By J.R. Miller
"A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests." This supper is a picture of the blessings of redemption. The redemption of Christ is said to be great--he who prepares it, its blessings, and the numbers who enjoy it, its eternal duration, and the sweetness of its joys--all are great. At a feast men provide the best provisions they can obtain; in the gospel we have the best that heaven has to give. At a feast there is plenty; in the gospel there is infinite abundance. There is pleasant fellowship at a feast, and the gospel brings us into intimate communion with God and into sweet fellowship with other Christians. There is one marked contrast, however--earth's feasts are soon over, while the gospel feast is unending.
Next comes the invitation. "Come, for everything is now ready!" One of the things included, is forgiveness of sins. Deep in every soul, is the consciousness of sin and of separation from God because of sin. There is therefore a craving for the taking away of sin, and peace never can come--until this craving is satisfied. Another hunger of the heart is for fellowship with God. The human soul was made for God and never can find rest--until it finds it in reconciliation to God and restored communion with Him. Human friendship is very sweet and brings deep joy--but we need also the love of God in our hearts to make the satisfaction complete.
One who did not know the facts, would say that this invitation would find universal acceptance. We can scarcely think of anybody declining the invitation to such a festival as this. But instead of universal acceptance, "They all alike, began to make excuses!" Most people are eager to accept social honors. But this is a spiritual feast. It is not this world's dainties which load the table--but the things of God's love. The joy to which men are here invited, is not earth's festivity--but the joy of forgiveness of sin and communion with God. To accept this invitation, men must leave their sins and enter upon a new life of holiness. The natural heart does not take kindly to this. The refusal of those invited, is true to nature.
The excuses given, are only excuses--they are not real reasons. The truth is, that those invited do not want to come to this feast, and therefore make up pretexts having the appearance of reasons for not accepting the invitation. Men do not like to say bluntly, that they will not come to Christ, nor accept His mercy and love. That would seem discourteous. Hence they resort to insincerity and hypocrisy, revealing under all kinds of flimsy and empty pretexts, their unwillingness to accept Christ as their Savior and Friend.
The excuses which are given, are typical.
One man said, "I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me." This may be called the property excuse. That was a very costly piece of ground to its new owner, when we consider that it kept him away altogether from Christ and deprived him of eternal possessions. Yet there are many fields which have done this very thing. They have cost men their souls. The parable is not overdrawn. There are a great many people who lose their souls--for things worth even less than a ten-acre field. Esau got only a plain meal--as the price of his birthright. Judas got about twelve or thirteen dollars--for his act of treason to his Master which has blackened his name for all generations, and which sent his soul into eternal darkness.
Caring for property is always an insidious danger. It is not meant to be a snare to men; business ought to be a help heavenward. And it is--when it is followed as our Master means that it shall be followed. Many men, however, are led to give more thought to planning how to make the most of their farms and their money--than to the saving of their souls and making the most of their spiritual lives.
The second man offers the business excuse. "I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me." He already had engagements for the day on which the feast came, business engagements which he thought he could not set aside--rather, which he would not set aside. He had no thought of postponing the breaking in of his oxen--in order that he might attend the great gospel feast. That is, he was not willing to make a little readjustment of his business arrangements, even to honor his God and to get a new blessing for himself. The business of trying the oxen certainly could have waited another day--but the man missed the feast altogether, while he spent the day out in the dusty field.
Many people are kept away from the church services, from Christian duties, and from Christ Himself--by business occupations. They say they have no time to pray or read the Bible, because their work is so pressing. They have no time to go to church, or to take an interest in spiritual affairs, because their worldly duties press them so. One man said the other day, that he always played golf on Sunday. His business during the week required every moment of his days. His mind was under a constant strain. In order to be able to begin again this life of stress on Monday--he must have absolute rest on Sunday. He found this relaxation nowhere, he said, as he did in golf.
This is the way many men talk about the matter of religion. They have no time for it. They need Sunday for rest. Yet some of these days--they will have to take time to be sick; and then, someday, time to die. What comfort will they get in these hours, from all their life of engrossing business cares?
The third man gave pleasure as his excuse. "I just got married, and therefore I am unable to come." He was so much taken up with the joys of wedded life, that he could not turn aside. There is no doubt that home pleasures and delights do often so absorb people as to keep them away from Christian duties, and even from Christ. Sometimes the very blessings of home life interfere with faithful following of Christ. A loving wife may unintentionally hold her husband back from Christian service, by the exactions of her affection. She is unwilling to spare him from her side--that he may do the work which the Master would have him do. Peter in his love for his Master would have kept Him from going to His cross. Too often a happy home by its very happiness, so satisfies men's hearts--that they do not feel the necessity for anything more. We all need to watch that we never allow our home or our love for dear ones--to keep us in any sense from our full duty to Christ. If we love father or mother, wife or friend, more than Christ--we are not worthy of Him.
When the master received the "excuses" of his invited guests, he bade his servant go out quickly into the streets and lanes, and bring in the poor, the maimed, the blind, and the lame. The servant did this and reported, "Yet there is room!" There is always room. The heart of God is never full. The church is never full--its doors ever stand open and its welcome is ever extended to everyone who will come. Heaven is never full--there are places remaining still unfilled in its many mansions. In the description of heaven in the Book of Revelation we are told that the city has twelve gates, three entering from each point of the compass (Rev. 21:10-13). These gates forever voice heaven's welcome to all those who will come. They are never shut, by day or by night, and no matter when one may come--he will find ready admission and glorious welcome.
Heaven must be filled. If those who are first invited will not come, the invitation is extended to others and pressed upon them. "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in," was the bidding. These words show us the importance of earnestness in those whose duty it is to invite men to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not merely to find Christ ourselves, and then be satisfied. The first impulse of the true Christian--is to seek other lost ones. The words of the parable suggest, first, that we are to go into all the world, wherever there is a lost soul, and invite all men to come. We are to invite them earnestly, to constrain them, to press the invitation upon them.
The morning papers the other day, told of a policeman rushing into a burning building, climbing the stairways, through flame and smoke--to save a mother and her children. We should have similar earnestness in rescuing perishing souls!
How will it be with us when we reach the end of our life--if we have not rescued anyone from the storms and the dangers? On the other hand, much of the joy of heaven will come from meeting those whom we have been allowed to bring to Christ.