sure that when the time arrives, or somebody comes to collect us to go to a special meal, we don’t make silly excuses. We don’t say, “I can’t be bothered to come.” We would never be so rude!
The feast in the kingdom of God gives us a picture of salvation. Isaiah chapter 55 holds out this wonderful invitation to God’s banquet for EVERYBODY!
Isaiah 55 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. ….
6 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
Your soul will delight in the richest of fare. What a wonderful invitation God gives to US ALL! You have been invited. God’s banquet is ready and being served. What is your answer? Will you come?